Critters Are Smart, Using Cues & Signals

Animals Use Environmental Cues, plus Animals Communicate with Signals

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

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25 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.  26 And the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.  27 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he [again] smote the donkey with a staff.  28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these 3 times?  29 And Balaam said unto the donkey, Because thou hast mocked me; I wish there was a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.  30 And the donkey said unto Balaam, Am not I thy donkey, upon whom thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day?  Was I ever known to do so unto thee? and he [i.e., Balaam] said, Nay.  31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he [i.e., Balaam] saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way, and His sword drawn in His hand; and he [i.e., Balaam] bowed down his head, and he [i.e., Balaam] fell flat on his face.  32 And the Angel of the LORD said unto him, Why hast thou smitten thy donkey these 3 times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before Me.  33 And the donkey saw Me, and she turned from Me these 3 times: unless she had turned from Me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.    (Numbers 22:25-33)

Making sense of biological senses is a losing battle for evolutionists, yet explaining creature communication is even worse. There is no chance that animal messaging can be explained by random accidents of bumping biochemicals.

Although their mouths are not “opened” (enabled for speech) like Balaam’s donkey, higher (i.e., nephesh-possessing) animals routinely send other forms of purposeful signals, to influence behaviors of other animals or humans.(1)

To appreciate this, however, we must distinguish between animals using environmental “cues” and truly communicative “signals”.(2)

Ecologically speaking, “cues” are environmental or creature features that, when detected, are useful in acquiring information relevant to future activities.(2),(3)


For example, when blood-thirsty mosquitos seek “fast food”, they often fly upwind if their chemoreceptors sense carbon dioxide (CO2), because continually exhaled CO2 reveals where warm-blooded mammals are.  (Carbon dioxide in the air is a “cue” to female mosquitos — indicating that mammal blood is nearby!)

But exhaled CO2 is not a “message” intentionally sent (by mammals) to mosquitos!

Rather, exhaled CO2 is a “cue” to mosquitos, indicating “mammal blood is available here”—but there is no mammalian intent to transmit that (disadvantageous-to-the-mammal) information unto the blood-thirsty parasitic pests.(2)


Contrast that to domesticated dogs barking, to alert humans: “I’m hungry! Feed me!”  That barking, ecologically speaking, is a messaging “signal”—a consciously prepared

message, sent to another intelligent creature (in this example, a human)—for the purpose of prompting a behavioral response (that helps the “speaking” animal).(2),(4)

This is true communication; there is a message sender, a transmitted message (understandable coded information), and a receiver—and the sender’s messaging purpose was to influence responsive action by the receiver.(4)

Yet, for there to be purpose, in message sending, senders must have motives, think, decide, and communicatively act. So message-senders must possess some type of personal (or person-like) internal “software” enabling motivation, thinking, decision-making,–as well as physiological “hardware” sufficient for preparing and transmitting “signaling” actions.(4),(5)

Of course, actions are not true “signals” (i.e., messages) unless they have purposes for influencing responses by signal-comprehending recipients.(2) If signals are incomprehensible to the intended receiver(s), those signals fails to be meaning-conveying messages.(2),(4)

Likewise, message recipients must be able to understand (i.e., decode, decipher) the message sent, sufficiently to facilitate timely and relevant adjustment of the receiver’s own behavior, in response to messages received.(4)

Without these ingredients—(a) sender preparing and sending messages; (b) using language (or comparable code of information) known to both sender and receiver; and (c)  receiver’s reception and response-relevant understanding of messages—no real “communication” occurs.

Yet when creature communication does occur—as it does worldwide, daily, in many contexts—it powerfully demonstrates God’s providential bioengineering design for meaningful and purposeful messaging.  Don’t expect an impersonal “big bang”, eons ago, to invent any of that!

Accordingly, environmental tracking makes sense, because God designed and equipped animals to acquire and adjust to contextual cues.(3)

Furthermore, God designed and equipped us humans—and higher animals—to intentionally communicate purposefully coded signals, to intended recipients, for prompting expected responses.(4),(5),(6),(7)

Get the message?

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(1) Numbers 22. To illustrate dog-to-human communication, in the stranger-than-fiction adventures of Antis (the RAF aviator-dog who, during World War II, displayed lots of nephesh!), see James J. S. Johnson, “High-Altitude Flying Is for the Birds”, Acts & Facts, 45(3):20-21 (March 2016), posted at .

(2) Davies, Nicholas B., et al., An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology, 4th ed. (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), pages 394-423, especially page 395 (contrasting “cues” and “signals”).

(3) See Randy J. Guliuzza & Phil B. Gaskill, “Continuous Environmental Tracking: An Engineering Framework to Understand Adaptation and Diversification” Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Creationism, edited  by John H. Whitmore,  (Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship, 2018), pages 158-184.  See also Randy J. Guliuzza,  “Engineered Adaptability: Continuous Environmental Tracking Wrap-Up”, Acts& Facts, 48(8):17-19 (August 2019), posted at .  Specifically regarding how fish need informational cues within their underwater habitats, see James J. S. Johnson, “Even Fish Need to Know!”, Acts & Facts, 45(1):21 (January 2016), posted at .

(4) As 1st Corinthians 14:8 reminds us, sounds only make sense if sender and receiver are agreed on the “code” for interpreting messages sent.  In human terms, it takes a common language (or code) for humans to send and receive meaningful messages. Thus, those not knowing the conventional code, or “language”, of signals sent, won’t recognize intended message meanings.  This is true, generally, of all coded information, including God’s biogenetic programming designed to produce biochemical results in protein construction at inanimate ribosome factories.  See James J. S. Johnson, “DNA and RNA: Providential Coding to ‘Revere’ God”, Acts & Facts40(3):8-9 (March 2011), posted at .

(5) Genesis 1:20-24; 2:19; 9:10-16; Numbers 22:25-30. James J. S. Johnson, “Clever Creatures: ‘Wise from Receiving Wisdom”, Acts & Facts46(3):21 (March 2017), posted at .

(6) The principle of 1st Corinthians 14:8 even applies to the sounds of locomotive train air-horns, a/k/a train “whistles”  —  see JJSJ, “Steam Trumpets, for Those with Ears to Hear” (August 20th AD2019) posted at  .

(7) James J. S. Johnson, “The Ghost Army”, Acts & Facts44(11):20 (November 2015), posted at .



Rocky the Squirrel, a Foretaste of Isaiah 11:1-10

Rocky the Squirrel, a Foretaste of Isaiah 11:1-10


James J. S. Johnson

1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch [NÊTSER] shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: 4 But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth: with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall he slay the wicked. 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. 10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, Who shall stand for an ensign of the people; to Him shall the Gentiles seek: and His rest shall be glorious. (Isaiah 11:1-10)

Squirrels are one of the most beautiful rodents made by God. (Since my wife has the energy of a squirrel I am reminded of her whenever I see a squirrel, so I have a special love for squirrels.)


Years ago my mother-in-law’s neighbor, Bob, while at work, found a baby squirrel whose parents were missing (probably killed). The next-door neighbors (Bob and Mary) “adopted” the orphaned squirrel and named him “Rocky”. Mary would feed Rocky with a “baby bottle” that belonged to a child’s doll set, until he was old enough to eat other food. Mary would feed Rocky during the day, and soothe him with gentle words. Also, Mary would put Rocky in a doll bed, at night, covering him up with a small “blanket” — a daily custom that Rocky became used to. The little squirrel continued to grow, apparently assuming that Bob & Mary’s house was “home”, — Rocky really had the run of the house! When Mary would visit my mother-in-law she would often have her wee squirrel running up and down her shoulders, back, head, and arms — because Rocky considered Mary as “Mama”. (Even today I have a vague memory ofRocky happily sitting on someone’s head — but not for long!) If you were a friend of Bob and Mary, Rocky would trust you as a “friend”, — so Rocky would let you hold him in your hand, or cradle him as you sat or walked around, or feed him. Many weeks later Rocky was attracted to the huge sycamore tree that shadowed the land between my mother-in-law’s house and that of Bob & Mary. But at sunset Rocky would voluntarily return to Mary, to be covered up with his blanket in his little doll bed.

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In time, however, Rocky discovered the world of trees — which is the world God made for squirrels. Soon afterwards Rocky appears to have met a female squirrel, in the branches of that huge sycamore tree, and one day he chose not to return to Mary at sunset. Rocky had finally discovered his God-given instinct to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill [his arboreal part of] the earth”. When Mary would walk from her house, to my mother-in-law’s house, she could look up at the sycamore branches high above her head. Often one particular squirrel would stop his scampering, just long enough to look down at Mary, — as if he remembered who she was. Then he would go back to hopping and jumping in tree branches.

That was years ago (and my mother-in-law is now 102 years old), and the years have flown by quickly. The Holy Bible assures us that the time will come, after the Lord Jesus returns to Earth, when even the wild animals will safely interact with humans, and will be friendly like pets, even to little children (Isaiah 11:1-10). Nowadays, the world is a rough place to live in, — even for squirrels like Rocky, — but some day, sooner or later, that will all change, gloriously. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

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