As Ian Malcolm famously said, “life finds a way.” Aquarium keepers in Australia realized that recently, after a captive zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) gave birth to three pups – without having had any contact with a male for years. (Zebra sharks are often called leopard sharks in Australia, but they are a different species from the leopard sharks found off the west coast of North America. The 20-something shark at Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium in Townsville laid 41 eggs without a father. Three of them hatched into healthy pups, all female. The pups were named Cleo, CC and Gemini. Their mother is called Leonie. Although this phenomenon of “virgin birth” is quite rare, it’s not unheard of in sharks. Virgin births have been observed in other sharks in aquaria and in the wild.
But, televangelist and Republican conservative pundit Pat Robertson ain’t having none of that. He refuses to believe that the shark was not impregnated by another male and is similarly reluctant to deem the birth a “miracle.” “I apologize to any shark and animal lovers out there on this occasion, but I have a right to speak my mind and I don’t believe we’re talking about a wonder of nature here,” he argued during the latest episode of his “The 700 Club.” “Sharks aren’t people and are, therefore, incapable of such miraculous feats. I get that they’re wonderful creatures and that much can be learned from them, but at the end of the day, we have to be real. There is no way that a shark had a so-called virgin birth through which it brought onto the world not one, not two, but three pups.”
He continued, “And you know something? I don’t care what the scientists are saying. By default, scientists are severely detached from religion, which means they cannot begin to fathom what a virgin birth means and the importance it holds. Because, you see, the point of a virgin birth is not to look at it from a purely biological standpoint, which is what men of science are taught to do. Instead, the religious perspective offers the event as a doorway into something greater, more illusive yet divine at the same time. It offers hope and appeals to the spiritual component found in every person. Having said that, the so-called ‘shark virgin birth’ doesn’t prove anything until we see its pups walking on water. I think that’s a reasonable test that will either prove or disprove the hypothesis that this is, indeed, equal to what many would like it to be.”
“I mean, we could also try some other form of test. We could have some terminally ill people over to the aquarium and see if the pups will heal them. Or, we could maybe drop a staff in the pool and wait to see if maybe they’ll part the water in half. We can pretty much do anything you like, but I’m sticking with the walking on water test, since it’s doesn’t require any additional props, which – I think you’ll agree – makes it just a tad more practical. If they succeed, I’ll be the first to admit the error of my ways. I will also be the first to bow down to them. However, should they fail, I will demand a DNA test in order to determine which male shark is the father. Or, alternatively – if maybe one of the aquarium staff decided to get a little too friendly with momma shark when nobody was looking,” Robertson concluded.