The babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain-wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain. The practical upshot of which is, that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech you hear decodes the brain-wave matrix.
Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could evolve purely by chance, that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final clinching proof of the nonexistence of God. The argument goes something like this:
“I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith and without faith I am nothing.”
“But,” said Man, “the babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It proves you exist and so therefore you don’t. QED.”
“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
“Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore he proves that black is white, and gets killed on the next zebra crossing.
Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo’s kidneys, but that didn’t stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme of his best-selling book, Well That About Wraps It Up For God. Meanwhile, the poor babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different cultures and races, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.
– Douglas Adams, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978)