"…man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.” -- Douglas Adams
Popular literature and media present dolphins in light of four themes:
Peer: "the dolphin as peer to humans, of equal intelligence or at least capable of communicating with or helping humans;
Mentor: the dolphin as the representation of a romantic notion of ideal freedom in nature, embodying principles of peace, harmony or love;
Victim: the dolphin as a naïve, innocent being that is subordinate and in need of human protection;
More Evolved Consciousness: the dolphin as superior to humans, potentially affiliating with a higher power or intelligence." 
Of course dolphins are more, much more, than these themes contain. But if there is wisdom in these four themes, then we might also ask: "And what is the place of the dolphin in contemporary theology?"
The idea that humans, and humans alone, are made in God’s image seems odd to those of us who are inspired by one of the four themes above. It can seem especially odd to those of who understand God as an all-inclusive Consciousness in whose affection we and all other creatures "live and move and have our being." (Acts 17: 28) We open-and-relational theologians have an ecological cast of mind and heart. We believe that all creatures. ourselves included, are swimming in the larger ocean of God's love. Even as we walk on land, we are swimming in a deeper, oceanic mystery filled with, in Thomas Oord's phrase, kenotic or self-giving Love. This oceanic love is both active and receptive. It lures each creature into whatever forms of wholeness that are possibler for it, relative to its kind and to the circumstances at hand; and it shares in the sufferings and joys, the pleasures and desires, of each creature empathically. It is a fellow-sufferer who understands: a Companion to life.
Thus we ask: “Might dolphins, too, be made in God’s image? Or, at the very least, might they be more evolved, in terms of consciousness, than most of us humans?"
For one thing, they do not engage in organized warfare, or plunder the planet, or fall victim to the voracious sides of capitalism, or live in mansions while others struggle to survive, or run for office. Yes, tragically, we use dolphins for warfare, but in so doing they are innocent victims of our avarice. War is not their game.
We read in the Bible that we are made in God’s image and we are to grow into God’s likeness. Again we wonder: “Might we also, at least in some ways, grow into the images of dolphins, too?" - Partaking of their playfulness, their responsible, parenting, their gregariousness, their love of life. Don't the puritans among us need a bit of their hedonism, too, their acceptance and embrace of bodily pleasure?
We are told that humans were meant to have dominion over the earth. We ask: “But wouldn’t it be much better if dolphins had dominion?”
Of course we humans do have dominion over dry land, not by divine mandate but by our overwhelming population and migratory impulses. We have, in so many ways, subdued the planet -- or at least dry land. But the dolphins are more like Jesus. They don't try to subdue the world. They are content to muck about and play.
We are told that God so loved the world that God sent a son to save us. We wonder: “Perhaps God has already sent many messiahs. Maybe they are the dolphins.”
In asking these questions we do not mean to demean other creatures. So many of them have gifts we humans lack: forms of intelligence, capacities for mobility, forms of mindfulness.
We learn about this spiritual alphabet of humanity, with its inclusion of qualities of heart and mind such as awareness and beauty and connection and playfulness. We recognize that, in many ways other animals are carriers of so many of these forms of spirituality.
We hear indigenous peoples say that the creatures are themselves our relatives and that we can, and should, learn from all our relatives. We return to the dolphins. Are not they, too, our relatives? Indeed, our elders? Are they not ambassadors for the holy, and holy themselves? We begin to rethink our religion in dolphinian terms. We begin to pray, in our way, to the God of dolphins and to try, in our way, to grow into their likeness.
 Dolphins in Popular Literature and Media: John Fraser, Diana Reiss, Paul Boyle, Katherine Lemcke, Jessica Sickler, Elizabeth Elliott, Barbara Newman, and Sarah Gruber (file:///C:/Users/mcdan/Downloads/Dolphins_in_Popular_Literature_and_Media.pdf}
- Jay McDaniel, 6/22/2021
How Dolphin Are You?
All quotes below are from BBC Radio 4's Patrick Aryee, who travelled to West Wales to get in touch with bottle-nosed dolphins.
Be sociable. "They live in pods, which can consist of two or even up to a 1,000 dolphins. But that’s usually just at Christmas or weddings. Scientists believe that a lone dolphin that’s lost its pod will seek out humans for company, or borrow a mobile to ask the rest of its pod where the hell they’ve gone."
Be a good parent. "Dolphins are helicopter parents. Research has shown dolphins using sponges as tools and teaching their offspring how to do so. Left to their own devices the offspring will still forget to clean their teeth, however."
Be passionate. "Male dolphins sometimes take a fancy to female human swimmers and will chase male swimmers out of the water, in jealousy. While a female dolphin holds his coat and shouts 'leave it Dave he ain’t worth it.'"
Be vigilant. "While sleeping only half of the dolphin’s brain goes to sleep while the other half remains awake so they can continue to breathe and not miss their bus stop."
Be sexy. "They have sex for pleasure. Not just because it’s Tuesday."
Be hedonistic. "The BBC have filmed a group of dolphins playing with a puffer fish, which releases a deadly toxin. In small doses the toxin acts like alcohol for the dolphins. When the camera crew returned the next day however they found the dolphins eating bacon sandwiches and saying they were never going to play with puffa fish again except maybe one at Kelly’s birthday do. Maximum two."
Be playful. "Dolphins play tag games with seaweed, “spyhop” (leaping out of the water and holding themselves vertically to look at what’s going on) and one pod was filmed in Japan wrenching an octopus off a rock and passing it to each other. The octopus survived by clamping itself to the face of one of the dolphins, a technique known as ‘doing a Suarez’."
Be chatty. "Dolphins communicate mainly in whistles, barks and rasps and body posturing, like teenage boys. So now you know. You can go off clicking and flipping and enjoy the rest of your day, confident in the knowledge that the more dolphin you are, the cooler you’ll be. As Douglas Adams put it in Hitchhiker’s Guide, “…man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
And all this happens in the sea, in the salt where God is also love, but without words: and Aphrodite is the wife of whales most happy, happy she!
and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.
-- Whales Weep Not, David Herbert Lawrence
Dolphins Stories, Too
"The bridge is made of the stories that the old paradigm can’t hear, the lives that it doesn’t count, the imagined future it can’t encompass." (Arlene Goldbard)
Process philosophers believe that the whole universe is alive with stories. In A Whole Universe of Stories Patricia Adams Farmer explains what this means.
Many of these stories belong to human beings and we celebrate them. Our need is to be respectful of each and every person's story, as best we can. But the vast majority of stories on our planet belong to other creatures: vertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, insects, etc. They don't tell their stories in language we understand; their lives are their stories. All living beings, not humans alone, have the Buddha Nature.
It would be arrogant to think that, when it comes to learning how to live, we would rely only on guidance from fellow humans. Yes, the prophets and sages offer us much: the Buddha, Mahavira, Moses, Muhammad, and Jesus. And so do our mothers, grandmothers, and sisters. All can be channels of grace.
But as we seek guidance from the Grace we can rightly learn other animals, too. At least this is what open and relational theologians believe. They -- we -- believe that our awareness of God’s lures can be evoked by the ways and presence of other animals, no less than from the revelations of sages and mentors. In an age overrun by ethnic hatreds and political animosities, we do well to take a break from the rancor and claim our inner dolphins.