Thursday, May 10, 2012

Light again

May 11th is special to me--we're in the sunlight now, and will be for 3 months.
This was written a year ago, and it works again today. We only get so many Msys in a lifetime.

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
Theodosius Dobzhansky

I should be crafting a descent with modification (misnamed "evolution") exam.

Descent with modification is the heart of biology. Without it, a world with red-lipped batfish, roly-polies, and humans makes no sense, no matter how clever God pretends to be.

Without it, nothing in biology makes sense. Nothing.

Seems sacrilegious to test it using vocabulary and a few standard examples any student paying attention can just fly through half aware of our universe.
I walked tonight, crushing thousands of insects and worms, breathing in microbes, watching squirrels and starlings and dogs and robins and humans go about their business.

A cherry tree late for the party dropped a few last petals on my head.

Mosquitoes paraded around my tiny pond, blissfully unaware that soon it will be filled with young fish born in a tank in Room B362, trapped by glass they learned to avoid, soon to be munching on the young wrigglers laid today.

Sunlight bathes us now, and everything that buzzes or tweeps or flaps or gurgles has forgotten that darkness was ever possible. At least I have.

And if I can forget, despite centuries of words telling me of death and of destruction and of entropy, well, what hope does the fledgling robin I saw bouncing around the Green yesterday have of grasping how serious this all must be.

Seriousness is a human conceit.

It's May. I going to listen to the fledglings for now, as long as now lasts, as long as the sun continues to bathe us with grace.

Red-lipped batfish--really, how serious can we be if red-lipped batfish exist?
The red-lipped batfish photo from PBS here.


This Brazen Teacher said...


on a 4th straight night of 5 am thesis writing crap and sleeping not enough, drinking waayy to much Sumatran roast (with too much sugar for that matter) and consequently have forgotten how to use punctuation or sentences BUUUT...

wanted to say thanks for a wonderful writing break. I cannot properly express how much that tiny moment by your pond gave me just now. Maybe I'll put your name on Chapter 5... dedicated to doyle and his pond... without which this chapter would not have come into existence. haaha...

alright, end of loopy comment.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed this piece. One thing I love is the way you take such a firm stand on a controversial subject and you do it with such grace.

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

"Descent with modification" was Chuck D's phrase; if I recall, natural selection was someone else's coinage. I have come to dislike the term natural selection because it always begs the question: who is the selector? it doesn't help that lazy sience writers talk about design and purpose as if it really didn't matter how they expressed themselves. It annoys me that Dawkins--typically both elegant and crystal clear in his writing--does this all the time.

As name for the theory, I personally like "differential reproduction," or sometimes "consequential variation." Sometimes I summarize the idea, "nothing succeeds like success."

doyle said...

Dear Brazen.

You got me walking on air. =)

Dear John,

Not so controversial round these parts, but maybe because there are so few folks who actually get the implications.

Dear Jeffrtey,

Actually, "natural selection" is his coinage. You may be thinking of "evolution."

Darwin was very careful not to talk of "higher" or "lower" species, and that's a big deal.

Natural selection, OTOH, was the whole point. He even called his work The Origin of Species
by Means of Natural Selection,
or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

This natural selection is a big deal. =)

Mary Ann Reilly said...

this says it all: Seriousness is a human conceit.

and yes the light is lovely

somethings perhaps are best not to overthink

others not so much

and now i am thinking that it may be the presence and absence of light that helps us to determine that moving line