Born: February 12, 1809
November 24, 1859, The Origin of Species was published.
So, which date do we use to mark the beginning of evolution?
Life has been evolving on earth for 4.5 billion years! You and I and everyone else on earth and every Redwood, Monarch Butterfly, Rose Bush, Siberian tiger, and Honeybee; every Porpoise, Sailfish, Snail, Hummingbird and Eagle evolved in an unbroken line from our common ancestors.
Every single one of your direct ancestors stayed alive long enough to procreate.
The study of life has always fascinated me. I found it astounding as a kid. I find it astounding today after 3/4 of a century. In honor of Charles Darwin Day — February 12th — I thought I’d point to some earlier essays and poems that have touched on life, evolution, or genetics.
Math Class: Who are you?
Many people act in their “self-interest.” Others act altruistically. What might a balance between self-interest and altruism look like?
It seems to me at least worth considering that the genes that make you be the being that you are are not only within the boundaries of your own skin. Those genes are all over the place! Some are in trees. Some are in bees. Many are in a porcupine. And the vast majority are in all humankind. There’s way more of “you” out there than just what is in your own skin.
The Great Race to the Finish
Ever notice how much many people rush about? I am too. Or, at least, I used to be. As I write this, none of our six cats is rushing about. Not even close. Charles Wallace is curled up in a cat bed on the window sill. Luna is curled up on the bed next to my wife. The other four are all in the living room lying in the sun. If I approached any one of them, they would know it instantly. They are not in deep sleep. They are just taking a … well … a cat nap
And speaking of cats, no doubt part of the reason I love them is that they are constant reminders of how to enjoy life and not only by napping!
A Suddenly Springing Something
Cats are also quite willing to be demonstrative when it comes to reminding you that they have their own agency; that their life is every bit as precious to it as yours is to you.
Actions have consequences.
We generally think of evolution in terms of a species, over time, adapting to whatever circumstances it finds itself in. But consider this: the choices we make determine what kind of environment we will live in and ultimately, how an organism (including humanity) will evolve.
Life is a dance between endless repetition on the one hand and chaos on the other hand. Life is not a printing press. Each copy is a little different. Because of that, it can change, and bend, and learn, and change.
Life is a Dance
The natural world is overflowing with beauty.
It’s diverse; it’s abundant; it’s everywhere. When humans come in and change the landscape? Sometimes, we make it marginally better or add something that is as beautiful as nature but very different. But that’s rare. If we’re honest about it, most of the things humans make are not nearly so beautiful as the natural things they replace. The manufactured items are often more convenient. For instance, it’s easier and more affordable and more convenient for most people to own a car rather than a horse. But beauty? Despite hiring really good designers and putting in lots of time & energy into making a good design and then selling that design, I’ve never seen a car that approaches a horse in terms of beauty. And, aside from the “nice tries” but you didn’t get there category and the “well at least it works and is blah” category, let’s not forget the many occasions when humans replace natural beauty with unabashed and stunning ugliness. These poems, I suppose, were partly written in the hopes that humanity would see natural beauty and work together to leave the world more beautiful than we found it — and not just more “efficient.”
You Must Remember This
The Tree of Life
Take a Glance; Join the Dance
It was his nature
It isn’t only a matter of how things look, of course. I wish that our actions and interactions could be more beautiful as well.
Let the Rainbows In
P is for Politics
When I was trained as an experimental psychologists, thinking about the experience of other species was not encouraged. It was actively discouraged. I have a very different view of the world now. I think it is much more parsimonious to presume that other organisms do have some sort of experience and in many cases, similar.
In addition to poems, I also like to celebrate the nature of nature by sharing thoughts and pictures, many in a series I call “The Walkabout Diaries.” Why? Because I literally walk about, generally the garden, and observe things there.
The Walkabout Diaries
Dictatorship is fundamentally anti-life
Dictatorship is the opposite of life. It hates freedom, truth, cooperation, and love. It isn’s satisfied with “motivating” people to do things with cogent rationale. It wants to force people to do things under threat of death or pain. It wants what is good for one person to substitute for the messy processes of negotiating what’s good enough for everyone. It wants to replace the thinking of millions of people to decide what to do with the thinking of one person and when mistakes are made hide those mistakes so well that no-one will learn from them. It’s the opposite of life. Or, at least, it is the opposite of healthy life. It’s cancer run amok. Like all cancers, it’s doomed. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a lot of pain before it runs its course.
Life is a precious gift. Don’t throw it away.