Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
At least once a day, I receive in my email one of those endlessly forwarded editions of one witticisms. They seem make their way from inbox to inbox like the common cold goes through an elementary school. I rarely take the time to read them anymore, and as a rule, I forward them only very selectively, when I have something to say about them. And though in some ways it will seem like a tired subject, I received one yesterday that I’m compelled to respond to, if only because it’s an idea I hear a little too often. What I read, partway through an otherwise innocuous list of queries about life, was this:
> If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?
I can answer this one!
Because we didn't evolve from apes. We evolved from a common ancestor with apes, and subsequently filled differing, though overlapping ecological niches, both through a process of geographical isolation, and a process called punctuated evolution. Since humans have only been around for a few million years, it can hardly be said that that apes will survive our taking over of those ecological niches. We're competing directly with them for habitat, to say nothing of hunting them for meat or amusement, and we're winning on both counts. Neanderthals also evolved from those same common ancestors, and lived in competition with Homo Erectus (our ancestors), and Homo Sapiens (us). Neanderthals could probably offer you some insight into living in competition with Home Sapiens, but of course, they're extinct. In fact, at one time there may have been as many as five closely-related species of human in direct competition with each other. We are all that remain.
The process of evolution is neither as simple, nor as linear as the popular conception depicts. But if you take the time to study and understand it more fully, it's complexity is matched only by it's beauty.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
In fact, it's becoming easier to ignore other people's children all the time. It might take a village to raise a child, but that village no longer includes some shopkeepers in England. First tested in Wales the Mosquito emits an annoying, high-frequency sound that for the most part, only younger people can hear. The device has proved successful at disbursing gangs of hoodlum teenagers from harassing people in front of shops with the device installed, so they can, I suppose, go harass people in front of shops that don't have such a device. Ironically, the shop owner where the device was tested had planned to install a system that would broadcast classical music in front of his store, a tactic also known to disperse teenage gangs, while also introducing them to the likes of Bach and Mozart. However, the shopkeeper had never gotten around to it, and in fact, did nothing until the maker of the Mosquito gave him a device in order to test it. So by doing nothing, he's found a way to continue ignoring these teens, now with technology on his side.
I wonder where those hoodlum teenagers are now? Perhaps they're busy becoming terror suspects.
Friday, February 01, 2008
So on the way home, I saw a lady and her kids walking their three legged dog. Now there's empathy for you. The dog had clearly been in some sort of accident, I'm guessing with a car, and had to have one of his hind legs surgically removed at the hip. That must have been a considerable expense, to say nothing of all the extra care that dog must have needed through all that. Empathy, and lots of it. It’s odd that we can have so much empathy for our dogs, but fellow human beings are little harder for us to empathize with. It’s so much easier to see a person’s flaws if they don’t have fur and big eyes to compensate for them.
To put it another way, it's easy to see the good side of someone going out of their way to help an injured dog, but a lot more telling to see how someone treats a waitress who's having a really bad day.