Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Darwin Squirrel

Continuing with the commemoration of The Origin of Species, we see below some of the counter-intuitive results that can arise from the idea of natural selection: how else can we explain a parent risking her life for a child? As humans, we tend to say "love." We also tend to say that all those primitive other things that happen to live on our planet don't experience such noble refined emotions. Nevertheless, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that an organism that puts a great deal of time and effort (resources) into reproducing would be protective of her offspring.
In the picture above, a bebe squirrel (awwww....) has just fallen off a tree, and an evil puppeh (Oh Noes!) has pounced. And below we see the inevitable outcome in our moral tale of cute versus evil. (You can click over to The Mail Online to read the full story and see the intervening pictures between the scary beginning and happy ending)
Of course, it isn't inevitable, and it's not a moral tale. It's life. And it makes an awful lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective. Not much sense at all from a moral perspective. Which would you prefer, from your own perspective: a live squirrel, or a starving dog?

Personally, I'd rather not have to choose. But life doesn't have the choice of not choosing.

To pull another quote from this wise man,
I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice... On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.
Life can be cruel, but after all, it's life. What more do you want?


Tengrain said...

Lockwood -

Being a dog person, I know I am biased, but I can tell you right now that dog was not going to hurt the squirrel: that crouch is the body-language of "let's play!"

Nevertheless, it always amazes me the way that we always seem surprized when animals act as we would act. Protecting your child is absolutely natural and instinctive. (Just ask my Irish mother, oy, did she protect us!)



Lockwood said...

You know, I was going to make a remark that that looked like more of a play posture than a nom-nom posture: the crouch, the high arched tail, and the ears up and alert (making them vulnerable to just the sort of attack the poor goggie suffered) are all clues. I used to have a dog, who I trained well, and we were both very attentive to the others body language, and this doesn't look to me in the least like a dog getting ready to attack.

Of course, mommy squirrel sees the big bad wolf.