Now that we are on the ‘Darwinism vs Creationism’ question (see previous post), I can’t resist adding immediately the following gem of a joking picture of it all, which I want since ever to share with others… Now at last I know how: on this blog of mine!…
An outrageously funny old book landed years back in my house: ‘Dave Barry’s Bad Habits’.
Not being American, I had never heard about Dave Barry. Once I discovered the gold-mine of fun that book was, I kept it preciously: whenever I really feel down and discouraged, I take a good dose of its crazy humour, and it usually sets me right again for quite a while!…
I don’t know about Dave Barry’s other books, but it so happens that precisely in this one there is a full chapter on ‘Scientific Stuff’, among which of course my favorite topic: Evolution.
In Dave’s characteristic, disconcerting at first, and then irresistible style, (a mixture of very few real and serious facts and a whole load of apparently as serious, but totally invented additions of his own, a zest of occasional black humour – that even I find so hilarious I pardon him – plus his usual jokes about lawyers, office clerks, Californians and boring unknown small cities in the middle of nowhere) here is the page explaining very scientifically the Evolution of Birds:
‘Everybody should know something about birds, because they are everywhere. Zoologists tell us that there are over 23,985,409,723,098,050,744,885,143 birds in the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, alone, which is one of the many reasons not to go there.
Now perhaps you get a bit nervous when you think of all those birds out there. Perhaps you remember Alfred Hitchcock’s movie ‘The Birds’, in which several millions birds got together one afternoon and decided to peck a number of Californians to death. Well, you needn’t worry. First, any animal that attacks Californians is a friend of man. And second, ‘The Birds’ was just a movie; in real life, your chances of being pecked to death by birds are no greater than your chances of finding a polite clerk at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. (…)
Birds, like most mammals, especially lawyers, evolved from reptiles. The first bird appeared millions of years ago, during the Jurassic Period (which gets its name from the fact that it was a fairly jurassic period). What happened was this reptile, inspired by some mysterious, wondrous inspiration to evolve, climbed up a Jurassic Period tree and leaped from the topmost branch and thudded into the ground at 130 miles an hour.
The other reptiles, inspired by the same urge as the first reptile but even stupider, climbed up and began leaping from the branch. Soon the ground trembled with the thud of many reptile bodies, raining down on the Jurassic plain like some kind of scaly hailstorm. This went on for a few thousand years, until one of the reptiles evolved some feathers and discovered it could fly. As it soared skyward, the other species, who had grown very tired of being pelted by reptile bodies, let out a mighty cheer, which stopped a few seconds later when they were pelted by the first bird droppings.
Soon birds had spread to the four corners of the earth, which is where they are today. And wherever there are birds, there are also bird watchers, in case the birds decide to try something. Bird watchers are known technically as “bird watchers”, which comes from the Latin word for “ornithologist”. Bird watchers divide birds into four main groups:
– Boring little brownish birds that are all over the place: Wrens, chickadees, sparrows, nutcrackers, spanners, catcalls, dogbirds, hamsterbirds, flinches.
– Birds that can lift really heavy things, such as your car: Albatrosses, winches, pterodactyls, unusually large chickadees, elephant birds, emus.
– Birds with names you are going to think I made up but I didn’t: boobies, frigate birds, nightjars, frogmouths, oilbirds.
– Birds that make those jungle noises you always hear during night scenes in jungle movies: parrots, cockatoos, pomegranates, macadams, cashews, bats.
Your avid bird watchers spend lots of time creeping around with binoculars, trying to identify new and unusual birds. The trouble is that most birds are of the little-and-brownish variety, all of which look exactly alike and all of which are boring. So what bird watchers do is make things up. If you’ve ever spent any time at all with bird watchers, you’ve probably noticed that every now and then they’ll whirl around, for no apparent reason, and claim they have just seen some obscure, tiny bird roughly 6500 feet away. They’ll even claim they can tell whether it was male or female, which in fact you can’t tell about birds even when they are very close, what with all the feathers and everything.
I advise you to do what most people do when confronted with bird watchers, which is just humour them. If their lives are so dull and drab that they want to fill them with imaginary birds, why stand in the way? Here’s how you should handle it:
BIRD WATCHER: Did you see that?
BIRD WATCHER: Over there, by that mountain (he gestures to a mountain in the next State). It is a male Malaysian sand-dredging coronet. Very, very rare in these parts.
YOU: Ah, yes, I see it.
BIRD WATCHER: You do?
YOU: Certainly. It’s just to the left of that female European furloughed pumpkinbird. See it?
BIRD WATCHER: Uh, yes of course I see it.
YOU: Look, they are playing backgammon.
BIRD WATCHER: Um, so they are.
If you have a good imagination, you may come to really enjoy the bird-watching game, in which case you should join a bird-watching group. These groups meet regularly, and usually after a few minutes they’re detecting obscure birds on the surface of Saturn. It’s a peck of fun.’
I had trouble typing all of the above in, because I had to stop from time to time, I was laughing so hard. I hope you have enjoyed this piece of fun as much as I do every time I re-read it. I must admit I can’t really take the bird-watching activity very seriously any longer, it makes me giggle under my breath, I can’t help it; as for how birds evolved to start with, the very thought (which evokes at once the corresponding vivid image) of those poor reptiles endlessly climbing and leaping and thudding to the ground for thousands of years sends me howling with laughter every time it pops into my mind again!…
But, seriously, when you really think about it for even just a minute, how indeed do the ‘pure’ evolutionists explain away the obvious impossibility of some changes that are supposed to have happened only very gradually and by minute increments, as Darwin thought was the general rule?… Now you have the Stephen Jay Goulds and others, introducing some variables in that overall theory, but I want to sincerely thank Dave Barry too here, for having helped us in his own fun way to see very clearly how some scientific theories cannot be carried too far, otherwise they lead to the kind of hilarious absurdities Dave has just described in this unforgettable vision of his.