Darwin’s ecological villainy

12 02 2009

Damn Skippy, little kiddies, the truth will out.

It’s Darwin Day. Yes, 200 years ago was the birth of some guy who came up with wrote some book about some theory some other time ago.

I’m not gonna mention evolution much. I do that enough already. Evolution is a unifying theory of biology. Darwin did a bit of work relating to that.

In the interests of not letting objectivity rest in the hands of resoundingly inane kooks, lets see what the forces of good can uncover to tarnish this mere mortal’s image. Remember: Everything you have ever been told is a lie.

Fact: While in Australia, Darwin shot a poor defenceless platypus.

Okay. Okay.

Platypi do have a venom defense system – but only males have the poison (Wikipedia). We don’t know the sex of the poor creature massacred in Darwins bloodlust, so I stand by my case.

His excuse, he was bored.

I do not think we have visited any one place so very dull and uninteresting – Charles Darwin, talking about Western Australia

Not finding larger prey, such as kangaroos, he had to settle for second best (or whatever rank platypi actually come in at).

And he didn’t even follow the golden rule. If you kill it, you eat it. Well, perhaps he could be excused – well, it could have been poisonous. But still its a waste of natural bounty all the same.

Darwin did eat a bunch of endangered turtles, lizards, birds and other animals during his voyage. It’s one of 10 fun facts about Darwin. Hah! Take that vegans.

Darwin serves a great poster-boy for life science, and even science and exploration in general (Wikipedia points out that Darwins notoriety is partly because he was … well …. a media-whore). But he did not shoot fireballs nor did he have a head mounted laser, and I’m fairly certain he didn’t hang around with Alexander the Great.

The end of the tale is that things Darwin did do, and the things Darwin did not do, or the kind of person he was, really don’t change the facts about evolution, natural selection and that stuff in his book about worms.




5 responses

13 02 2009
Peter Buckland

I guess I wonder if any of the species he shot were endangered at the time he shot them and whether or not there was a remote consciousness of speciesism.

13 02 2009

They most likely were. He even noted the fact for some (as you’ll see in an upcoming Darwin-Day round-up post).

I think it mostly boils down to taht’s how things were done. Trap-mark-release is a relatively new development for biologists. Back in the golden era the motto was more “snuff it and stuff it” (and why not eat the inside bits).

Evolution, and the understanding of the interrelatedness and co-dependence forged in an ecosystem, were cornerstones for understanding the wider ecological impact removing organisms from the ecosystem can have. Not so surprisingly, Darwin didn’t have such a framework to work within.

13 02 2009
Tony Wildish

I don’t suppose finding out what animals taste like is a valid scientific question, is it?

14 02 2009

Oooh. That’s a good point.

But will objectivity be compromised by involving yourself in the investigation.

Obviously the best way would be to allow many people to sample the food and then conduct a post-meal survey. What would be the controls?

25 04 2009


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