August 5, 2014

WE ARE ALL DESIGNIST NOW:

In Darwin's Footsteps (JONATHAN WEINER, AUG. 4, 2014, NY Times)

In researching my own book, "The Beak of the Finch," I came to know the Grants well. When I first met them, more than two decades ago, they were in their 50s, cheerfully focused, understated, competent. They were also very fit, to use Darwin's word. They had to be, to carry all their food and water up the cliff of the desert island.

They kept up their watch during years of downpours and years of drought -- seasons of feast and famine for the finches. And Darwin's process unfolded before their eyes in intense episodes that illustrated better than anything in the Origin the struggle for existence, and the ways that life adapts and emerges fitter from the struggle.

When I read "40 Years of Evolution," I started near the end. I wanted to know more about the Grants' latest discovery, which I wish I could have witnessed in person.

Its own origins date to 1981, when a strange finch landed on the island. He was a hybrid of the medium-beaked ground finch and the cactus finch. He had the sort of proportions that touch our protective feelings: a big head on a stout body. In other words, he was cute. They called him Big Bird.

Hybrids are not unknown among Darwin's 13 species of finches, but they are rare. Because they evolved so recently, birds of these different species can mate but ordinarily choose not to.

That necessary reduction of mating to a matter of intelligent choice is what doomed the whole Darwinian project, as illustrated by his finches.
Posted by at August 5, 2014 3:01 PM
  
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