17 May 2006

Perspectives -- a photo blog entry

Down in Executive Plaza, where Beth used to work there's this bucolic little pond with some nice trees and such surrounding it. It's not much, but it's pretty.


So Beth and I like to wander around there and take walks around the path from time to time, and also, well... for these:

That's right. Turtles. Some of them even snapping turtles. How cool is that?

As a biology major, especially one who has spent so much time reading popular science books outside of class, it's pretty clear to me that we humans, nay, even we Eukaryotes are really only a tiny little subset of the entire diversity of life, and that multicellular organisms like you and I are really not enormously more complex (and are only questionably more "advanced") than even simple organisms like a Euglena or a paramecium.

But still... looking at the size of these critters really aids the perspective a bit. I know it's hard to see from the photos, but these organisms are much larger than the other creatures in the pond, at least five times larger than most of the fish that were were feeding before we found the turtles.

And I know it's not exactly clear from these photos, but some of these guys have long curved sharp claws, and although I know intellectually that such creatures tend to be highly non-aggressive when in the water, it's emotionally a bit scary to consider being an organism fighting with these turtles for food.

And sure, I'm five or ten times heavier than even the heaviest of these guys, and my species is much more of a threat to them than they could ever be to me, but there's something about seeing such a tiny pond support and ecosystem that can support such fascinating creatures that just inspires a bit of awe.

Microbes and antibiotic resistance are all well and good, subtle and wonderful biochemical adaptations are one thing, but actually looking at nature, at observing the sheer size of some of these things really reminds you where all of this evolution business can lead.

It's a cliche, but I reminded from this quote from Darwin, from the end of the first edition of The Origin of Species :

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

It's beautiful that the turtles I linked to above, and the organism that generated this:

and the love of my life:

can all exist not only within the same speck of the Earth, but at the same time, and produced by the exact same evolutionary process that has spent billions of years working its nearly-magical influence.

Creationists live in such a dull, small world in comparison to the one I live in.

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