Scalped by a flying slate

By Whisky, the Black & White Cat

Hell of a crash the other night at around 3 AM. For a moment I wondered if we’d got our neighbour from Purgatory back. Or perhaps Ian and I had been blaming the wrong people?

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Turns out it was the wind blowing slates off the roof, plus a couple of feet of guttering. Ian was all set to go outside to check on the damage, but I successfully dissuaded him. I wasn’t for having my pet human being scalped by a flying slate. So he sat and fretted until morning.

Me, I felt all safe and warm, congratulating my ancestors on their clever decision all those years ago to move in with human beings. My wild contemporaries, I reflected – the few that remain – were cowering in hollow trees or snuggling up to sheep or cows in weather like this. Or moving in with badgers – behaviour which might well have been a precursor to moving in with human beings. Badgers excavate themselves spacious weatherproof accommodation under the roots of trees, and they are quite happy to take in lodgers such as weasels and stoats. Rabbits too (it’s nice to know you’ve got a full larder). Plus a cat – if it can contrive to be mistaken for one or the other.

In the dark, no one can see the length of your ears.

Frankly I would have found the smell overpowering. So wouldn’t my line have petered out early in evolutionary history, you ask? But once more it’s full marks to the Ur-Cat for preferring human beings to badgers. And maybe the badger’s smell had something to do with that decision.

Ian tells me that evolution is taught in schools in England. He calls it an example of fitness survival operating between scientific theories – if creationism can be called a scientific theory and not just an antiquarian fancy. But they don’t, you know. Teach evolution in schools, I mean.

Not Darwinian evolution. They say things like: “Woodpeckers have long pointy beaks to peck holes in trees”. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! At least it is if you’re a Darwinian.

Woodpeckers have long pointy beaks. Period. Most discover that their long pointy beaks are good for extracting insects from under tree bark. In hard times this aptitude helps you get through the winter when others don’t. A longer beak is more effective than a shorter one – and so a clade of some longer-beaked individual flourishes, and in time displaces those of its shorter-beaked cousins. If this effect acts consistently over a few thousand generations, the beaks of woodpeckers will tend towards an optimal length, other things considered.

It’s a lot easier to say: “Woodpeckers have long beaks to peck holes in trees”. But the word “to” in that context must be understood as shorthand for a sound analysis along Darwinian lines – something which so few teachers take the trouble to explain.

So why does Ian persist in imagining that evolution is taught in schools? This is typical, not just of Ian, but of the whole of humanity. They refuse to use their eyes (to say nothing of their noses) to verify the true state of affairs. Instead they prefer to remain snugly tucked up in their little world of illusions, rather than go outside to watch slates blowing off the epistemological roof.

updated: 10:27 22/11/2015