Posted by Tania Kindersley
I know it's the biggest hoariest cheesiest old cliché, but the natural world really does astonish and awe me. It's not just the beauty and the millions of species and the absolute curiosity of certain creatures (the chameleon, those crazy little bright red tree frogs, the giant squid); it's also the extraordinarily intricate mysteries of natural selection. I mean, why select for those utterly surprising quiffs? And who knew that cranes actually danced? (Well, obviously quite a lot of people, but not, until today, me.)
On a related note, in this year of Darwin, I witnessed an even odder and much sadder sight yesterday on MSNBC, the television channel that I use to sate my obsession with American politics. They have a commentator called Pat Buchanan, an amazingly shouty fellow who used to work for Nixon. The anchors all treat him as a slightly dotty old uncle, even though he has some quite startling opinions. He thinks global warming is a hoax, perpetuated by politicians as part of a ruthless government take-over of the people. He said, on the Chris Matthews show, without prevarication or embarrassment, when asked if he believed in evolution, that in his opinion God made the earth, and humans are certainly not descended from monkeys. It was like the Scopes trial all over again. It was like watching someone living in a fact-free universe. I wonder: does he know we share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees? Or, for that matter, 50% of our DNA with bananas? Or that the mudworm is the human being's closest invertebrate relative? Does he know ANYTHING?
That's better. Thank you for letting me get that little piece of outrage off my chest. And now I am going to soothe myself by gazing again at those enchanting dancing cranes.