Friday, March 20, 2009
unfriendly, mirror, shreds
The pretty cat, in the process of taking no notice of me, is on the look out for the neighbourhood bruiser.
The image of a gorilla being shown a mirror and appearing to recognise itself sticks in my mind. The gorilla moves its head from side to side and looks at the mirror out of the corner of its eye to see itself from a different angle, much as a vain human being might do. It is part of a tv programme (concluded this week). It is presented by the farmer and naturalist, Jimmy Doherty,.who repeats for the camera some of the experiments made by Charles Darwin. The inference here is that the gorilla recognises itself and does not mistake its reflection for that of another gorilla. It is pretty convincing. But it is surprising nowadays that any intelligent person should find evidence of the genetic closeness of great apes to homo sapiens other than normal. How different from the reaction of most of Darwin's 19th century contemporaries.Darwin's theory was based on close observation and deduction. To support it, he did not have the benefit of the discovery of DNA . In an article in the current National Geographic magazine, a curious link is established by its author, Matt Ridley. He writes that two weeks before he died, Darwin wrote a paper on on a tiny clam found clamped to the leg of a water beetle in a pond in the English Midlands. The man who sent him the beetle was a shoemaker and amateur naturalist called Walter Drawbridge Crick. The shoemaker married and had a son named Harry, who had a son named Francis, the same Francis Crick, who, in 1953, together with James Watson, discovered DNA.
The bouquet of balloons, which I featured in this blog a few weeks back, still clings to the wire stretched across the High Street. But, from its former gaiety, it has shrunk to a few tattered shreds of rubber and tangled ribbon. It is a sad thing, if you should notice it - rather like a cast of garment or a sloughed skin.
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What a marvelous photo, I love the backlit ear! And what a story about the Darwin - Crick connection. I must read that article in the NG, still sitting unopened here!
The fundamentalists must be grinding their teeth. Just think what a meal they'd have made of such a link had it involved John the Baptist and Tony Blair. As I'm sure you know Crick was a waspish, frequently perverse sort of person with a slightly effete style. I can imagine him saying, straight-faced, "It was obviously God-ordained."
A similar experiment was done with elephants, some of whom seem to realize they are seeing a reflection of themselves.
M-L, The lighting was as so often happens just luck. I too rarely get round to reading the articles in NG, prefering to limit my attention to the photographs, which is the chief reason for my subscription. But the articles are often very good.
I had forgotten about F Crick's reputation. I wonder how many such connections are to be found. The Tony Blair and John the Baptist connection is worth investigating. Perhaps there's a best seller there - actual or historical.
Zhoen, elephants are very bright arn't they! You could spend hours watching them.
Someone told me the other week - about this time I think - that when a gorilla who had been taught sign language first saw herself in the mirror, she described herself as 'a dirty black animal', and seemed upset that she wasn't like a human. This seemed to me acutely pathetic, and to indicate that forming those kinds of bonds with these creatures was somehow ultimately wrong...
It's difficult to know whether it is right to form such bonds with animals. On the whole I think it's better to do so than not to. After all it can be the only way towards mutual understanding. How nice it would be, if sign language permitted, to say to that gorilla: you are a lovely, black animal, powerful, gentle and uspoilt by possessing a brain, which is too large, too ambitious and sufferes from being the seat of insatiable greed.
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