Elder offspring: Why do mice have long, naked tails?
Dr. Free-Ride: Why do the tails of rats look so much like earthworms?
Elder offspring: That doesn’t answer my question.
Dr. Free-Ride: Sorry, I thought we were just making a list of life’s mysteries.
* * * * *
Younger offspring: Why are there so many bugs outside when we eat dinner outside?
Dr. Free-Ride: What am I, an entomologist?
Elder offspring: Or an insectivore?
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm, which knows more about insects, an entomologist or an insectivore?
Elder offspring: An entomologist studies bugs.
Younger offspring: An insectivore eats bugs.
Dr. Free-Ride: Would you consider looking at a bug before you eat it “studying” a bug?
Younger offspring: Yes!
Elder offspring: No! Studying means reading a lot, and doing experiments, and learning what other people know, too. That’s how entomologists learn.
Dr. Free-Ride: So, entomologists will know a whole lot of stuff about bugs that insectivores won’t.
Younger offspring: Insectivores know how bugs taste!
Elder offspring: Eww!
Dr. Free-Ride: Well, you can’t deny that how a bug tastes is knowledge … even if it’s not the kind of knowledge I’m in a hurry to get. I bet for insectivores it’s even useful knowledge.
Younger offspring: Yeah, you don’t want to eat a yucky bug.
Elder offspring: Or a poisonous bug.
Dr. Free-Ride: I wonder, though … do you suppose on average an individual insectivore has knowledge of more bugs than an average entomologist?
Younger offspring: How many different kinds of bugs do insectivores eat?
Elder offspring: How many different kinds of bugs do entomologists study?
Dr. Free-Ride: See, I’m sure some insectivores eat only one kind of bug and others eat lots of different kinds of bugs. And I bet some entomologists study a bunch of different types of bugs and some only study one kind.
Younger offspring: So, do insectivores know more about bugs or not?
Dr. Free-Ride: I don’t know!
Elder offspring: They must know enough about bugs. Otherwise they’d go extinct.
Younger offspring: Could entomologists go extinct?
Dr. Free-Ride: Maybe professionally. Otherwise, since entomologists are human, they’re in pretty much the same boat we are.
Younger offspring: If the bugs kept us from being able to eat our food out here, maybe we would go extinct!