Pharyngula

Fragments of a shipboard talk

Since it has been a long time since I contributed any content to Pharyngula…here’s something. I was asked to give a brief talk on the ship, so I’ve tossed my written draft below the fold. With these short talks I like to write the story first, but when I get up on the stage and actually perform it, I don’t bring notes or anything like that, so what is actually said follows the structure of what I wrote, and some of the wording comes through, but it tends to be rather different. Probably a lot different —I know I extemporized a fair bit on the last half. This is all you get until I’ve had a good night’s sleep, though.

When Jeff Wagg asked me to say a few words up here, I was a bit concerned — that was the same day that we had the Amazing Randi and George Hrab up here, and those two are very tough acts to follow, as they actually have talent. Fortunately, Phil got up here to talk yesterday, significantly lowering expectations, and really taking the pressure off. I must thank Phil for showing that talent is completely unnecessary on this stage.

There’s still a little problem of what the heck I can say to you that does more than interfere with the rush to dinner. In particular, we have a team of naturalists here on the ship who know much more about the details of life on the Galapagos than I do, making me the superfluous possessor of abstract knowledge about evolution in general, with all these other fine people far better qualified to give you the intimate details of evolution on the Galapagos than I can. So what I think I can do here is simply introduce myself, let you know that if you have any big picture questions about biology you should feel free to ask, and I thought I’d at least try to put our little expedition in contrast with Charles Darwin’s trip.

So let me ask you — did any of you happen to see any dramatic species to species transformations on any of these islands? Did anyone notice any boobies evolving into albatrosses, or crabs turning into sea lions?

I didn’t think so. One of the difficulties of getting the idea of evolution across to people — not this crowd of course, but other people — is that it is so slow and subtle. We do not see nor do we expect to see abrupt transformations over the course of a brief, week long visit, or even over our lifetimes. Charles Darwin inferred these changes from his observations because he had two advantages over us: he was brilliant, and he was well prepared.

Darwin left England in 1831 to sail around the world on the Beagle, a ship which had the mission of surveying the coast of South America. He was not much of a sailor, so when the ship stopped at any coastal town before beginning the tedious job of plumbing the depths and taking sextant readings and all that other stuff, he’d grab a horse and go gallivanting off into the interior, promising to meet the ship at its next port of call. He criss-crossed the mainland, traversing from east to west and back again, and all up and down the continent, becoming intimately familiar with the geology and plant and animal life of South America, shipping tons of specimens back to England.

The Galapagos was an afterthought. He spent 5 weeks on these islands in 1835 while the Beagle was provisioned and repaired, after spending four years exploring the mainland. This was key: he knew very well what to expect of South American flora and fauna, so he landed here, and he noticed the strangeness in the context of what he had known on the mainland. It was familiar, but also different. Where the mainland had green iguanas climbing trees, these islands had black and red iguanas, some of which were clambering over rocks, and others that in an even more radical difference were living in the sea. There were relatively few bird species, but they resembled a subset of the ones living on the mainland, but they were also subtly different, with for instance novel specializations of their beaks that allowed Galapagos mockingbirds and finches to exploit food sources that other species of birds claimed on the mainland. What the Galapagos were to Darwin was a kind of natural experiment, where life had been isolated in a harsh environment and allowed to grow…and visibly change. We can’t see the transformation in a short visit, but we can see how life has transformed itself in the few short millions of years since these remote islands formed.

The similarities between life here and on the mainland were the product of a simple explanation: they were related. Animals and plants from mainland South America had colonized the islands shortly after they’d formed. Accounting for the differences was the clever, tricky part. That species might change over time was not a new idea — among others, Lamarck had postulated that in the 18th century — but Darwin’s new contribution was that he provided a mechanism, an explanation for HOW that change occurred. It was a mechanism that required no guidance, divine or otherwise, and that used a brutal sorting, rather than planning to generate new forms.

That mechanism is what made him famous. Natural selection is such a clear, simple idea that biologists around the world were wacking themselves in the forehead when they read his book, saying, “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that!” He laid out the facts as everybody already knew them, with simple and irrefutible logic leading to an undeniable conclusion. The members of a species exhibit heritable variability; they don’t all look alike. Not all individuals are equally successful at reproducing or surviving, and it is those variants that are best able to live under existing conditions that will leave the most offspring, meaning that the average composition of the next generation will change. Because the forms least able to thrive will not thrive, the population as a whole will slowly drift in the direction of optimality.

That’s what’s special about these islands. Evolution is an idea that explains both similarities in species, and differences. This is a place right at the interesting edge of being similar enough to the mainland that the source of those similarities, their relatedness, is apparent…but at the same time it is remote enough in space and time that the organisms here have also visibly diverged from the forms Darwin observed in mainland South America. It’s the combination of familiar similarities and uncanny differences that make the islands unique and a beautiful example of the power of evolution.

Comments

  1. #1 SC
    August 17, 2008

    Nice piece (this written one, I mean – not your cyberpistol).

  2. #2 SC
    August 17, 2008

    remote enough in space and time

    ?

  3. #3 JoJo
    August 17, 2008

    the tedious job of plumbing the depths and taking sextant readings and all that other stuff

    Is that more tedious than studying pigeons and barnacles?

    One thing to remember about Darwin and the Beagle was that Darwin had no official function on board the ship. He was the guest of the captain, brought alone so the captain, Robert Fitzroy, could have someone to talk to. Fitzroy, the grandson of a duke and a marquess, wanted a gentleman companion and Darwin was available. Being a naturalist was originally secondary to being Fitzroy’s dinner conversationalist.

    Incidentally, Fitzroy was a YEC who felt guilty about his role in Darwin’s theory. Fitzroy attended the famous 1860 Oxford debate where he raised a Bible his head and implored the audience to believe God rather than man.

  4. #4 Uncephalized
    August 17, 2008

    SC @ #2

    As in, they have been separated by both distance and time; it has been long enough in time since their geographical separation that they have diverged significantly. Pretty sure that was what he meant.

  5. #5 June
    August 17, 2008

    As an amateur, one of my party-level tricks is to point out that every living organism on Earth is in fact a transitional form! Compare your parents to your children and realize that the smallest difference may – in a few million years – result in a new species.

  6. #6 efrique
    August 17, 2008

    Jojo @ #3:
    Indeed, I seem to recall reading somewhere that the official naturalist for the voyage was supposed to be the ship’s surgeon.

  7. #7 Fernando Magyar
    August 17, 2008

    SC @1,
    It seems PZ was more into swashbuckling ala pirate mode on this particular trip and wasn’t weilding his 21st century cyber pistol. I assume he must just snapped a few tentacles and his sword weilding cephalopod bodyguards quickly put certain mortals in line. The following is an eyewitness account…

    And lest you think this is all milk and honey, I’ve been doing JREF stuff here as well. We had two meetings of JREF personnel, and one lasted a whole hour! I had to try another magarita after that. And we were forced — forced I say, at sword point — to listen to PZ Myers talk about Darwin and the Galapagos for almost 15 minutes! I almost walked off the boat, and sharks had been spotted nearby recently.

    I suspect this individual was actually granted clemency from having to walk the plank, nice spin on his part though ;-)

  8. #8 Jparenti
    August 17, 2008

    Very good post! And #5, thank you for giving me a decent example of transition! I’ve been trying to get the point across that evolution isn’t stalled at this particular moment — that we don’t live in a point in time that’s “special” compared to ages past. Creationists always ask me for transitional forms and assume evolution stopped with us. Laughable, really.

  9. #9 Tony Sidaway
    August 17, 2008

    I can just see it. The young English naturalist turns a headland and sees, arrayed across the rocks of the beach, creatures he recognises as scientists, similar to those he is familiar with from the mainland, but subtly different. Adapted for the conditions of these islands, some wearing sandals, others carrying cameras, rock hammers, maps, guide books. He is struck by the flourishing diversity of forms, the inventiveness…

  10. #10 Argus
    August 17, 2008

    “With these short talks I like to write the story first, but when I get up on the stage and actually perform it, I don’t bring notes or anything like that, so what is actually said follows the structure of what I wrote, and some of the wording comes through, but it tends to be rather different.”

    Hey, that’s what I do, too!

  11. #11 Erp
    August 17, 2008

    I should point out that it was Fitzroy’s role as captain rather than being related to nobility that isolated him from the officers and crew and made him desire a non-official companion. Fitzroy was also a quite competent scientist in meteorology and was also later a member of the Royal Society. Being a YEC and a scientist was not uncommon during that time when what science was was still being developed.

  12. #12 SC
    August 17, 2008

    SC @ #2

    As in, they have been separated by both distance and time; it has been long enough in time since their geographical separation that they have diverged significantly. Pretty sure that was what he meant.

    Yes, I figured. I was being picayune: Since he studied them at the same time, they weren’t really remote in time. “Remote in space and time” would be like 12th-century China and 20th-century Brazil. I thought it a misleading construction. But then I’m groggy and hungover. :)

  13. #13 RBH
    August 17, 2008

    efrique wrote

    Jojo @ #3:
    Indeed, I seem to recall reading somewhere that the official naturalist for the voyage was supposed to be the ship’s surgeon.

    Yup, a fellow named Robert McCormick (or MacCormick). He was apparently not real competent. Captain Fitzroy is quoted as calling him “an empty Cox-comb and I an egregious Ass in not finding him out at an earlier period.” McCormick left the expedition in April 1832.

    In the list of the ship’s company in Fitzroy’s Narrative, published several years after the Beagle returned to Great Britain, he matter of factly lists Darwin as “Naturalist.”

  14. #14 Tony Sidaway
    August 17, 2008

    If Fitzroy had known what was coming, he’d have tossed Darwin’s copy of the first volume of Lyell’s Principles of Geology overboard and refused to allow any other science books on board for the duration of the trip.

  15. #15 TSC
    August 17, 2008

    Nice to have you back captain.

  16. #16 clinteas
    August 17, 2008

    What I wonder is,are these talks by clever people on those cruise ships available to the general public,or just to a particular tour group?
    Having seen Dawkins’ talk on such a ship Im curious.It sounds like a fscinating trip,but would I always get someone clever talking on those trips as well?

  17. #17 Steve Ulven
    August 17, 2008

    Very well written. I hope your speech will be on YouTube someday.

    My Comparative Psychology professor stressed on the importance of looking at the similarities of different species over the differences.

    I have lived by this code since then. I work with all females (and have for many years) and I am subjected to plenty of anti-male speech. Some of it is funny and true to many I know, but I have never responded back stating a difference between the sexes. If I ever respond (and this is true when race is involved as well) I will talk about the similarities first, and that is what’s most important. All humans are more similar than they are different. Hell, all humans are more similar to all vertebrates than they are dissimilar.

  18. #18 JoJo
    August 17, 2008

    Erp #11

    I should point out that it was Fitzroy’s role as captain rather than being related to nobility that isolated him from the officers and crew and made him desire a non-official companion.

    It was, and still is, highly unusual for the captain of a naval vessel to have a companion on board. A navy captain is supposed to be somewhat aloof from the other officers and particularly the crew. However, on small ships (Beagle was a 10 gun brig rigged sloop of war*) it was and is not unusual for the captain to mess (eat) with the other officers. In modern day submarines, while the captain has his own stateroom, he messes in the wardroom.

    Fitzroy, being quite wealthy, paid for Darwin to be his companion. Most captains, then and now, could not afford to have a companion. Also, under ordinary circumstances the Admiralty would not have allowed it. Being the grandson of the Duke of Grafton (a former prime minister) and the nephew of Viscount Castlereagh, the Foreign Secretary during the Beagle’s voyage, Fitzroy was able to get the Admiralty’s permission. I suspect Castlereagh had a quiet word with the Hydrographer of the Navy, Sir Francis Beaufort, under whose auspices the Beagle was sailing.

    *A brig rigged sloop of war sounds like a contradiction in terms. In usual parlance, a sloop is a single masted, fore-and-aft rigged vessel. A brig is a two masted, square rigged vessel. A sloop of war was not a sloop, but rather a small warship, usually carrying ten to eighteen guns. The largest sloops were ship-rigged, with three square-rigged masts. Beagle was a brig, but for reasons too long and technical to explain, was called a sloop.

  19. #19 Mozglubov
    August 17, 2008

    I am just curious, since I haven’t been reading Pharyngula for that long… what is the backstory to the fairly common derrogatory references to this Phil fellow?

  20. #20 Romeo Vitelli
    August 17, 2008

    “I suspect Castlereagh had a quiet word with the Hydrographer of the Navy, Sir Francis Beaufort, under whose auspices the Beagle was sailing.”

    Actually, Castlereagh was long dead before the Beagle sailed. He committed suicide in 1822 which spooked his nephew to no end. Fitzroy arranged for a companion to keep him sane on the long voyage because he was afraid he would go bonkers the way his uncle did. He had good reason to be afraid of suicide. The first captain of the Beagle, Pringle Stokes, shot himself because he couldn’t handle the isolation. Darwin kept Fitzroy sane during the voyage but he couldn’t handle the role that he played in Darwin’s theory. Fitzroy later became depressed and cut his throat in 1865.

  21. #21 Tony Sidaway
    August 17, 2008

    Can I get crackers with my sloop?

  22. #22 Patricia
    August 17, 2008

    Did w00+ approve your boobies remarks?

  23. #23 Scott Hatfield, OM
    August 18, 2008

    I am just curious, since I haven’t been reading Pharyngula for that long… what is the backstory to the fairly common derrogatory references to this Phil fellow?

    PZ and Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy have a friendly rivalry as fellow skeptics, champions of science and debunkers of pseudoscience. You should realize that both PZ and Phil went to the Galapagos together! Their ‘feud’ is along the lines of the one between (I’m dating myself) Fred Allen and Jack Benny!

  24. #24 Mena
    August 18, 2008

    A little (ok, a lot) off topic but it looks like Crackergate has entered the realm of urban legend, unless the last sentence refers to something else:
    http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/freedom_to_not_bounce_committee_member_speaks/

  25. #25 Pierce R. Butler
    August 18, 2008

    Mozglubov @ # 19: that Phil fellow is The Bad Astronomer, PZ Myers’s archrival of the blogosphere, of whom each may have said a good word about the other somewhere but then killed all witnesses and arranged for the buildings to be burned and collapsed under suspicious circumstances.

    Their feuding has spread to the point where telescope and microscope specialists can barely exist on the same campus without Jimmy Carter needing to be called in. If life should be detected on another planet, a new generation of researchers may have to be raised (in isolation chambers) to study it.

    (Rumor has it that PZ & Phil share rooms and drinks when at the same conference, but then rumor has it the incumbent President wasn’t really elected, either – who ya gonna believe?)

  26. #26 Pierce R. Butler
    August 18, 2008

    Mena @ # 24: It gets worse, much worse.

  27. #27 RBH
    August 18, 2008

    JoJo wrote

    Fitzroy, being quite wealthy, paid for Darwin to be his companion.

    In fact Darwin paid for his own victualing, provided his own servant, and rented his own quarters and horses and guides when ashore.

    Fitzroy spent a good deal of his own money on fitting out the Beagle, but he didn’t pay for Darwin to come along. From Fitzroy’s Narrative:

    Anxious that no opportunity of collecting useful information, during the voyage, should be lost; I proposed to the Hydrographer that some well-educated and scientific person should be sought for who would willingly share such accommodations as I had to offer, in order to profit by the opportunity of visiting distant countries yet little known. Captain Beaufort approved of the suggestion, and wrote to Professor Peacock, of Cambridge, who consulted with a friend, Professor Henslow, and he named Mr. Charles Darwin, grandson of Dr. Darwin the poet, as a young man of promising ability, extremely fond of geology, and indeed all branches of natural history. In consequence an offer was made to Mr. Darwin to be my guest on board, which he accepted conditionally; permission was obtained for his embarkation, and an order given by the Admiralty that he should be borne on the ship’s books for provisions. The conditions asked by Mr. Darwin were, that he should be at liberty to leave the Beagle and retire from the Expedition when he thought proper, and that he should pay a fair share of the expenses of my table. (pp 18-19)

    And in the ship’s company list on p. 19-20 Darwin is listed as “Naturalist.”

  28. #28 Sigmund
    August 18, 2008

    #27
    “And in the ship’s company list on p. 19-20 Darwin is listed as “Naturalist.” ”
    Typical Godless heathen evolutionist – shamelessly walking around all day without any clothes!

  29. #29 DaveH
    August 18, 2008

    JoJo@ #18 said “Beagle was a brig, but for reasons too long and technical to explain, was called a sloop.”

    Actually, the simple explanation is: Because that’s the traditional Royal Navy terminology! [mutter] Damn’d scientists wanting rationales and logic? I dunno what the world’s coming to[\mutter]

  30. #30 Valis
    August 18, 2008

    OT: This just in; more woo and superstition:

    School in shock after ‘Satanic’ slaying

    “He said Satan told him to kill the children.”

    Mmm…

    “Young people need to be informed of the effects of bad Satanic music”

    As opposed to good Satanic music? :-)

  31. #31 GirBoBytons
    August 18, 2008

    I love the speech. A very good read. That must have been an amazing trip PZ. Can’t wait to hear about more of it!

  32. #32 Glen Davidson
    August 18, 2008

    We do not see nor do we expect to see abrupt transformations over the course of a brief, week long visit, or even over our lifetimes. Charles Darwin inferred these changes from his observations because he had two advantages over us: he was brilliant, and he was well prepared.

    One of his advantages was that he had knowledge of the idea of slow change, which is mentioned even in Paley’s writings. Another advantage is that he read Lyell (I think it was aboard the Beagle), which surely would put the notion of large total changes occurring by small increments into his head.

    Indeed, he’s something like the fourth or fifth person to think of natural selection. The main reason we remember him is that he came up with the evidence that it happened much like he said it does (even though he accepted the inheritance of acquired characteristics, he knew that those ideas were not good at explaining everything). Why didn’t the others think of it? Probably because they were busy, and they didn’t run into the same problems that Darwin did–rather small-scale macroevolutionary patterns.

    Indeed, Wallace might have been more the more prescient man, since he didn’t have the impressive Galapagos evidence in hand. However, he didn’t make the scientific case that Darwin did.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  33. #33 SplendidMonkey
    August 18, 2008

    Evidence of the good-natured rivalry between PZ and BA :)

    And we were forced — forced I say, at sword point — to listen to PZ Myers talk about Darwin and the Galapagos for almost 15 minutes! I almost walked off the boat, and sharks had been spotted nearby recently.

    Bad Astronomer-Galapagosiana

  34. #34 Longtime Lurker
    August 18, 2008

    This struck me as funny:

    Fitzroy, the grandson of a duke and a marquess, wanted a gentleman companion

    A YEC wanted a paid gentleman companion? I guess some things never change!

  35. #35 David Marjanovi?, OM
    August 18, 2008

    If Fitzroy had known what was coming, he’d have tossed Darwin’s copy of the first volume of Lyell’s Principles of Geology overboard and refused to allow any other science books on board for the duration of the trip.

    Even Darwin himself didn’t know what was coming.

    Darwin kept Fitzroy sane during the voyage but he couldn’t handle the role that he played in Darwin’s theory. Fitzroy later became depressed and cut his throat in 1865.

    I laugh and weep. Verily, cruel is the FSM’s sense of humor.

    If life should be detected on another planet, a new generation of researchers may have to be raised (in isolation chambers) to study it.

    ROTFL!

  36. #36 ThirtyFiveUp
    August 18, 2008

    Mozglubov @ #19

    Some rivalry from last year:

    Bad Astronomy, 11/29/07
    and on the next day, 11/30/07, Pharyngula

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/11/29/holiday-telescope-shopping/

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/11/holiday_microscope_shopping.php

  37. #37 JoJo
    August 18, 2008

    DaveH #29

    Actually, the simple explanation is: Because that’s the traditional Royal Navy terminology!

    In the 16th Century, a sloop of war was a single masted vessel rigged as what we would today call a gaff rigged╣ cutter▓. These vessels carried six to ten guns. They were used primarily to carry messages and transport passengers and small volume, high value cargoes. They also performed reconnaissance for a fleet.

    By the middle of the 17th Century, two masted schooners│ and ketches4 were being used as dispatch ships and were referred to as sloops of war. By this time, sloop rigged vessels were referred to as cutters.

    By the period of the Seven Years War (1756-1763, commonly called in North America the French and Indian War) brigs5 and a few brigantines6 had supplanted the purely fore-and-aft rigged sloops of war. As noted before, HMS Beagle was a brig.

    By the Napoleonic period, most sloops of war were three masted, ship-rigged vessels.

    I won’t go into the further evolution of sloops, corvettes, steam sloops, escort sloops, minesweeping and minelaying sloops, and the eventual, just pre-World War II reclassification of sloops as frigates.

    ╣Gaff rig is a sailing rig (configuration of sails) in which a sail is a four-cornered fore-and-aft rigged item controlled at its peak and, usually, its entire head by a spar (pole) called the gaff. The gaff enables a fore and aft sail to be four sided, rather than triangular, and as much as doubles the sail area.

    ▓A cutter is a small single-masted vessel, fore-and-aft rigged, with two or more headsails, a bowsprit, and a mast stepped further aft than in a sloop. A sloop differs from a cutter by not having a bowsprit.

    │A schooner is a sailing vessel with two or more masts and fore-and-aft sails. The largest schooners had as many as seven masts. In two masted schooners, the foremast is shorter than the after mast. In all multiple masted vessels, the tallest mast is called the main mast.

    4A ketch is a two masted vessel with the after (mizzen) mast shorter than the forward main mast.

    5See my post 18 for a definition of brigs.

    6Brigantines are two masted ships, with square sails on the foremast and fore-and-aft sails on the main mast. However, a large number of brigantines are ketch rigged, again with square sails on the main mast and fore-and-aft sails on the mizzen mast.

  38. #38 dave s
    August 18, 2008

    Nice wee talk, of course Darwin didn’t realise that the “finches” were in any way related or varied with islands until he got back to London, but he did notice that relationship with mockingbirds.

    As for FitzRoy, he gave Darwin the book by Lyell at the start of the voyage, and was just as much an old-earth uniformitarian, as can be seen from the lecture he gave on their return where he explained the Patagonian plains as raised beaches, something he’d clearly discussed and agreed with Darwin at the time. However, he married a YEC and by the time he’d written his Narrative of the voyage, added an appendix at the back recanting his old earth ideas and warning young sailors to believe in Moses instead of these new fangled geologists. Which led to that sad incident in 1860 when he waved a bible about at the famous British Association meeting where Huxley sparred with Wilberforce… as legend has it.

  39. #39 dave s
    August 18, 2008

    Self-correction: extracts from FitRoy’s diary were read out, whether by him or not is unclear. See Darwin Online, for:

    FitzRoy, R. 1837. Extracts from the Diary of an Attempt to Ascend the River Santa Cruz, in Patagonia, with the boats of his Majesty’s sloop Beagle. By Captain Robert Fitz Roy, R.N. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 7: 114-26.

    “Is it not extraordinary, that sea-worn, rolled, shingle-stones, and alluvial accumulations, compose the greater portion of these plains? How vast, and of what immense duration, must have been the action of those waters which smoothed the shingle-stones now buried in the deserts of Patagonia!”

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=text&itemID=A74&pageseq=2

  40. #40 dave s
    August 18, 2008

    Fitzroy in 1839, after his YEC wife had got to him…. from A Very Few Remarks with Reference to The Deluge

    “While led away by sceptical ideas, and knowing extremely little of the Bible, one of my remarks to a friend, on crossing vast plains composed of rolled stones bedded in diluvial detritus some hundred feet in depth, was “this could never have been effected by a forty days’ flood,”–an expression plainly indicative of the turn of mind, and ignorance of Scripture.”

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F10.2&viewtype=text&pageseq=776

  41. #41 Mozglubov
    August 19, 2008

    Thanks for the explanation, people. I figured it was good-natured, but since I don’t read Bad Astronomy I wasn’t entirely sure…

  42. #42 ThirtyFiveUp
    August 19, 2008

    Mozglubov #41

    You are welcome. Also, since you are new, take a look at
    “A Taste of Pharyngula”. Link is at the top left margin of the page.

  43. #43 themadlolscientist, FCD
    August 20, 2008

    A most excellent discourse, O thou mighty Prophet and Warrior for the Cause of St. Charles of Darwin!

  44. #44 Sili
    August 24, 2008

    The members of a species exhibit heritable variability; they don’t all look alike. Not all individuals are equally successful at reproducing or surviving, and it is those variants that are best able to live under existing conditions that will leave the most offspring, meaning that the average composition of the next generation will change. Because the forms least able to thrive will not thrive, the population as a whole will slowly drift in the direction of optimality.

    I like that. Must save for later.

    Very nice of Darwin to insist on paying for his own upkeep. He was out of a pretty well-off family after all.

    I did not know that he was such an explorer and derringdoer. Always fun to learn new stuff.

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