Evolution of the Best

I'm sitting at the computer, reading blogs, when the dog comes up to me. "Hey, can I ask a question?" she says.

"Sure, go ahead."

"What's the deal with evolution?"


"Evolution, huh? Well, I'm not a biologist, you understand, but the basic idea is that every creature we see today originated from simple creatures of the past, through a process of small changes over millions of years. Every individual of a species has slightly different traits, and if those traits happen to make them more likely to survive, then they are more likely to reproduce, and have offspring who will share those traits. Over time, each generation of offspring becomes better adapted to their particular environment, until eventually they're a separate species. It's pretty much the central idea of modern biology. Everything we know about nature, we know in an evolutionary context."

"I know that, silly," she says. "What I'm asking is why are people talking about it all the time? I mean, you don't spend all your free time talking about the Standard Model of physics."

"Oh. Well, it turns out, there are some people who for various reasons don't believe in evolution. And for political reasons, they have access to a great deal of money and influence, so scientists spend a lot of time having to fight them off."

"Well, that's just stupid," she says, indignantly.

"Most scientists would agree with you."

"I mean, evolution is obviously true. Just look at me."

"Look at you?" I ask, apprehensively. I think I know where this is headed.

"Yeah. I mean, I am obviously the result of millions of years of evolution. I'm clearly descended from other dogs, but I'm also superior to them."

I sigh. I knew that's where this was going.

"I mean, take that German Shepherd up the block. I've got the same kind of fur as that dog, and the same shape of head, so we're clearly related. But his ears stick up all pointy-like, where mine are cute and floppy. Also, he barks too much. I'm way better than that dog."

"OK, fine, but I think you're misunderstanding how evolution works."

"No I'm not. I'm the best. I'm highly evolved!"

"Look, biological evolution is not a directed process leading to a specific goal. It's a random process of mutation, selection, and reproduction. Over time, it leads to adaptation, but it's not a steady progression to better and better organisms. The base process is as likely to produce flaws as it is to make things better. Take your bad paw, for example." Her right rear paw is just a single pad, with no toes or claws.

"What about it? That's an adaptation, not a flaw."

"How is your bad paw an adaptation?"

"It's a sympathy generator. Whenever you're neglecting me, I just go 'owie, owie, owie,' and hop on three legs for a bit. Then you pet me, and give me treats."

I shake my head in defeat. "All right, you got me. You are superbly adapted to your environment." I scratch behind her ears.

"Thank you. I'm the best."

"You're still wrong about evolution, though. It's a process, not a specific path. It's always going on, and your adaptation really doesn't mean much unless you pass your genes on to the next generation."

"What?!?" she says, alarmed. "I am certainly not going to mate with any of those inferior dogs."

"Also, we had you fixed," I mutter.


"Nothing. The point is, while you may be the best, unless you reproduce, you're kind of an evolutionary dead end."

"Oh." She looks dejected for a second.

"You're my favorite evolutionary dead end, though."

"I guess that's ok...," she says. Then she perks up. "Hey, wait! I heard about these guys in Korea. They cloned a dog. You could clone me! Lots of me!"

"Ah... yeah. Well, I'm not a biologist, remember?"

"You know biologists, though, right? You could ask them."

"I'll get right on that." She's not so good with sarcasm.


"In the meantime, how would you like to go outside?"

"Oooh! That's where I keep my critters!" She charges off toward the back door, where chasing squirrels will make her forget about cloning. I hope.

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Emmy must be related to our dogs.

Our puppy has redefined cosmology as being about the Shania-centric universe. Not merely the apex of millions of years of evolution.

By Dave Gill (not verified) on 11 Feb 2008 #permalink

Canine: the Crown of Creation
with apologies to Jefferson Airplane
by Jonathan Vos Post
Copyright (c) 2008 by Emerald City Publishing


"Heaven goes by favor.
If it went by merit,
you would stay out and
your dog would go in."
-- Mark Twain

Verse and Chorus:

You are the Crown of Creation
You are the Crown of Creation
and you've got no place to go.
Want to go out? For a walk?

Soon you'll attain the stability you strive for
because the locations of the poles of the transfer function
are in the left half-plane of the complex frequency plot
as we cut through this parking lot
with telephone poles
theory of controls
and move more briskly, start to trot
in the only way that it's granted
I'm enchanted
now that you've panted
all excited, never docile
lesser dogs you gladly jostle
your fidelity's colossal
among all canines, you're apostle,
in a place among the fossils of our time.

In loyalty to their kind
with ratio undefined
double helix intertwined
they'd better get resigned
we're ascending, they've declined
they cannot tolerate our minds.
Acceptance is hard,
but heed Saint Bernard:
"Qui me amat, et canem moum" *
Who loves me, will love my dog
got to be cruel to be kind
with the Dog Star we're aligned
supervisor call instruction
Darwinian fitness
sexual reproduction
as dog's my witness
it's mutual induction
In loyalty to our kind
we cannot tolerate their obstruction.

"It's been a hard day's night,
and I've been working like a dog."
-- John Lennon, A Hard Days' Night, 1964

Verse and Chorus:

Life is Change
the rocket range
Life is Change
derivative's directory
Life is Change
integrating the trajectory
Life is Change
How it differs from the rocks
the rocks with fossil bone
one way ticket to the Twilight Zone
I've seen their ways too often for my liking
your wagging tail
so very striking
let's go running
let's go hiking
New worlds to gain
your noble heart's internal drive
My life is to survive
and be alive
for you
only for you
You are the Crown of Creation
You are the Crown of Creation
and you've got no place to go.
Want to go out? For a walk?
Good dog!

* St. Bernard, In Festo Soneti Michaelis: Seermo Primus, 1150

11 Feb 2008


This is the most flattering picture of your dog that you have ever posted.

What a cute dog. I agree with her.

Hmm, how does the theory of evolution jive with the assertion (from Karl Pilkington, on the Ricky Gervais radio Show), that a seal is a cross between a dog and a fish? Could a fish and a dog have met at a bar and the fish thought, "I would love to be able to bark and lay in the sun", while the dog thought, "Cool, I could dive and swim, hang out with friends all day," so they decided to mate and create a new and better species? I lay awake at night wondering...

By Joanne Crowe (not verified) on 12 Feb 2008 #permalink

Now that we've had the Dog/Evolution post, one hopes you don't feel compelled to offer the inverse/opposite post of God/Creationism.

Im glad I don't live in America where they will soon have all gods law written into their statutes!

Now that we've had the Dog/Evolution post, one hopes you don't feel compelled to offer the inverse/opposite post of God/Creationism.

The dog is an agnostic. She doesn't think there's a God (He never rubs her belly, for example), but things do sometimes appear in her bowl as if by magic...

I don't think you have to worry about a future post in which I talk to God and he convinces me that evolution is all a bunch of crap. Not a serious one, anyway.

Excellent post.

By the way, don't tell Emmy that a beagle won Best in Show last night.

By CCPhysicist (not verified) on 13 Feb 2008 #permalink

It's such a shame that the creationists who are constantly confusing Social Darwinism with evolution by natural selection probably do not read your blog.