Sep 302009
6-month baby, first teeth

Image via Wikipedia

One from the archives for all those sleep deprived parents with teething babies prompted by this tweet by @eske.

Sometimes I look at the human race and I despair. Is this really the result of millions of years of evolution?

Charles Darwin must have got something fundamentally wrong when he came up with his “survival of the fittest” theory. Homo sapiens is perhaps the biggest pro-creationist argument anyone could ever make… because surely a process like natural selection couldn’t get something this wrong!

We wouldn’t even have made it out of the trees way back when if we’d been relying on natural selection. How can I possibly know this? I’ve got a new baby in the house, that’s how.Adorable as they are human babies are pretty feckless.

They can’t feed themselves, they can’t walk for a year or more, they are so fragile that without constant attention from their parents they wouldn’t last five minutes. Compare that with, say, an alligator… fully functional right out of the egg: swimming, hunting its own food and generally getting on with it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning: with childbirth. I recently witnessed a completely natural home-birth… no drugs, no gas and air, nothing but a pool of warm water, my wife, the midwife, and myself. Now while I can certainly vouch for the fact that birth in all its natural glory is a wondrous and humbling thing to experience, it’s neither a quick nor quiet process.

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Feb 092009
Charles Darwin.
Image via Wikipedia

It’s refreshing when you see some genuinely good television.

Refreshing, but depressingly rare. Our screens are flooded with vacuous celebrity talent shows and patently unreal reality programmes. Television schedules crossed the  boundary into the banal a long, long time ago, and with the exception of a few pinpoints of light among the shadows of mediocrity, show no sign of returning to a more cerebrally stimulating norm any time soon. Little wonder that the youth of today are eschewing TV and are spending increasing amounts of their leisure time online, interacting with their peers in all sorts of ways.

As I write this, as if to reinforce the point, a mid-morning re-cap of dancing on ice is flickering across the TV screen in the other room. The off switch really is the only escape.

But despite the tidal wave of mediocrity television still has the power to enthrall and inform.

Last night I had the pleasure of watching David Attenborough present an exploration of Charles Darwin‘s tree of life — a look at the celebrated naturalist’s extraordinary journey as he struggled first to unravel the mysteries of natural selection and evolution, and then to prove his controversial theories to a sceptical world.

Attenborough, naturally, was at his seasoned and consummate best: an inimitable presenter who engages and informs with just the right amount of gravitas, but without overshadowing programme content. Who, you wonder, will take up the mantle of television’s most celebrated wildlife presenter when he inevitably hangs up his microphone? Please television gods, let it not be Bill Oddie! Continue reading »