Aloft: A Meditation on Pigeons and Pigeon-Flying by Stephen Bodio

By Stephen Bodio

Pigeons have been most likely the 1st birds to be domesticated, 6000 years in the past within the center East, and feature been bred right into a multiplicity of kinds and hues unsuspected by means of these known in simple terms with the common birds of parks and barnyards. Bodio found the pleasures of pigeon-keeping as a baby; during this affec tionate yet unsentimental memoir, he celebrates such different facets of the pastime as racing homing pigeons, breeding infrequent decorative kinds, and easily having fun with gazing his flock in flight. He additionally describes his reports and relationships with a pleasant collection of fellow pigeon fanatics, an attractive staff of people. properly written, either exciting and informative, this can be a delightful if possibly no longer crucial addition to well known ordinary background collections; its charm aren't constrained to fowl fanatics.

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They also tend to produce more of them than can possibly survive. Nature will select those few offspring that are most suited to living in the prevailing environment, in much the same way that a stockman will select those animals most suited to his ends. Given enough time, the creatures will change, their adaptations tracking changes in the environment. But how much time is “enough”? Darwin envisaged that change would be slow, perhaps even imperceptible on the scale of human lifetimes, and reasoned that many millions of years would be required for natural selection to transform a blob of primordial protoplasm into the diversity of animals and plants we see all around us.

We have larger brains than our presumed ancestors, so evolution must be couched in terms A N U N E X P E C T E D PA RT Y a c 19 b Figure 6 of brain size, so the discovery of creatures living in the past that had smaller brains will naturally confirm our prejudices. For all we know, our picture of human evolution might be better told in terms of, say, changes in the number of kinds of bacteria that live in our small intestines. 30 To really get a grip on why evolutionary arguments about human exceptionalism are wrong, you need to have a good understanding of what evolution is—and what it is not.

If a fossil is a statement, it is not a sentence, such as Here lieth ye ancestor of all humans, because fossils are not buried with their pedigrees, nor prognostications on the future of their progeny, if any. No, fossils are not statements. Nor are they phrases, or words, but exclamations, from which we, the finders, are invited to make what we can. Piecing together the tale of evolution from fragmentary fossils is a hard business. Because fossils are so rare, and because an unknowably large proportion of the history of any lineage will have been erased, what fossil hunters can never do with confidence is look at a fossil and assert that it is the actual ancestor of any creature now living (or of any 16 CHAPTER ONE other fossil).

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