Friday, February 12, 2016

Thanks, Darwin, for teaching me to ditch the damn clippers and just bite my baby's nails.

It's Darwin Day

In honor of the occasion I'd love to share my favorite Darwin thing.

In Descent of Man, he was trying to demonstrate that animals are more than just sacks of meat. And part of that meant recounting an anecdote about a baboon that I believe he'd heard second-hand. Here's part of that tale:
“An adopted kitten scratched this affectionate baboon, who certainly had a fine intellect, for she was much astonished at being scratched, and immediately examined the kitten's feet, and without more ado bit off the claws.”
Photography by Kurt Severin, National Geographic Image Collection (source)

By the second edition Darwin added a shameless, deeply committed, and perfectly adorable footnote, surely written with a twinkle: 
"A critic, without any grounds, disputes the possibility of this act ... for the sake of discrediting my work. Therefore I tried, and found that I could readily seize with my own teeth the sharp little claws of a kitten nearly five weeks old." 
O! How I wish that spirit is what "Darwinian" actually referred to. 

Cheers to one and all on this very merry Darwin Day, 2016!

1 comment:

Ken Weiss said...

Darwin's Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, published a year later (1872) is filled with interesting, often warm and entertaining behavioral tales of human, primate, and other animal behavior. He included baboons and cats, among others. His point was to show that we shared common ancestry. When we think we can 'relate' to our pets, the answer seems to be yes! We're not just making it up. But we use clippers on our cats nonetheless....