Thursday, March 21, 2013

№ 120. Forced Dialogues / Conceded Diatribes


    Of the dark past
    A child is born;
    With joy and grief
    My heart is torn

Evolution is a series of successful mistakes: errors made when copying genes, which – by allowing their carriers to run faster or to live on less food – mean they do better.

    Calm in his cradle
    The living lies.
    May love and mercy
    Unclose his eyes!

Natural selection, as Darwin called this idea, comes from inherited differences in survival. It worked on us in the past – with some people better at dealing with diseases like malaria, or poisons such as alcohol – and, in time, it leads to new species (ourselves included).

    Young life is breathed
    On the glass;
    The world that was not
    Comes to pass.

The important word is differences; and they have disappeared. Now, almost every baby born in richer countries survives until they are grown up, but that is new; even in Shakespeare's time, only one in three did – and many who died young did so because their genes could not resist disease, cold, starvation.

     A child is sleeping:
     An old man gone.
     O, father forsaken,
     Forgive your son!*

Now we almost all pass the Darwin exam, we will not become a new species. But although our bodies will not change, with luck our minds – unkind, greedy and angry as they too often are – will.**

Bento Box:

*   Ecce Puer by James Joyce (Poem Hunter)
** From "Ask a grown-up: will humans evolve into a new species? Professor of genetics Steve Jones answers seven-year-old Brendan's question" (Guardian)

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