Monday, 11 May 2015

Sir David's Pear Shaped Eggs

It fell to the august Sir David Attenborough OM CH CVO CBE FRS FZS FSA to present the BBC’s Radio 4 ‘Tweet of the Day’ this morning. The bird of the moment was the guillemot and the great naturalist said that the guillemot’s egg “is pear shaped to prevent it from rolling off the narrow rock ledges

[You can hear the tweet on the BBC website for yourself, at time of writing, here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01sbyzk#auto ]

Sir David has stated publicly (see the link below) th§had any religious faith and ‘it never really occurred to me to believe in God’. Yet in today’s ‘Tweet’ he was careless enough to make a statement that will gladden the heart of Creationists and supporters of Intelligent Design.

The guillemot’s egg is not “pear shaped to prevent it from rolling off the narrow rock ledges”. What Sir David undoubtedly meant and should have said was ‘the egg is pear shaped which prevents it rolling off the narrow rock ledges’, or, more fully, ‘the egg evolved to be pear shaped which prevents it from rolling off the narrow ledges as would an oval egg’.

Sir David is considered a ‘national treasure’ and named among the ‘100 greatest Britons’, but his careless statement this morning lends succour to the Creationists who so damage the proper teaching of science to children in schools. In evolution things don’t happen ‘for a reason’, things happen by chance mutations - minute errors in copying genes - and the chance mutations sometimes improve the fitness of the species to survive.

Of course, it works the other way round too, and much more frequently: minute errors in copying genes normally worsen the likelihood of survival of a species. 

By saying ‘to prevent it from rolling off the ledges’ instead of ‘the effect of which stops it rolling off the ledges’ Sir David has damaged a proper understanding of evolution and gladdened the hearts of Creationists. Oh, Sir David! How could you?


Note: You can read my sonnet about guillemot chicks by following this link:



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