Quodlibet

Dinner with Darwin

by S. M. Hutchens

My father-in-law was an ornithologist who taught population biology and ecology at the local university. He was an orthodox Darwinian who believed firmly in survival of the fittest and had no problems with the predator-prey relationship. My wife's sister had a cat that was a particularly good hunter. Dad had a feeding platform set up next to the dining room windows so he could watch the birds at close range. Once at dinner we saw a lightning paw at the end of a six-foot jump that snatched a chickadee off the platform for its own dinner. Dad jumped up immediately and ran with an oath toward the front door before he remembered his principles and returned to the table.

An excellent example of how the mind compartmentalizes: the ecologist versus the bird fancier, the Senior Warden versus the Darwinian.

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.

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