The Icythyostega Portrait (and a bit of a rant about evolution and pearls)

the ichtyostega portrait

the ichtyostega portrait

I am really over painting pearls. What is with Elizabeth I that she wears so many pearls! Give it a rest, woman!

This painting is based on The Ermine Portrait, but far less elaborate because frankly….argh, have you seen the original! –  where Elizabeth poses with an Ermine (a kind of white ferret which signifies royalty, for those unschooled in allegorical symbolism). I always liked the pleading little paw of the ermine so I stuck in Ichythostega – one of the first walking tetrapods. More toes than you can imagine, well more than five at any rate (we have foot prints).  Someone said ‘why is it looking so sad’, I said ‘because it knows it’s extinct!’.

You know, when someone says something like ‘but where are all the intermediate species if evolution is real’, I’m always astonished at pure lack of understanding that this question shows. The fossil record is full of them, take a look at Ichthyostega! The current world is full of them too but an ‘intermediate species’ must needs be totally adapted to it’s environment so it’s just not seen as that by people who seem to think that there are ‘bridging’ species between, say the ape and the human.  Which was maybe around a short time and was only there to evolve into humans….Showing a total lack of understanding of the mechanics of evolution. In my mind are supremely fascinating and I can’t understand why it’s so hard to grasp the concept – except that most people who deny it have often only heard the straw man arguments which are in fact ludicrous (747s being assembled by a cyclone, yada yada yada), so they reject the whole concept out of hand.

Here’s your answer if anyone says this dumb thing to you: SEALS. Half way between a dog and and a dolphin.  Sugar Gliders. Half way between a possum and a bat. The list goes on, you just have to think about it.  Then you get into these discussions only to find out they don’t actually understand what THEY mean by ‘intermediate species’  and are just repeating things that they have been told by other ignorant people that they have been told will debunk scientists, and they are not interested in debating it, they want to ‘prove it’ to you.  Ok, why am I bothering with this argument then. I usually don’t, or else I go off on a rant like this blog post has become!

I did once have a conversation with a redneck christian who said ‘I don’t believe in evolution because it doesn’t make sense’. In about ten minutes of careful explanation (in a nutshell – if a bird’s beak is slightly longer and allows them to get more food from a certain plant then that bird may have one more healthy egg than other birds and pass on the longer beak genes’ type thing and then there will be birds with different shaped beaks that will out compete the other birds) –  he rocked back on his heels, stared at me and said ‘wait, is that ALL? cause that is really logical!’ Well, yes, if it’s explained at generational level, it does make total sense. Car engines don’t make sense to me, either, but I take it on trust that they will work because someone out there can understand them. I don’t claim cars don’t work because I am ignorant of mechanics.  That would be absurd. Claiming evolution doesn’t work because you don’t understand it is equally as absurd.

I have a degree in evolutionary biology. I don’t expect people who did not do this to understand the gradual, slow build up of information and study I’ve had when all they have is reading a few articles in newspapers to claim they know as much and can debunk it- that’s just plain foolishness to think so. It’s odd to me that evolutionary biology is one of the few things that certain groups hold out on as clearly wrong or offensive because of the lack of understanding it – though really, it’s a religious thing, isn’t it. The explanation of how we came to be here has been “God” and by dangit, it’s going to remain God!  Evidence be hanged! We have the <insert whatever holy book you follow here> to tell us otherwise!

On the topic of pearls, btw, these are my favorite jewellery. I have so many necklaces, rings, earrings, of various types of pearl (cultured sea pearls are the prettiest but also the freshwater ones are marvelous). What’s not to like about putting the crusty snot of a mollusc on a string and wearing it around your neck? You wear as many pearls as you want, Queen Elizabeth. Just don’t expect me to paint them all.