the turds of worms

by rachel

Darwin’s finches are muddy-looking little birds that comprise the subfamily Geospizinae, a group of uncertain taxonomic placement. They include fourteen species that differ from each other primarily in body size and the shape and size of their bills. In these, they differ on the order of milligrams and millimeters. It is difficult to believe that a millimeter here or there can make much difference to evolutionary outcomes, much less major intellectual trajectories, but it does. After all, these birds are named after a man whose final topic was about the turds of worms. Not exactly a world-rocking topic, you may think. But they are worms, and move the world they do – turning its surface over to a depth of 1.5 inches every ten years; burying ancient buildings and old pipe stems by a full foot every eight years or so. Weigh a single worm casting, and it is not much. But it is not irrelevant.

Darwin’s Finches: Readings in the Evolution of a Scientific Paradigm
Kathleen Donohue

I really really like the above passage. I just find it so funny. And now I really want to read this book. This is why I’m thankful for subjects like ToK that let me read about the Inuit, Darwin’s Finches etc. etc.