How I Got Evolution

Crowds of brilliant people, including on this blog, tried to explain evolution to me. But it was useless. I remained utterly unconvinced.

And then I put up a bird feeder and within a month realized that evolution is very real.

The squirrels are evolving like crazy in their battle to get access to the seeds in the feeder. They are battling two PhDs and the Home Depot chain but they are winning every time. It takes them about two days to unravel each new contraption we invent to keep them out of the feeder. I will not be surprised if I see them develop opposable thumbs and start a “Clarissa Is Primitive” blog.

So yeah, evolution is totally a thing.

26 thoughts on “How I Got Evolution

  1. I thought your position was that you didn’t understand evolution but accepted it as true because you trusted the research of educated scholars and professionals in the field?


    1. Absolutely. But now I have seen incontrovertible evidence as well.

      The post was meant to be facetious, of course. I am intelligent enough to know that the squirrels will not develop opposable thumbs any time soon. πŸ™‚


      1. Although squirrels are so dexterous that it really does seem like they have opposable thumbs sometimes! πŸ™‚ By the way, I went back and re-read your previous post on evolution. That was a fun post and an educational comments section! πŸ™‚


          1. Yes. Perhaps we wouldn’t have a measles outbreak in the 21st century if more people adopted that attitude.


            1. I’m absolutely flabbergasted at this development in the history of vaccines. I have no insight on what the hell people are doing. I’ve been trying to publish a post on the subject but I can’t get past “These stupid fucks have living, healthy children and they are such stupid fucks that they put these children at risk because of their stupid fucking ideology.” And I just can’t get past that.

              Of course, these animals are also putting other people’s children at risk. And all for what??? For what??? To defend their right to treat the kids as property?


              1. It’s child abuse, plain and simple. I had some of the milder childhood diseases because the vaccine wasn’t available where I grew up (chicken pox) or because the vaccine didn’t take very well (whooping cough) and anyone who’d inflict that on a child willingly is evil. More than 15 years later, I can still remember precisely how it felt to try to eat with chicken pox pustules on the insides of my lips, or how I thought I was going to die fifty times a day when I coughed for 2-3 minutes constantly without being able to draw breath even once. And I was an older kid at this point, I have no idea how a toddler would even deal with such a thing, how would he or she understand it. Not to forget about what 2-3 minutes of no oxygen 50 fucking times a day would mean for such young brains.


              2. I absolutely agree! Iget very angry about this too. There weren’t many vaccines when I was a kid. I got whooping cough aged 7, which was awful, I began recovering when my brother came home from school with measles. That nearly finished me off, double pneumonia, collapsed lungs, months in isolation hospital, dozens of potentially damaging x-rays. I’ve had chest problems ever since.
                These ‘childhood diseases’ are killers! Measles doesn’t just cause deaths in impoverished countries either, e.g. in the 1960’s author Roald Dahl lost his 7 year old daughter to measles induced encephalitis.
                In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year; by 2013 with massive vaccination programmes it was down to around 150,000 per year. Vaccination has wiped out smallpox worldwide, is hopefully in the process of wiping out polio, measles should be next but not if these anti-vaccination idiots have their way.


  2. Just to be a complete pedantic twit (one of my favorite ways to pass the time) that’s cultural evolution, not biological.

    Individuals can’t evolve, only populations can and it takes generations.

    It still is impressive and if you don’t enjoy being outsmarted by squirrels then just be glad you don’t have crows and raccoons to deal with (yet).

    My advice (you might check this with someone else) is to add cayenne pepper to the seed. The birds have no receptors to taste it and it won’t do the squirrels any permanent damage either.

    Just something I’ve heard, I have no idea if it’s true.


    1. The crows are behaving in strange ways. When the squirrels manage to collapse the bird feeder and it falls to the ground, crows appear in a fairly large group and walk around in a leisurely and condescending way, gathering the seeds. But they let the squirrels do the dirty work and don’t bother otherwise.

      I get a feeling that squirrels do this as a sport and not so much for the food. There are tons of food everywhere since we’ve barely had any snow. I think the squirrels are just mocking me.


      1. Now I’m imagining legions of squirrel cat’s paw minions carrying out their dark corvid masters’ plans (while the raccoons wait patiently on the sidelines, their time will come, rest assured, their time will come…. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!)


    2. The cayenne thing is true – peppers have evolved to contain lots of capsaicin because it irritates mammals but not birds and they rely on birds to spread their seeds around. Just add a lot of hot pepper powder to the nuts (or heck, spray some pepper spray that’s capsaicin-only if it’s legal to own in your state) and there you are.

      And yes, crows are definitely trolls.


      1. “peppers have evolved to contain lots of capsaicin because it irritates mammals”

        Except homo sapiens which easily become addicted to it (and the mild high it can provide). A biologist once told me that the human body reacts to capsaicin the same way it does to opiates (low unconscious craving that requires increasing amounts to satisfy).


        1. “A biologist once told me that the human body reacts to capsaicin the same way it does to opiates (low unconscious craving that requires increasing amounts to satisfy).”

          Pain makes the body produce endorphins, which are opiates, so I’d say the human body reacts to opiates the same way it does to opiates.


    3. Yes, squirrels learning to outsmart you is ‘adaptation’ not evolution.
      What’s the difference? Well, adapted traits are not genetically passed on to the children*. I’ve learned to play the piano – I’ve adapted this trait – but it will not pass on to my offspring.

      Here is my explanation of evolution. Imagine a population of squirrels. Every time a new squirrel is born, that squirrel’s DNA has tiny mutations that differentiate it from the parents. These may be completely undetectable/benign or very noticeable.

      For example some squirrels are born with a mutation that causes sharper claws that are better for climbing. These squirrels are better at getting food. Because they are better at getting food, they reproduce more effectively and more often, and the children will show the genetic trait of sharper claws as well.

      Because sharp clawed squirrels reproduce more, after some generations there are a LOT MORE sharp clawed squirrels relative to dull claws and eventually the dull claws may die out altogether.

      That is how traits evolve.

      *Some adapted traits are sort of passed on to offspring in that my genetic code is constantly changing in tiny ways, and what my genes look like that I pass on to my children vary based on what food I’ve had access too, if I’ve undergone trauma, etc. This is called epigenetics.


        1. Some level of one’s epigenetics can become known and it can be worked with to produce better outcomes through self-understanding. I am very doubtful that some of it can be changed at all since it is what it is. I find my own self-knowledge useful when refuting trolls, who do not know themselves at all. One can resist projections if one knows oneself. But I think really part of me will always feel a failure when I do not rescue those close to me from lost battles, but particularly lost wars.

          Psychoanalysis traditionally wants to sexualise everything and make these epigenetics out to be a product of the Oedipus complex, but in fact I think my sense of failure is my grandmother’s in not stopping her husband from going to war in his youth, and being killed. While I gained the trauma from my father’s side of the family, it is not an outcome of wanting to please him. To say that would be too superficial. In reality I would have to go back two generations, not one, to fix the problem. In any case, I have it as an abstracted problem, which is my inroad to understanding Marechera, by the way, as he also had this or something very similar as his own psychological knot. It’s also very visceral, as it informs my dream content. I have to try to overturn the negatives of war. And there are different means for this that can be tried.

          In all, my intensity level is too high and too primal at a fundamental level. I’m impatient with people for just going about their daily lives and for not fixing this problem. Then again, it can’t be fixed by others. We have to fix it for ourselves. In any case, this is the source of Marechera’s shamanic wounding and my own. My sense of this is deep, just as when two minds resonate more than normal, you know they are sharing some of your trauma. But it was a source of frustration when writing my thesis to see other interpret his writing in the light of something more superficial and trendy like identity politics.

          Anyway, understanding myself better I realize how much my fundamental or core issues are not the same and cannot be the same as those of someone brought up in the industrialized world. It’s a kind of comfort to know this, since when they project their issues onto me I can immediately see what it occurring.

          Still it is not possible to express the inexpressable beyond what I have done here, or to fix the unsolvable. There is only self knowledge and the attempt to record history, make art, and engage in improving people’s awareness wherever possible of the subterreanean levels which undergird us all.


          1. Actually, in 100+ sessions with my analyst, we haven’t mentioned sex a single time. And my husband is working with a Freudian so they have mentioned sex. A single time that was, in a year and a half.

            This isn’t the XIX TH century any longer. Most of the issues people are trying to resolve in analysis are not sexual. By the time one makes the fortune needed to pay an analyst, one has already resolved all sexual issues long, long ago. πŸ™‚


            1. Yes I see. Anyway I understand my own traumatic knot now, which is a good thing. I don’t need to wait until I am elderly or have completely lost my sex drive. I feel the real benefit or advantage is in helping me fend off trolls (not just online but in the workplace). I do have a real sense of historically-engendered guilt, but it is familial and not related to easily recognised identities. It is a weakness that I need to protect against further injury. On the other side I know that however much enemies and trolls may try to work to get under my skin, they really cannot understand this core issue — not unless they have it themselves.

              And I should not forget that this core matter can be productive, too. It drives one toward knowledge and to broadening one’s horizons (so much so that I could understand Marechera, someone on the other side of the political fence when I was growing up).


              1. I understand about familial guilt very well (a sad smiley goes here) and I get really aggressive when I perceive the slightest attempt to saddle me with any guilt I have not chosen to assume. I don’t get that as much as you do, obviously, but it is still extremely annoying. I’m not ready to sacrifice myself to simplify people’s primitive worldviews any further.


              2. Yeah, I can’t deal with the guilt thing at all. I mean I can deal with it only by removing myself from whatever situation is causing me to feel an additional load of guilt that I had not requested to have. Unfortunately, the Western Christian mindset, which is cultural and therefore ubiquitous, tries to use guilt as leverage against perceived nonconformity (and feeling stressed and traumatised can be perceived as nonconformity). If I fall into a situation of allowing the guilt to get the better of me, then I’m not going to behave in a regular, unstressed manner. And people try to solve the problem by — guess what? — imposing more guilt on me. They actually try to use moral leverage by stating that I ought to feel guilty for a job poorly done. But then they push me so much into a primal mode of reckoning with things that I can’t respond socially anymore. I simply have to withdraw. That’s the whole pattern with me and Western Christianity. The Japanese do not employ this “solution” and we get along just fine. I’ve been able to achieve a good level of professional development. But Westerners always try this: “We are going to bring you down a peg or two by making you feel more guilty.” That never works because it doesn’t make me “feel” anything. I stop feeling.


              3. I only encountered this bizarre phenomenon after I emigrated and I still find it enormously repellent. Everybody is literally swimming in guilt and those who refuse are always suspected of being up to no good. This is culturally incomprehensible to me. But it’s a great manipulation strategy, of course.


  3. Just writing this here because it involves something in my head and it is vaguely related to epigenetics. I seem to have taken an interest over the years in the nature of history-induced trauma, especially that which is not seen. We all know that those who have experienced genocides have a sense of historically-induced trauma, however that is defined. As well as this, there are those responses to trauma that are not noticed, seemingly be anybody studying any of the academic disciplines (cultural studies probably gets the closest). I have said that at the base of the “Western personality” is the trauma of being identified as a colonizer. That explains why Obama is left making all sorts of lame-ass statements about Islamic State, such as that Christians in the past also set people alight. Westerners are people who have castrated themselves at the level of the ability to identity aggressive power interests and to work effectively against these. They always seem to end up on the back foot. Or even meddling in dangerous affairs, but still with not any deep sense of the power interests, so they are caught out once again. Ask a typical Western person with a guilt complex to help you against an attack by those, perhaps, espousing chauvinistic interests, and they will mutter something about everybody’s patriarchy being different, as they wander off into the ether. A Westerner is someone who has castrated themselves at the point of looking at power

    Well, that is invisible historically-induced trauma, experienced as guilt, which makes people practically useless as defence (and certainly such people are worse than useless as allies, because they get very muddle-headed, due to guilt, and start to victimise their friends when they feel confused).

    I’m not sure if this level of guilt has sunk deeply into the genetic make-up of people, but there is something that is so deep it may as well be in my own genes. As I mentioned, I have been talking to Japanese about the I.S. killings, and what followed was strange — the whole week I had a sensation that I could have stopped I.S from killing Mr Kenji Goto, if only I had been more on my toes and less useless. What had I done wrong? I kept going through everything in my head I could have done to stop this useless death. I was trying to get into the fabric of history to see if anything could have been changed. That was really weird seeing as how I am totally unrelated to these events, but I did feel deep personal responsibility. More than that, I felt guilt and anxiety that I would be blamed for this failure.

    And then I began to see that this relates to my own basic historically-induced trauma, since my father seems to have blamed me for his loss of the Rhodesia war. I’m very used to this emotion of sinking into guilt about a war I cannot win. This basic trauma defines my character, since I am rooted in history on the basis of this historical guilt — or more precisely, sense of ineptitude. I do try to overcome it through my writing, though. And, needless to say, it is a very different order of sensation from those Westerners who view themselves as capable of extremely evil deeds because their ancestors were “colonialists”. I just feel responsible for not being able to help those whom I feel responsible for — those who are closest to me because I relate to them every day. But this sensation is certainly extreme and I feel it on a primal level, as if preoccupation with it uses up all my primal energy. And its so weird that I do not think that my job is something different than to go behind enemy lines and conduct a rescue. Instead I just anticipate being blamed for not doing that.

    This describes the knot of trauma that is underneath all my writings.


  4. Oh, and you thought those silly videos of squirrels attacking bird feeders were just comedy relief …




  5. Ah, yes, an evolutionary explanation, almost. Adaptations are genetic changes in populations, changes selected for because they enhance an individuals reproductive success; the squirrels are exhibiting learned behaviors. The ability to learn may be an adaptation, but figuring out specific confuse-a-squirrel devices is learned. Shows that nutritional rewards enhance learning.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.