After writing about whales yesterday, I thought I’d look back at some animal-related posts. I stumbled upon this post from last June, in which I waxed scientific on the origins of dogs, and how we are all the descendants of the people the wolves didn’t eat.
My entire perspective on dogs has changed dramatically in the past year. I used to think dogs were fine, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. After dating a woman who was clearly using her poorly-trained dogs as surrogate children, I swore I would never date a single woman with dogs again.
Indeed, when my current girlfriend and I started dating, she had recently adopted her puppy, a German Shepherd. According to her, whenever she mentioned the dog, I immediately changed the subject. That sounds about right.
I was skittish around the dog initially, but now I love that critter. Sure, I still find it a bit sad when single women approaching The Wall start channeling their unfulfilled maternal instincts into a four-legged fur ball, but I can now appreciate these wonderful creatures for the positive qualities they possess. As Gavin McInnes—no lover of dogs—often says, we bred dogs to love us unconditionally, so it’s little wonder that they do.
I’m puppy-sitting today, watching my parents’ ten-week-old rat terrier while they’re working and attending various doctors’ appointments. I pray that the day I go to the doctor and various specialists as frequently as my parents do is still decades away.
Dogs are interesting critters. It’s kind of amazing that our ancient ancestors domesticated wolves and bred them to hunt on behalf of humans, instead of merely hunting humans. It’s even more interesting how breeding for selective traits led to various breeds. There’s a whole art and science to animal husbandry that is fascinating.
The rat terrier, for instance, is the result of various combinations of terriers (for hunting), greyhounds (for speed), and chihuahuas (for compactness—the rat terriers had to be small enough to get into rat holes). According to my dad, who has become something of an authority on the breed since getting the puppy, rat terriers used to be very common in the United States—most farmers had one or two to help kill pests. Theodore Roosevelt kept one named Scamp around the White House to kill mice (although Scamp may have been a different variation of terrier).
Of course, the question that interests me is thus: if we domesticated dogs once, couldn’t we do it again from their cousins, wolves? Naturally, there’s no need to do it again—it was surely a long process—but doing so would help us to understand how difficult domestication was, and why our ancient ancestors thought it was worth the effort.
Yesterday I wrote about SimRefinery, the oil refinery software lost to time (I’m praying it’s sitting on a long-forgotten floppy disk somewhere). What I didn’t tell you was that I had succumbed to a mild but annoying stomach virus, so I was essentially useless for the rest of the day.
Of course, what better way to spend one’s time when sick than with video games? After writing about SimEarth and doing some nostalgic reading about the world-building simulator, I tracked down a playable DOS version. A helpful commenter also linked to the game’s 200-plus-page manual, which is necessary for accessing the game. Anyone familiar with 1990s-era computer technology will recall that, in order to prevent piracy, games would often ask users to look up some piece of information buried in the manual, the theory being that if you owned the game legally, you’d have the manual.
During this sickly walk down memory lane, I realized how much I had forgotten about SimEarth. The game is more complicated than I remember. It’s not that deep, but what makes it difficult is balancing all the different inputs to your planet—the amount of sunlight, how much of that sunlight is reflected by the clouds and the surface, how much cloud cover to have, how quickly animals mutate and reproduce, how frequently meteors strike the surface, etc., etc.
Yale Computer Science professor and—as I found out today—Trump supporter David Gelernter has given up on Darwinism, finding it to be a “beautiful” but flawed theory. Gelernter acknowledges that species make small adjustments based on their environment, etc.—adaptation—and that Darwin was correct in that regard, but that the process of new species developing from existing ones is mathematically impossible, even if the universe is trillions of years old.
For conservative Christians, skepticism of Darwin’s theory of evolution is something you keep quietly to yourself, lest you’re mocked roundly, or that you militantly espouse, which tends to turn people away—they tune out. Regardless, the world at large has bought into Darwinism completely, even with holes in the theory (like the lack of a plethora of pre-Crambrian fossils that should, according to Darwin’s theory that all life descended from a common ancestor, be present given the Cambrian Explosion).