Tuesday, February 12, 2008


And one of my favourite Darwin stories, a simple one which when I read in Nobelist Konrad Lorenz's "The Waning of Humaneness" as a school-kid, left me especially touched because it seemed to strike a nice balance between dispassionate and objective scientific curiosity and humane action. Lorenz along with two others has won the only Nobel Prize for medicine ever awarded for animal behaviour studies, and was especially an expert on aggression. His book King Solomon's Ring is hands down the most delightful and interesting book about animals and their behaviour that I have ever read. He recalled the story thus:

On one of his typical specimen-hunting forays in South America, Darwin came across one of nature's quintessentially cruel spectacles- a wasp mercilessly stinging a spider. The spider would try to scurry away but the the wasp repeatedly would find it and sting it until it was doddering painfully and still trying to get away. The wasp nonetheless relentlessly continued its onslaught. For a naturalist, the fight was worth documenting to the end, one example among countless of nature red in tooth and claw. But Darwin did the humane thing; he drove the wasp away and ended the spider's misery.

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