Contributor Bob Lampert spots this quail family in Sequin on June 22. Photo by Bob Lampert

Taylor: Exploring evolutionary advantages

Lake Country columnist Jim Taylor examines power and vulnerability

The hummingbirds are back. Probably two pair of them, although I’m not quick enough to identify individual features.

They seem to play, like otters, for the sheer joy of living. They perform aerobatics overhead that would make a stunt pilot green with envy. They soar vertically, flip over, dive at dizzying speeds, zoom past at low altitude, do barrel rolls, meet in mid-air, come to an instant stop…

I also notice they have different feeding habits. One visitor perches on the feeder while sipping nectar.

Another hovers constantly while dipping his (or her) beak into the plastic blossom. For each bird, always the same blossom, always the same perch.

And I wonder which bird is headed down an evolutionary dead end.

Because evolution is a one-way street. It moves in only one direction – towards intelligence, from simple to complex, towards greater flexibility and adaptability to the environment.

I can’t think of any examples of evolution moving backwards – although I must admit I sometimes wonder about the California quail that scuttle across the road in front of my car.

Generally speaking, creatures that cannot change and adapt will die out. Or get trapped in an evolutionary cul-de-sac while the rest of the world marches on.

A snap judgment might suggest the perching hummingbird has an advantage. Obviously, hovering requires more energy than perching. If both birds sip the same number of calories, the hovering bird must use up more of those calories before returning to its nest than the perching bird.

Economic calculations, therefore, seem to favour the perching bird.

On the other hand, the habit of staying still while feeding might make the perching hummingbird more vulnerable to predators.

So which hummingbird derives an evolutionary advantage?

Snap judgments are equally unreliable in human behaviour.

Given a choice between having power and being powerless, between strength and vulnerability, few humans would hesitate. We’d choose power.

Being vulnerable, after all, makes you, well, vulnerable.

So let’s compare, say, Jesus Christ and Genghis Khan. Try to set aside the usual moral and religious biases that automatically treat Jesus as the ultimate model for human behaviour.

Which lifestyle has a more lasting influence?

Jesus’ prime human characteristic, it seems to me, was his vulnerability. He had no army. He bore no weapons. He refused even to defend himself against accusations.

And look where it got him – crucified.

In that light, power would seem a preferable option. Even those who profess to follow Jesus – with a few exceptions – rarely seem reluctant to seize power when they have the chance.

But I also notice that people with power seem incapable of letting it go. Of letting themselves be vulnerable. They cannot ask for help, they cannot accept help, because that would be a sign of weakness.

It’s almost as if, by grabbing the brass ring with one hand, they disable the other hand – along with the full range of their emotions.

And perhaps their ability to see any perspective but their own.

Power makes them less able to adapt. Less flexible. Which would seem to put Genghis and his kin at an evolutionary disadvantage, doesn’t it?

History has been far more influenced by the vulnerable one than by a ruthless one.

Jim Taylor lives in Lake Country.

rewrite@shaw.ca

Just Posted

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Million-dollar lotto ticket sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Carina Stokes, bar manager at Enderby’s Small Axe Bistro, was recognized as one of four exceptional B.C. restaurant workers by the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (Contributed)
Enderby bar manager recognized as ‘stand-up’ B.C. restaurant worker

Small Axe Roadhouse’s Carina Stokes one of four to receive special recognition from the BCRFA

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read