Anarchy and the platypus

I was thinking that all of human thought – religion, science, politics, government, philosophy – is about trying to place an orderly system over a world that may simply not have one. Suppose order is simply a momentary state of a permanent anarchy. Life isn’t supposed to make sense.

And that got me thinking about the platypus.

You’ve probably seen photos of this furry little mammal with a duck’s bill and webbed feet. It also lays eggs, and the fangs on its feet carry a reptile-like venom.

Now, evolution tells us that animals evolve toward some perfect state through mutation and natural selection. The best traits live on, the others die out. Eons ago, birds evolved toward flight; waterbirds evolved to dive in and fish as well. Mammals became mammals, and reptiles reptiles.

So how does that result in a little fuzzy that combines characteristics of all these – and why would a mammal that spends most of its time in the water evolve a duck’s bill and flippers for fishing, but not the ability to open its eyes underwater or stay under for more than 30 seconds?

(And no, don’t bring up God here. Unless God is not the creator of an orderly universe, but more like a kid who says “let’s put Barbie’s head on GI Joe’s torso and see what else will fit in the arm holes.”)

Because the advance of life doesn’t get you to a platypus. The only reason for such a conglomeration of parts is that life is random, and if it briefly looks ordered, it’s a coincidence.

Final note: If in fact someday we are invaded and our space alien overlords have duck bills, flippers and venomous spikes as well as flying saucers, please note the sarcasm in this post.

(Image By John Gould – Richter, H. C. The mammals of Australia. by John Gould. (1845-1863) Volume 1, Plate 1, Public Domain)

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