Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Guano Is Not Great

Christopher Hitchens wrote this article in Slate about sightless salamanders and evolution, inspired by an episode of the BBC documentary series "Planet Earth" about caves. It's not a fantastically convincing takedown of creationism, really, and anyway I think he's missing the big point here. Pete and I actually watched this episode together when he was visiting New Haven a few weekends ago, and the important story in it is that there's this cave in Indonesia with a 30-meter-high pile of bat guano in it, and living on the guano pile is the world's largest population of cockroaches, which are in turn eaten by giant roach-eating cave centipedes, and, meanwhile, the bats themselves are in constant danger of being eaten by bat-eating cave snakes. Okay, so I don't actually know if there's a big point about the existence of God in there, but it's pretty remarkable to see on film.

(The best part might be the "making of" featurette afterwards, where they show one of the photographers reinforcing the crotch of his paper guano-wading suit with duct tape, explaining to the camera that if he doesn't do this then the bugs find a way in.)

"Planet Earth" is, on balance, way less gross than this, and usually pretty breathtaking, and I recommend it highly. High-definition filming meets old-school nature documentary production values and a David Attenborough voiceover: recipe for success.

* * * * *

I would not have guessed that the 1967 Pittsburgh Steelers would make a cameo appearance in the election campaign this year, but this is just kind of an odd story all around. Did McCain really forget this, or was he intentionally refitting his war story for a regional audience and didn't think that he'd get caught doing it?


Post a Comment

<< Home