Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Science and Religion

I was walking out my door this morning when I paused to wonder: given that a) spiders generally only live for a year or so and b) humans have been building doorways for thousands of years, shouldn't spiders have evolved to not waste their time spending all night building an elaborate web across a doorway only to have it smashed to bits by some lumbering human in the morning? It doesn't say much for evolution if you ask me. Of course, it doesn't say much for intelligent design either.

What? You're disappointed that this post is titled 'Science and Religion' and all I have to offer is a personal anecdote? For my part, I figure that's already too much time spent on the topic. Science and religion are different and - given the gaps in our understanding of the universe, and the small probability that significant new gains in understanding are made and then widely disseminated, understood and believed - it seems likely that they should be able to peacefully co-exist for quite some time into the future. Given the differences between them, it seems logical that religion be taught in religion class and science be taught in science class.

Still, if we must have a battle between science and religion, I think I'll go with the side which has had pretty much every controversy encountered in the last 500 years resolved in its favour. This isn't really a fair metric of course, because religion, by its nature, is incapable of really resolving anything one way or the other, but then that's kind of the point, isn't it.

7 Comments:

  • That would only cause spiders to evolve if it continued happening to the population of spiders at large and a mutation occurred that prevented the mutant from being affected by the condition. Since I think most spiders have a fine time spinning webs and suriving away from doors, and the spiders that do spin webs there do not die when you take the web down (usually), then there is no pressure on the population to change. Note: I'm no biologist by any stretch of the imaginiation. :)

    By Blogger Bill, at 10:23 AM  

  • But if a spider keeps building a web across a doorway and it keeps getting knocked down then they'll never get their web built, never catch any food and hence never reproduce, right? Thus leading to a dying out of the spiders who build across doorways.

    But you're probably right that there are enough non-doorway spiders that this particular case doesn't put enough pressure on the population to allow a non-doorway building mutation to propogate widely.

    Obviously, I'm no biologist either. Where's Monsanto to develop a patented genetically engineered non-doorway building spider when you need them?

    By Blogger Declan, at 10:53 AM  

  • I'm no biologist either, but based on my observations of spiders they only intend for their webs to last one night.

    For example, there is a spider that lives somewhere outside my office window. Every night as the sun goes down and the light from by office begins attracting bugs to my office window the spider will spin a web across my window and catch a whole lot of bugs.

    When I return in the morning the spider is gone, and often the web as well. At best there are a few tattered remnants. Then, at dusk the process repeats.

    I've noted a similar pattern among spiders and their webs around the stairway and window sills of Stauffer Library on campus.

    Based on purely personal empirical observations, I don't think the webs are meant to last longer than one night.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 12:33 PM  

  • Hmm, I hadn't considered that possibility. Although the spdier in my doorway was still there when I crashed through so I think he/she needs to set the alarm clock a little earlier.

    By Blogger Declan, at 1:00 PM  

  • It seems that matthew is right according to this web page.

    http://www.xs4all.nl/~ednieuw/Spiders/Info/Construction_of_a_web.html

    "After a night of hunting the web becomes worn out. The spider removes the silk in the morning only leaving the first bridge line. After a daytime rest the spider construct a new web in the evening. If the catch was low and the web is not heavily damaged the web may stay during the day and be reused after minor repairing."

    By Blogger dejour, at 8:40 PM  

  • I really like spiders. They're everything I'm not - dainty and good at geometry. From my own observations, I support the hypothesis put forth by Matthew and backed by dejour's link. I have three big gorgeous spiders who build the most beautiful and elaborate webs on my porch. They're there at 0530 when we leave the house, and always gone by 1700 when we return. Day after day, night after night.

    By Blogger Princess Monkey, at 12:10 PM  

  • I appreciate all the spider information. It appears that I was simply up too early on this particular morning. It won't happen again :)

    By Blogger Declan, at 4:45 PM  

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