I’ve just arrived back from the Antarctic. A magnificent place of contradictions. While the perception is of a white continent, it is the subtle variations of light and colour that contribute so much to it’s beauty; covered in frozen water it is one of the driest places on Earth; and then, there are the animals. It is as harsh an environment as one might imagine in which to eke out a living, but for those animals that live and breed there, they seem less concerned by its challenges than I am by a summer’s day at the beach.
It was partly for this reason that I began Looking for Darwin in the Antarctic. It might seem a strange place to go searching for Charles Darwin – a place where he never ventured – but it is often at the extremes where we can see compromise rather than perfection. And that is the thing about creation versus adaptation: the perfect fit of animal and environment may be used as evidence to support both sides. It is really those instances of compromise – for example, wings and legs converted to make-do fins – that point more than anything to Darwin’s unseen hand of selection rather than to some all-seeing super mechanic.