An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of March 6, 2011
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining
Chichén Itzá Ruin, Yucatán, Mexico

THREE FLYCATCHERS &
FRACTURING SOCIAL ORDER

Two birders from South Africa needed help identifying shrilly calling, yellow-bellied flycatchers cavorting among Royal Palms towering beside the Hacienda's dining area.

I told them that they were Social Flycatchers, and that, interestingly, here we have three flycatcher species all looking like these birds, but with different calls, behaviors, and even belonging to different genera. They are the Boat-billed Flycatcher, the Great Kiskadee, and these Socials, all with yellow breasts, white eye-stripes, black crowns and olive backs.

When the guests compared pictures of the three species, they agreed, and wondered what forces of evolution brought these similarities about. Then we talked awhile about evolution in general, and how it can produce such unlikely outcomes as ostriches, angler fish, and the little "stone plants" they had back home, that looked just like brown pebbles, until they flowered, or popped when you stepped on them.

From birds and evolution the talk drifted into social trouble back in South Africa, and terrorism, and refugees streaming across international boundaries, and the growing tensions worldwide between haves and have-nots, between religions, between political parties, global warming believers and deniers, etc.

At day's end I sat beside the hut digesting all that had been said, and it seemed that in the end it was all natural enough and that, moreover, having three look-alike flycatchers in the context of growing social, economic, religious, and political tensions all hang together. It was all the working out of Nature's majestic and utterly impersonal impulses. Those impulses become easier to recognize when we remember the Six Miracles of Nature outlined at http://www.backyardnature.net/j/6/

For, the Six Miracles -- it seems to me -- indicate that in this Universe the trend is toward ever greater diversity of all things, with ever greater interrelationships among the parts, especially the living ones, and that among living things the impulse is toward ever refined mentality and feeling. Moreover, the mechanics of this evolutionary process involve recurrent tearing-down-the-old to salvage resources for new creations, and that process can be violent and painful on many levels. For example, the history of Earth's current rainbow of living species roots in the fact that more than 90% of all species ever evolved now are extinct. Even various forms of hominid -- transition states between ape-like ancestors and modern man -- have been extinguished, such as the Neanderthal, who new evidence suggests may have been artful, feeling beings.

Three look-alike flycatchers who behave and sound very different from one another, then, are just one expression of a robust evolutionary impulse that takes many paths toward diversity. Violence between religions is analogous to two species competing for the same resource, in religion's case the resource being the natural human urge for spirituality. Fracturing social order is exactly what happens to any very large institution distributed over a large area, the institution here being the consumption-focused part of humanity: In Nature, an analogy is a widely distributed species breaking into subspecies adapted to local conditions. The subspecies over time may crystallize into species themselves competing with one another for resources -- like Neanderthals once did with modern humans.

Nature, then, is a Bible advising us that we'd best respect Nature's laws -- laws such as those stating that we must control our numbers and not squander resources. The Nature Bible also provides its Books of Prophecy, for there's a long history in the fossil record showing what happens to most species that evolve, then somehow run out of luck, or wisdom.