A couple years ago after catching my last bobcat of the trapping season, I laid it on the pickup tailgate and marveled at the magnificent creature it was. First the eyes, eyes that could probably spot a scurrying mouse at a hundred yards. Then the ears, each tipped with a tiny tuft of fur, they’re wondrous little organs that would probably have heard the same mouse even farther away. I stroked its plush fur and wondered aloud how its creamy-white spotted belly could be so beautiful. I took one of its paws in my hand, paws that seemed much too big for its lanky body. I cradled the paw upside down in my palm, and with my thumb pressed down on the underside of one toe. Out came a curved, talon-shaped claw sharp as a fishhook. When I released the toe it immediately covered itself again with a sheath of skin as if it was not even there. “How does this all work?” I wondered.
This week’s column is a bit of a departure from my norm. I’m going to make a rather bold statement here, but stick with me… I believe in evolution. Yes, you read correctly, I believe in evolution… I believe in evolution as a process by which all wildlife adapts over years, generations or decades to changes in their environment, but I refuse to believe in anything other than God’s Creation as the vehicle by which the creature that lay on the pickup gate before me came to exist!
No matter how mundane or uneventful an outdoor adventure seems, I absolutely never leave nature’s presence without being fascinated by something. Maybe it just doesn’t take much to fascinate me anymore, but my wonderment with Creation starts pretty simply. For example, how does putting a kernel of corn into this stuff we call “soil” with a little water and sunshine cause a plant to grow? And furthermore, how does that seed know to grow a stalk of corn and not a soybean plant, a pigweed or a maple tree for that matter? And then there’s the part where it produces a big ol’ cob full of the exact seeds we started with, covered by several layers of heavy leaves to protect those seed till they ripen. Or how about the vibrant colors around a rooster pheasants face, the shimmering green of a mallard drakes head, the stunning red hues of a male cardinals body or even the amazing palate of colors found on a pesky peacocks tail? Then inversely, how do all the females of those same species end up totally dull and drab so they blend in with their surroundings as they sit on a nest filled with peculiar looking vessels called “eggs” that will hatch, and just like the corn plant, produce young that are exactly like their parents?
How do geese navigate to spots hundreds or even thousands of miles away, and yet find their way back home to nest? How do salmon end up where they were hatched to lay eggs of their own, which – you guessed it – will hatch into little salmon looking just like mom and dad. How do ducklings know how to swim when they are barely dry after hatching and how do hoards of baby turtles know to head straight for the ocean mere minutes after digging themselves free from their sand covered nests?
I’ve barely scratched the surface here, but I’ll tell you how I believe this all happens; it’s all Divinely designed to happen that way! Oh I’ve heard all the other explanations; how we began as monkeys and “evolved” into humans. I have no doubt our ancestors looked nothing like us, (some people I still wonder about today) but trust me, we still began as humans. Then there’s the theory that life began as some sort of “stew” or “soup” and over a gazillion years “just happened” to develop into all we see today. As my wife would say, “It takes way more faith to believe that than it does to believe in Creation.”
Anyway, I’ve ranted enough for now, but the bottom line is that I believe deeply in evolution as the process by which all life adapts to its changing surroundings, but I believe deeply that all nature was created by God for us to enjoy and manage, and the day I stop believing that way, I’ll sell all my traps, fishing rods and guns and take up knitting, because I won’t deserve to Explore Kansas Outdoors anymore!
Steve can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org