Parallel Evolution

I love bats. Bats, as you may know, eat moths. My wife is scared of moths. When a moth flies into the room, I have to chase it out. Chasing moths out of a room is tedious. Moths aren’t team players. Therefore I love bats.

But bats do raise a good question. Not literally of course, I mean they might but even if they did, we couldn’t hear their voices. Which is a shame, imagine the questions they may have, like “Why do the Bee Gees sing in such a low register?”.

Anyway, my problem is, how come bats evolved so similar wings to birds, completely independently of them? It’s not like they could just copy birds, that’s not how evolution works.

If you google that question, the answer is “parallel evolution”. But how does that work? I often find a good metaphor is the key.

Many years ago, in the nineties, a Belgian restaurant opened in the city I lived in, the very first one of its kind in the area. Their attraction was that they sold hundreds of different types of Belgian beer. Not only that, they had all the weird and often impractical glasses that go with each brand. It was a relatively posh place but even so the owners were understandably afraid of the ornate beer receptacles going missing. So what they did was, they took one of your shoes at the reception on your way in and you got it back on your way out. That wouldn’t stop your average thief, but it would stop middle-class people, and stealing an elaborate and probably impractical drinking vessel from a Belgian restaurant is the most middle-class crime ever, with the possible exception of lying about your religious habits to get your kid into a better school.

Yes, I truly believe that crime can be classified by social class. And that we kind of feel okay about it while you commit crime that befits your standing: a working class woman starting a bar brawl or an office worker stealing office supplies. This is why when the MPs’ expenses scandal spread to the Lords, I was screaming at my telly “You’re the fucking ruling class, don’t fucking claim 30p here and there or a hundred quid for a train journey you didn’t actually make, do some proper ruling class crime, get caught with a prostitute, have an elderly relative sectioned to get your hands on their estate, embezzle millions and then disappear without a trace!”

But not in a canoe.

All I’m saying is, before that Belgian place opened, if you woke up in the morning fully clothed, lying on your kitchen floor, with a pounding headache, no recollection of the night before and a missing shoe, there was only one kind of story that could’ve led to it. But now it could go either way.

And that, in a nutshell, is parallel evolution.

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