Beak of the Finch

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An idea is a putting truth in check-mate.
Jose Ortega Y Gasset
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The Beak of the Finch, A story of Evolution in our time by Jonathan Weiner, 1994, Pulitzer Prize 1995

  • Evolution discloses a meaning in death, although the meaning is like some of the berries that Darwin tasted in the Galapagos, "acid & Austere." There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. Even Drought bears fruit. Even death is a seed. (Chapter 5, A Special Providence)
  • For all species, including our own, the true figure of life is a perching bird, a passerine, alert and nervous in every part, ready to dart off in an instant. Life is always poised for flight. From a distance it looks still, silhouetted against the bright sky or the dark ground; but up close it is flitting this way and that, as if displaying to the world at every moment its perpetual readiness to take off in any of a thousand directions. (Chapter 7, Twenty-Five Thousand Darwins)
  • We are doing what the dinosaurs did before us, only faster. We bring strangers together to make strange bedfellows, and we remake the beds they lie in, all at once. (Chapter 17, The Stranger's Power)