The big litter strategists’ emphasis is more on selection of the fittest after birth. Turtles lay around a hundred eggs in the sand, of which one might hatch and manage to scamper down the beach into the sea before predatory seagulls can eat its head. To make sense of this we might imagine turtles in a human context. A nurse in the maternity ward comes up to the mother and says, ‘Congratulations Mrs Atkins, you’ve given birth to 52 boys and 48 girls.’
‘Oh, I always wanted 52 boys,’ beams the mother.
‘Oh, OK,’ answers the nurse, hesitantly. ‘Have you chosen any names?’
‘Yes I have, actually,’ says the mother, excitedly.
‘Well, you might have to scale back a bit. Maybe go with say your Top Five? Top One, even?’
‘Two words – seagulls, heads.’
Less prolific species, such as human beings, select the fittest before birth. In contrast to instinctive animals, humans possess the capacity to observe and analyse situations, to use something we call ‘human reasoning’. Upon sighting small animals lolling about in a family grouping we respond, for example, by saying things like, ‘Awwgh look, there’s a little one!’ Should our little friends be furry, it is our desire to stroke them and say ‘Aah!’ as they tussle with each other, play-acting the biting off of other animals’ heads in later life. Shrewdly, we recognise that the small animal we observe would make a perfect study for an online viral video. Perhaps sprawling around to such a degree that it is in danger of spilling out of a comically overturned wicker basket, or tumbling around with a youthful animal of another species it would not be seen dead with in adult life. Inevitably it is this juxtaposition, this precarious situation, which elicits mirth. In other words, we Homo sapiens are capable of rational thought; of seeing things as they truly are.
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