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I found some spiders in my Garden. Loads of them. I didn’t know what they where at first, I knocked a bush and a whole bunch of them started dropping out of the cluster dangling down on threads. Trying to hide maybe. There were two distinct clusters of them. Once we had all recovered from the shock, I noticed some of the spiders starting to run up a strand. A stream of tiny spiders following each other up a nearly invisible thread.

There where a load of spiders at the top, running about; some of them dropping back down on long threads. They seemed to be building a web. I fetched my camera, and spent quite a while taking photos (or at least working out how to take photos of such small things).

They had a bunch of tiny flys caught up in their web. Including one that was still struggling.

Spiders cooperating on a leaf

The day after, I went to watch a friend playing music in the pub. And, as often happens when I’m listening to good music, my mind went spinning off thinking about what these things where. About how energy had managed to congeal into a guitar and some tables. Into people with ears and fingers and apparently subjective opinions on music.

I thought about the spiders. About what they where doing between the leaves, catching flys. It occured that probably the same process, the same features of the nature of existence, had led to both behavours. That there was nothing more sophisticated about me in a pub, than these spiders in a web.

The same simple mechanism led to both startling outcomes;

  • Inheritance of traits from one generation to the next
  • Variation between organisms
  • A selection pressure, by death and failure to reproduce, of organisms which are better suited to their environment

Spiders cooperating in catching food

I feel that I have been filled with ideas of my own human superiority, that we choose all the things that we are good at to decide that we are higher or more valuable. Consciousness, art, science, sport. All things which I’m quite fond of, but if I wanted to pick a bunch of measurements that showed humans are better than their environment – thats probably what I would pick.

Building webs without the aid of tools would not be.

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