Peevish Nits

8 Jul

Attributing Intent to Animal Evolution

It annoys me considerably when some says something like:

And the REASON wombat poop is cube-shaped is so that they can stack it on a variety of tall, uneven surfaces, such as logs or rocks, without it rolling away.

 From a very funny Oatmeal about wombats.

Or:

flowers also emit heat to advertise themselves to insects

From an article by the Yale School of Environment

 (Quoting an article from University of Bristol which did not have this fault.)

Animals do not create traits or decide to have traits “so that they can do XXX”. Having traits allows them to do XXX better than their kin which does not have those traits and so allows them to live longer, produce more offspring, and spread those traits further.

Having the traits is mostly an accident of evolution for animals, not a self- (or species-) directed choice.

I get that it is a manner of speaking about these things more than anything, especially in non-technical writings. And I generally bite my tongue, wince, and move on. But it does bug me.