So, it’s about time I get back on the blogging bandwagon. Since I’m home sick with a sore throat and runny nose (the same one that put my girlfriend out of commission for three days), it seems like a good time to start back up.
I went to see Avatar the other night….
That was a long three hours.
Of course, part of the problem may have been that I was reading Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish at the time. Shubin’s book shows how you can track evolution through the similarities between humans and other animals in body design and structures. His major point is that all forms of life have something in common, especially the more complex the animals are. He writes:
When you see these deep similarities among different organs and bodies, you begin to recognize that the diverse inhabitants of our world are just variations on a theme. [page 80]
For example [my example], just about every animal non-insect land animal has its air intake (otherwise known as a nose) in its head. The air then follows a tube to a pair of lungs in the chest. The humanoids in Avatar have this arrangement. But some of the major animals (the flying lizard-bird things, the “horses”) on their world have a different setup. Their air intakes were in their chests. I couldn’t make sense of this and it distracted me from what there was of a plot. How does one explain such radically different body plans? Were the scientists studying this? Was there even an evolutionary biologist on staff? We sure didn’t hear about him or her.
They also didn’t think about the unlikelihood that an alien planet would have DNA (or something compatible with DNA) as the encoder of genetic information, how odd it would be for so many Earth-like plants and animals to evolve in an environment with a radically different atmosphere, how the tidal forces of being a moon in a gas giant / multi-moon system might make the planet violently volcanically active (like Jupiter’s moon Io), or the odds against the dominant life form being a large-brained, bipedal mammal, like humans.
Of course, the answer is that Avatar is just a movie and some creature designer thought nostrils in chests looked cool (“like jet intakes” according to the girlfriend) and didn’t really think about the evolutionary biology necessary to create that sort of structure. Darn.
Somehow, I think that movie would have been more interesting than the one I saw.