Thanks for the anomalies

Green letterbox, Clonmel, Ireland
Green letterbox, Clonmel, Ireland.

Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.
Charles Darwin,
Descent of Man, 1871

And, in Ireland, some letterboxes still bear the indelible stamp (no pun intended) of their British origin.

I was in Ireland last weekend for a family reunion. My partner Jen's family, that is. While I was there, I finally remembered to take a photograph of one of their old letterboxes. This one bore the indelible stamp E VII R (Edward VII Rex): a vestige from the early Twentieth Century, when Britain, in the form of Queen Victoria's son, still ruled over Ireland.

It must irritate many proud Irish republicans that symbols of British rule remain on such prominent public display. But cast iron letterboxes don't come cheap, and they're pretty useful things. It was probably too much trouble to replace them just for the sake of getting rid of a British king's monogram. Instead, the Irish very sensibly painted their pillarboxes green and got on with far more important matters, such as rebuilding their country.

If the Irish were starting their postal service from scratch, none of their letterboxes would bear any such imperial anomalies. The fact that they do tells us something about the country's history. They tell us that things were different in the past; things have changed.

Similarly, the fact that organisms bear anomalies, such leg bones in whales, appendices in humans, and junk DNA in just about any living creature you care to mention, tells us something about the species' histories. It tells us that species weren't designed from scratch. It provides vital evidence that things were different in the past; things have changed; species have evolved.

Long live long-lived anomalies!

See also: Can Red Lions Evolve?

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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