Into the Real World

November 22, 2004

Day by day we become more familiar with our view of things, but microscopes are a good antidote to that. I had one as a kid, but it wasn’t very good, so now that I’m a grownup with my own cash, I bought an educational model on eBay – a really good deal! The optics are excellent, and I can clearly veiw all the little critters that I wanted to see when I was young.

This specimen here (photo by others) is a rotifer. It’s a multicellular organism, and I happen to have a thriving colony of them in the tank that houses my son’s African Clawed Frog, aka “Killer.” Note the fuzzy things on the top of the main stalk – those are twin ‘propellers’ that are always whirring and sucking food into the thing’s mouth. It can also lurch, leach-like, about in its micro-world.

This is the real world, where most of the biosphere’s mass exists – in the micro-realm, out of our notice. Actually, this rotifer is already pretty darn high up the evolutionary scale since it is multi-cellular. Looking at the thriving protist-eat-protist world that exists in every drop of water can give you a different perspective on life on earth. As conservationists, we tend to focus on the big, spectacular animals such as lions, tigers, and whales. But they, beautiful and deserving of our support as they are, aren’t what make the world go ’round. As philosophers plumbing the meaning of life, we should think more about bacterial and protozoa, and less about homosapiens. We might get our ideas out of their current rut.