Chapter The Primrose Path To Macroevolution

Chapter 2 showed how the human eye, working by selective breeding over many generations, sculpted and kneaded dog flesh to assume a bewildering variety of forms, colours, sizes and behaviour patterns. But we are humans, accustomed to making choices that are deliberate and planned. Are there other animals that do the same thing as human breeders, perhaps without deliberation or intention but with similar results? Yes, and they carry this book's softening-up program steadily forward. This chapter embarks on a step-by-step seduction of the mind as we pass from the familiar territory of dog breeding and artificial selection to Darwin's giant discovery of natural selection, via some colourful intermediate stages. The first of these intermediate steps along the path of seduction (is it over the top to call it a primrose path?) takes us into the honeyed world of flowers.

Wild roses are agreeable little flowers, pretty enough, but nothing to write home about in the terms one might lavish on, say, 'Peace' or 'Lovely Lady' or 'Ophelia'. Wild roses have a delicate aroma, unmistakable, but not to-swoon-for like 'Memorial Day' or 'Elizabeth Harkness' or 'Fragrant Cloud'. The human eye and the human nose went to work on wild roses, enlarging them, shaping them, doubling up the petals, tinting them, refining the bloom, boosting natural fragrances to heady extremes, adjusting habits of growth, eventually entering them in sophisticated hybridization programs until, today, after decades of skilful selective breeding, there are hundreds of prized varieties, each with its own evocative or commemorative name. Who would not like to have a rose named after her?

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