mammals

One of the books Toby enjoys reading at the moment is Our Family Tree which is a children’s version of the story of evolution. It’s a pretty nice book – great pictures and a somewhat necessarily over-simplified version of the evolution of life on earth, and the origins of humans. Over-simplified because it doesn’t discuss what DNA/genetic code actually is and how organisms change from generation to generation, or really how single-celled organisms lead to multi-cellular, but there are good notes in the back of the book for parents, plus I have enough biology education to be able to explain some of these concepts to Toby – he loves this kind of stuff. In the Amazon review, their mention of “It is controversial to some for religious reasons” just makes me grind my teeth; the follow-up “it is a challenging concept to present to a young audience without losing scientific veracity” is a fair point. Maybe that’s why a creation story is easier for young children: the old “well we don’t understand, therefore god did it.”

Anyway, getting back on topic – one of the discussions which has come out of reading this, and trips to the zoo, is the difference between mammals, lizards, fish etc. Especially with Emma’s pregnancy we’ve been talking about how mammals give birth and feed milk to their babies. I think Toby gets the concept quite well, and yesterday according to his teacher at daycare he was telling his friends that we are all mammals, and then had a discussion with one friend who misheard and said “yes, we are all animals.” This is where it gets somewhat philosophical, because while Toby is prepared to admit that humans are mammals, he doesn’t believe that humans are animals. We wrangled over this for quite some time over dinner last night – in his view certainly apes are animals, and possibly cavemen because they have lots of hair, but not humans. In the end he kind of won the argument with “well, if I was an animal, and not a human, then I would just have to be a shark. A talking shark.”

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