The Galapagos Islands and Charles Darwin

Who was Charles Darwin and what led him to describe what we now call the theory of evolution? These curious questions are ones that I have been following since I was about ten years old. In 1978 I had the good fortune of visiting the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in 1831 for month as part of a five-year voyage around the world. There he saw birds and animals that helped him formulate some of his ideas about evolution he published The Origin of the Species, 22 years later in 1853. Since then the world, science and religion has not been the same.

Now, at a time when concepts of evolution and natural selection are attacked from certain theological and political perspectives, “The Darwin Conspiracy,” a novel has been written by John Darnton, a writer and editor for the New York Times. “The Darwin Conspiracy,” although fiction, is said by John Darnton to be 90% accurate. It covers Darwin’s life and thinking before and after his publication of “The Origin of the Species.”

I spoke with John Darnton from his home in New York City at the end of October 2005. He began by describing who Charles Darwin was, in his time and place.

The book John Darnton recommends is “Snow,” by Orhan Pamuk.

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Dyer, Michael — The New England Whale Hunt  

Whaling in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the home of Herman Melville, author of “Moby Dick,” is our topic today.  Our guest is Michael Dyer, the senior historian at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  The Whaling Museum reveals the lives of the largest mammals on earth.  The museum’s social history collection shares the monumental stories of those who spent their human lives whaling at sea between the New England coast and half way around the world, as well as their families who yearned for their return.  It explains how the seamen lived at sea, who they were, as well as the captains and owners of the sailing vessels and all those in between. It also explains the economics of the whale oil that lit and lubricated the industrial revolution.

In part one of our series on whaling I met with Mike Dyer at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on September 2, 2016.  To put matters it into perspective, we began with I asked him to describe the sperm whale.

In part two of our visit with Mike Dyer, he discusses the lives of the men who went to sea to hunt the whales.

The book Mike Dyer recommends is “Marine Mammals of the Northwestern Coast of North America,” by Charles Melville Scammon.

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Maestriprieri, Dario — The Primate Within Us

 We humans are a lot like the other primates on earth, but because we don’t associate with them, we often assume that our interpersonal behavior—how we make friends, work together, interact with strangers, relate to our spouse—is the product of our unique personalities and environment.

 In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Dario Maestripieri, author of “Games Primate Play: An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human Relationships.” He’s a professor Comparative Human Development, Evolutionary Biology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry, and Behavior Neuroscience at the University of Chicago.

 Professor Maestripieri and I visited by phone from his office in Chicago, Illinois on April 16, 2012 and began with his description of the close relationship humans have with other primates.

 The book Professor Dario Maestripieri recommends is “Auto-da-Fe,” by Elias Canetti.

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Dalton, Joan — Dogs in Juvenile Hall

I once had the good fortune of seeing “If Animals Could Talk,” a movie made by Jane Goodall.  A segment was about The MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Oregon. The boys incarcerated there have committed serious criminal offenses; some of them are given an opportunity to train dogs, develop relationships with the dogs and in doing so learn responsibility, patience and respect for other living creatures. There is a zero recidivism rate among the juvenile inmates who spend time training dogs at MacLaren.

Joan Dalton is the founder and executive director of Project Pooch, a non-profit corporation linked with MacLaren, where incarcerated youths train shelter dogs and find them homes. We visited by phone from her home near Portland, Oregon on February 15, 2010 and began our conversation when I asked her to tell us how Project Pooch came about and then about Project Pooch itself.

The books that Joan Dalton recommends are “Children And Animals: Exploring The Roots Of Kindness And Cruelty,” by Frank R. Ascione and “Rescue Ink: How Ten Guys Saved Countless Dogs and Cats, Twelve Horses, Five Pigs, One Duck,and a Few Turtles,” by Rescue Ink and Denise Flaim. 

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McPherson, Guy Ph.D. — Near Term Human Extinction Part One

Imagine the human habitat in which we all live changing so rapidly that life as we know it is extinguished. Temperatures that are getting hotter than ever, decades long droughts, catastrophic fires, melting polar ice, rising sea levels, and unprecedented winter storms are expected to radically limit food production and availability of potable water. 

In this, the first of a series on near term extinction of the human species, we visit with Dr. Guy R. McPherson, Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. Professor McPherson is co-author with Carolyn Baker of “Extinction Dialogs:  How to Live With Death in Mind.”  Together they present what appears to be overwhelming scientific evidence that our environment is headed for swift apocalyptic collapse.  Not only is this extinction likely, it is occurring every day. “How to live with death in mind” is the goal; living with urgency is the practice. 

The point from which average global temperature rise is measured dates back to 1750, the beginning of the industrial revolution–the time at which the ever increasing use of fossil fuels began. Since 1750, the planet has warmed by more than 1 degree centigrade.  McPherson’s book “Extinction Dialogs:  How to Live With Death in Mind,” explains how this small global rise in temperature is leading to a large scale mass extinction on the planet.

When Guy McPherson and I visited by phone on September 14, 2015, while he was traveling near New York, we began our conversation when I asked him to describe the indicators that reveal we’re in an era of unstoppable climate change.

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Click here to listen to part two and here to listen to part three–a conversation with “Extinction Dialogues” coauthor Carolyn Baker.

Grandin, Dr. Temple: What Are Your Animals Thinking?

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Temple Grandin a person with autism and a Phd in animal science. Autism made school and social life difficult for Dr. Grandin, but it made working with and understanding animals easy. In her book “Animals Make Us Human” Dr. Grandin lays out the emotional needs that all animals share and how we as human beings can respond to their needs. In this interview she explains how a cat can be trained to go through a dog agility course; successful ways for humans to avoid conflict with wild animals and provides insight on how animals brains and thought processes differ to our own.

We visited with Temple Grandin by phone from her home in Colorado on August 4th 2009 and began by asking about her experience in observing animal behaviour and using her observations in animal training.

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Lawler, Andrew–The Chicken: A Mirror of Humanity

Where chickens thrive humans are nearby.  Portable and good travelers, chickens have been carried by humans around the world.  Currently there are three chickens alive at any one time for each individual person alive on earth.  Descendants of dinosaurs, chickens are primarily cared for by women, they’re a never ending source of slang and continue to be depicted in religious and/or political symbols around the world.  Americans eat, on average, 80 pounds of chicken per year—four times the world average. But, chickens raised for food are not considered animals under U.S. law and are generally not subject to humane treatment regulations. 

Our guest is Andrew Lawler, author of “Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?  The Epic Saga of the Bird That Powers Civilization.”  Andrew Lawler and I visited by phone from his home in the North Carolina hills on March 27, 2015, and began our conversation when I asked him how far back the lineage of the chicken goes in world history.

The book Andrew Lawler recommends is “Guns, Germs and Steel:  The Fates of Human Societies,” by Jared M. Diamond.  

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Brandt, Roger — The Oregon Caves

The Oregon Caves, located about 70 miles northeast of Crescent City, California in the Oregon Caves National Monument, are a place full of interest, mystery, and history. 

The caves were located in 1874 when Elijah Davidson chased his dog into the caves.

The Oregon Caves are very unique—possibly due to the fact that it is one of the few cave systems located on tectonically active ground, known as a subduction zone.   Their uniqueness may also be due to the fact an old growth Douglas fir forest grows directly above the caves, or the fact that they were created from what used to be a tropical reef that was pushed about 12 miles below the surface of the earth and then brought back up to its current location, and is still rising. I visited the Oregon Caves in 2006 and knew at once it would be a first-time, unique experience.

I spoke with Roger Brandt, the manager of visitor services and education of the Oregon Caves in June, 2006.  We began when I asked him about the Oregon Caves and what they represent.  

The book Roger Brandt recommends is “Golden Days and Pioneer Ways” by Ruth Phefferle.

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Bishop, Becky — Reading Dogs

This radio program is about reading. Learning to read is often confusing and frustrating. Parents and teachers sometimes create stress that flows from their personal angst to the frustration of the child trying to read. Reading to a nonjudgemental creature, who never comments and always appears to pay attention, often helps to create reading fluency.

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Becky Bishop, founder of Reading With Rover, a program to help children learn to read. Becky Bishop also operates Puppy Manners, a dog training school located in Woodenville, Washington, about thirty miles from Seattle. Becky Bishop relies on the close bond between children and dogs that creates calm moments and encourages a learning environment. Her organization, “Reading With Rover” couples children who have difficulty reading with a dog who has no trouble listening. 

When Becky Bishop and I visited by phone from her home in Washington on February 22, 2010, we discussed why dogs are better listeners than teachers or parents, and we began with Becky explaining how dogs help children to read.

The books Becky Bishop recommends are “Living Life As A Thank You: The Transformative Power Of Daily Gratitude,” by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammon, and “Walter the Farting Dog,” by William Kotzwinkle, Glenn Murray, Elizabeth Gundy, and Audrey Coleman. 

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.

Feigin, Keith — Liquid Gold on Lovers Lane

This program is about honey. We visit with Keith Feigin, owner of Lovers Lane Farm, at his bee keeping center in Ukiah, California. We discuss bees on the loose, how they orient themselves to a new location, communicate with each other and how Keith harvests the “liquid gold.”  Keith was just leaving to catch up with some bees on the loose when I arrived, and that’s when our conversation began in mid August, 2011.

The book that Keith Feigin recommends is the “Secret Life of Bees,” by Sue Monk Kidd.

Click here to listen to the program or on the media player below.