Weird pets

I was reading about the Canada lynx on Why Evolution is True and that got me thinking about all the weird pets people have.

First up are skunks. It’s unfortunately illegal to keep them as pets in some states (including Maine), but where it is legal, an owner can have their skunk’s scent glands removed so they don’t spray all over the place. They’re expensive to keep (needing a weird diet consisting of food better than what a lot of humans eat) and they’re apt to get into everything, but they’re known to be very friendly.

The closest I’ve come to a pet squirrel was one that used to come up to the porch for peanuts. Unlike all the other squirrels, he (or maybe she) wouldn’t run away when someone opened the door. He’d stick around, knowing food was likely coming his way. He stuck around for a few seasons, presumably dying two or three winters ago. (Squirrels can live up to 10 years in captivity, but tend towards 4 years in the wild.)

I don’t know much about raccoons, but the fact that they make me think of little train robbers when I see them forces me to include them.

The red fox is relatively commonly tamed. In fact, one well known experiment in Russia has consisted of researchers grouping individual red foxes by how friendly they are towards humans and then selectively breeding those individuals who display the most friendly tendencies. It has resulted in very dog-like animals; the foxes (now called the domesticated silver fox) wag their tails in excitement, whimper when left alone, and have lost their normal coloring pattern (the researchers did not select for color). Just like with all artificial selection, it’s a good example of evolution in action.

But even when decades of selection haven’t been taking place, the red fox still manages to be a decent, tamable pet.

Letter to the editor correction

After butchering a previous letter to the editor I wrote, the Kennebec Journal has printed my correction.

On July 19, the Kennebec Journal ran a letter with my name as the author. Neither the title nor the edited content reflected what I had originally written.

The piece was titled “Irreparable harm to sciences if LePage is elected?” The substance of the letter did not make any such claim. Paul LePage will cause harm to science, but it will not be irreparable. Science is the best way of knowing we have; it can recover from an anti-science politician like LePage. It would just be preferable to avoid any harm in the first place.

Two paragraphs were edited to say “LePage seems to indicate he thinks public schools ought to teach creationism to children.” I stand by what I wrote: “Paul LePage thinks public schools ought to teach creationism to children.”

I used this wording because when asked in a debate if he believes in creationism and if he thinks it should be taught in schools LePage’s answer concluded, “I believe yes and yes.” My second paragraph compared LePage’s rationality to a common aquatic bird found on many Maine lakes.

The KJ has offered me this space so I may clarify the original letter. For that, I am thankful. But there is the much more important issue of LePage’s anti-science stances.

Any politician who rejects some fundamental aspect of any field of science based on religious belief is unqualified for any public leadership position.

Eliot Cutler, Kevin Scott and Shawn Moody have all voiced their support for the strong teaching of evolution in public schools. Libby Mitchell has not stated a position, but there is little doubt of her support for the fact of evolution. All are far better choices than LePage to lead Maine.

For those who haven’t read or don’t remember my first letter, that “common aquatic bird” is a loon. Personally I think I was being too generous.