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No Good Reason

October 15, 2021

Welcome to Autumn. Days get shorter. Temperatures drop. We FINALLY got some rain. Snow in the mountains. And, of course, the gorgeous fall colors arrive. Did you know there is no real reason for leaves to change color?

This summer, my neighbor’s yard was full of beautiful flowers. The area under his trees was full of reds and yellows, purples and blues. They were beautiful. But, there’s a reason flowers are bright. . .and smell pretty. There’s an evolutionary reason. The brightest flowers attracted more bees. More bees meant more pollination. The flowers that got pollinated more reproduced more. So, nature had a reason to make flowers bright.

We just get to take advantage of nature’s reasons for making pretty flowers.

Charles Darwin, of course, wrote the book Origin of Species. He talks about evolution. But, it’s not a book about how life started on earth. It’s a book about how species evolve. Darwin went to the Gal├ípagos Islands. There he saw species that had evolved in a way to fit their unique environment. Nature does that.

I saw a picture one time of what some activist suggested humans might look like a couple hundred years. They were sure the seas were going to rise and humans would have to go live underwater. The “humans” in the picture had gills and web feet. This would be useful if we were going to live under water, right?

The problem is that’s not how evolution works. Things, animals, plants, even people evolve from generation to generation. In nature, it’s whichever individual gets to pass on their genes. It even happens with people. Each generation is slightly taller than the previous generation.

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769. He was 5’6″ tall. Obviously, that’s why we say that short men have a Napoleon complex. Here’s the thing. Napoleon was about average height for his time. (The English propaganda called him short.)

So, the problem with the web feet, is no one is going to marry someone with web toes specifically so they can pass on the genetic trait of webbed feet. And I don’t even want to imagine how we’d evolve gills.

So, nature selects. And scientists are really good at figuring out WHY nature does certain things. Sometimes birds may develop longer beaks when they are in an environment where the seeds fall into cracks between rocks. Short beak birds can’t get as much food. The longer the beak the more food. The more food, the more baby birds. . .who also have long beaks.

So, what’s that have to do with fall colors?

Nothing, actually. But, it should. We know why birds get longer beaks. We know why humans are getting taller. We know why flowers are bright. But, we don’t know why fall leaves change color.

There is no reason, no natural selection reason, for leaves to change color. Brighter flowers get more bees. But, there’s no advantage to brighter leaves. None. The leaves could all be grey and the trees would do just as well. So, why are the leaves so vibrant? Why are our hills suddenly ablaze with color? Driving through the Alpine loop last week felt like literally being inside the color yellow. It was amazing.

The maple trees in my yard have started to put on their Fall finery. I have eight of them. Only two have started dropping their leaves. Soon, my lawn will be awash in leaves. The entire city and the mountains around us will be bursting with color.

As you enjoy the beauty of Autumn, just remember that there’s really no good reason for it. Sometimes God just does stuff because He can.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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