The Evolution of Flight – recent happenings/happiness

I’ve been thinking a bit about evolution; it’s a difficult creature, having devoured most of my week-day-times as of late, and some of my weekend times. I haven’t blogged much this year, having been otherwise occupied, at least mentally if not always practically; but, here goes, with a couple of snippets of potential interest to the highly evolved (or at least very ‘select’) few who take an interest in this blog. This will be a very rambly blog post. Have I mentioned that I love travel? Or perhaps it’s that I like holidays, and tend not to stop to that extent unless I travel. More on that later.

This week in the lab I tutor we’re covering the evolution topic. I look forward to the opportunity for conversation with students on a topic that I study, and that can be controversial. Please pray I approach it with grace and care and say helpful things.

In a recent conversation on evolution, when the dinosaur-bird transition was broached it was suggested that the whole thing is rather ‘up in the air’ – I tend to be sympathetic to this unintentionally punny insight, and incidentally it strikes me as a good metaphor for life in general as a young(ish) adult.

Not much else has been happening in real life, though lots has been swirling around my head – there are always far more ideas than there is time-&-energy to act on. Starting a magazine, running events, considering writing a book, planning a debate, etc etc. I’ve heard some interesting talks and read some interesting books, but that’s fairly standard. I’ve been working on a paper on the molecular basis of trade-offs that I have quite high hopes for – my first paper if it works out, but it will be a while before it gets particularly near a journal – watch this space.

Finally, the most interesting bit, for those who waded through the rest – yesterday I was accepted and offered sponsorship to attend an intensive course on natural theology (a bit of a paraphrase, but you’ll get the idea) in July. Yeah, I’m sympathetic to that stuff, crucify me, whatever. So, anyway, thanks to some generous Americans I don’t know I get to fly to Seattle, USA, for a week or so then, assuming I manage to sort it all out – perhaps to Canada as well to visit my co-supervisor (the president of the Royal Society of Canada, probably not a fan of natural theology), with whom I am potentially just starting to work on some stuff; we shall see. The opportunities for me to feel like a complete fraud increase and escalate on a weekly basis. Those who know something of my life background may appreciate why I continue to be amazed when opportunities like this arise – it’s simply undeserved.

In recent weeks I’ve generally been happier and felt more productive in my studies than I have for quite a while, so this, though to a degree expected, is the icing on the cake-of-Zach’s-life (I’m not sure what kind of cake it is yet and not sure if you find out until the end anyway, but hopefully not lemon), and I’m grateful to God for it. I was hoping to attend a conference in the US as well, which looks like it won’t happen (so it’s not all icecream & roses – I’m getting used to applying for stuff and being rejected, and only the occasional success is made public – it’s a bit like the positive results publication bias in science), but I’m very pleased with this opportunity. Sometimes I find reason to doubt my potential contribution, but it’s encouraging to get this significant affirmation from people on the other side of the world, based just on my transcript, a statement, and a positive letter from an academic friend.

So far the PhD (and life preceding) has been a fascinating ride, with many unexpected features which I will not bore you with; suffice to say, an odd combination of an atheist philosopher, agnostic physicist, agnostic biologist, Christian statistician, and various others have helped me down the paperwork trail to the ‘Emerald City’ of that final certificate and funny hat, and I look forward to seeing who else God will use – hopefully some Canadians. Soli Deo Gloria.