Category Archives: Nature notes

Abortion and Gelada Monkeys

One of Canada’s longest running radio shows is CBC’s Quirks and Quarks.  Each Saturday, host Bob MacDonald features a series of clips on different news items from the world of science, medicine and technology.  I’ve been listening to this program on and off since I was a kid.  It’s always interesting – and you can always count on MacDonald to bring in the “E” word:  evolution.  It’s a subversive approach to convincing the Canadian public of this doctrine, as if the sheer repetition of something week in and week out will make it true.

The February 25, 2012 edition of Quirks and Quarks took the evolutionary agenda one step further.  One of the segments was about gelada monkeys.  These baboon-like monkeys live in the highlands of Ethiopia.  They live in a harem structure – with one male gelada monkey heading up a harem of many females.  When a new male monkey takes over a harem, the females that are pregnant typically miscarry.  If they don’t, the new male leader will often kill the infants and newborns.  The theory is that the females miscarry in order to “cut their losses” and start over.  They typically are impregnated by the new male leader in a short period after their “spontaneous abortion.”  Of course, this is regarded as an adaptive strategy, something that has evolved for the advancement of the species.  Monkeys have allegedly evolved with abortion as a way to maintain and improve their kind.

The researcher, Dr. Jacinta Beehner, made it clear that that the female monkeys don’t choose to miscarry.  It’s something that spontaneously happens.  They don’t deliberately cause the loss of the unborn monkey in any way.  Yet, throughout the interview, MacDonald continued to speak about the female monkeys making a choice in the matter.  The expression “cutting their losses” was used repeatedly by MacDonald.  It was pretty hard not to read between the lines.  The Quirks and Quarks website makes it even more clear.  It speaks of female geladas spontaneously aborting their pregnancy, as if they have a choice.  We’re told, “Essentially they are ending investment in offspring in-utero that have no future.”  Hmmm….not too subtle.  Caveat auditor – let the listener beware!

(Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Reformed Perspective)

Calvin on Thunderstorms

I love Ontario for its thunderstorms.  The Lower Mainland of British Columbia only rarely had thunderstorms and then usually they were pathetic unimpressive events.  Here we get some real storms, sometimes with some very dangerous results.  But they always leave you in awe of the Creator.  I’m not sure if Geneva is more like Ontario or BC, but apparently John Calvin knew a thing or two about violent thunderstorms.  Herman Selderhuis explains:

Calvin repeatedly speaks about God’s revelation in thunderstorms.  The power of God is revealed through the vehemence of such natural phenomena like violent and stormy weather.  When we cannot see God’s face, his presence becomes very clear in the thunder of stormy weather.  To shake believers awake and to let hardened unbelievers hear his voice, God from time to time will let the weather rage in order to impress all people.  Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms, 71-72.


I saw a Killdeer this morning.  These plovers are well-known for two things.  The first is the distinctive call which gives them their name.  The second is the broken-wing routine that they use to protect their nests.  When we lived in Fort Babine, there was a nearby open spot that sometimes served as a campground.  A Killdeer usually made her nest there.  As I would walk by, she would put on the broken-wing routine and try to distract me away.  Of course, all it did was make me curious and want to find her nest — which I did.  This morning the Killdeer tried the same act, but I didn’t attempt to find the nest.  It did make me think though:  unlike human beings, Killdeer always protect their unborn.