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Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle

Published February 11th, 2013

Great Gallery of Evolution in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris


"What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen?" - Thoureau


Recent headline of the San Francisco Chronicle. Female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spiderweb of crab traps and line weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, tail, torso and a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her. They worked for hours and eventually freed her.

When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around as she was thanking them.

Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

“...and Heaven have mercy on us all - Presbyterians and Pagans alike - for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick


"At the sight of a single bone, of a single piece of bone, I recognize and reconstruct the portion of the whole from which it would have been taken. The whole being to which this fragment belonged appears in my mind's eye" (Georges Cuvier)

"It's always advisable to perceive clearly our ignorance" (Charles Darwin)

A famous anecdote concerning Cuvier involves the tale of his visitation from the devil—only it was not the devil but one of his students dressed up with horns on his head and shoes shaped like cloven hooves. This frightening apparition burst into Cuvier's bedroom when he was fast asleep and claimed:

- 'Wake up thou man of catastrophes. I am the Devil. I have come to devour you!'

Cuvier studied the apparition carefully and critically said,

-'I doubt whether you can. You have horns and hooves. You eat only plants"


Long ago I read a thinker (maybe Bruno Latour) that commented about how man is becoming more poor in a world that he do not coexist with another species. Man has always lived with animals - by a religious or predatory way, whatever we can think about it - but today our living experience is the negation to ANY coexistence.

Today a friend, fisherman, commented about his efforts to teach his colleagues to do not throw away the animals tapped on the fishing net. When the trawl was pulled, bringing hundreds of pounds of animals, always there is turtles and other kinds of animals without commercial value. The colleagues always let the animals die, but the fisherman friend struggled to teach to simply put back the animals into the sea and let them live. After all, the living creatures could reinforce the environmental balance and bring more fish again.

My friend has also seen plankton, glowing in the sea at night (You're alive: have you NOT seen this kind of thing yet?), although only today, talking with me, he discovered what that spark was about. And all this subjects reminded me this photo. Above, its possible to see the skeleton of one of the largest animals that ever lived on earth: the Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), just smaller than the blue whale.

Its a stunning experience the oportunity to see so many animals thus gathered. Amid all of them, there is also a man ( We, the mankind, we are there fixed in our true place: we are just some kind of living beings in a world (it doesnt matter if we believe in a religion or not, we're now IN THIS world). But i just not quite understand what this man (we, the mankind) is doing with his own existence and the earth. Here, where i spend my days, there is a beach. After a day of sun, everytime one can see plastic bags and soda cans thrown on the beach, along with any sort of garbage.

When I took this photo at the Paleontology Museum of Paris, there was some children of pre-school looking at the same fossils and skeletons that i was contemplating. Surely these children will be educated to other subjects, while the French (and the people of "1st world") also have bad habits of pollution even without knowing about it. But at least, after several garbage throwed into the sea, they have the notion of maintaining clean their own beaches. And now, Brazil (where i live) is in a wave of prosperity. But i its obscure the response to what we, brazilians, are doing with our own country.

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