Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Webfoot Wednesday: Beavers

Interesting article in the Oregonian yesterday about the discovery of fossilized beaver teeth in the John Day Fossil Beds providing the oldest evidence to date of these bright-toothed rodents' residence in North America. The teeth had been buried under a layer of sediment produced during a volcanic eruption around 7 to 7.3 million years ago. To this point, the oldest evidence of beavers came from around 5 million years ago.

Prehistory is a field that helps demonstrate just how much history is intertwined with all the other things that impact life. This beaver wasn't jotting down notes on his or her day ("Sept. 21 / Wed. / Ash cloud on the horizon... better bring in the washing"). The tools of science are required to understand the deep past.

When we remove the written record, the other methods of gathering information about Earth's past come to the fore, but in reality the various dimensions of existence inform even modern history. Full understanding of the space race of the 1960s, for example, comes only when we learn about the science and technology of the era; the politics and economics of both major parties to the race; the social and cultural conditions that rendered such a strenuous dedication of resources possible; and the intellectual climate that helped Americans and Soviets envision the future of exploration beyond Earth's boundaries. Science; technology; politics; economics; societal mores; culture; intellectualism.

My universal response to those who proclaim they cannot stand history is to point out history is the study of everything. Unless they have absolutely no intellectual curiosity whatsoever, it isn't the history they can't stand... it's the way we have delineated history. In truth, history is the most significant subject in the educational canon simply because it touches everything else we study.

Meanwhile, this new little Benny (or Betsy?) the Beaver helps demonstrate at least one thing... this really is the Beaver State.

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