into the flaming cookie


Moths have a problem. They fly into candle flames because they haven’t had enough evolutionary time to adapt to dealing with points of light that are very hot. Humans introduced candles and electric lights fairly recently. Before that, moths had the sun, moon, and stars for guidance. The hypothesis is that they react as if the flame were a celestial object at a great distance and that mistake completely warps their navigation.

In an interview with Skeptic magazine, Richard Dawkins once said, “Human beings are completely surrounded by the equivalent of ‘candle flames.’” His primary example was our desire for sugar and fat. We’re adapted to eat it whenever we can get it. That was a good strategy centuries ago, but now in rich countries we can get it all day long. All the time. Cookies are everywhere. Everywhere! You can trust me on that. From crappy packaged convenience store cookies to the ones from the grocery store bakery, you can’t avoid chocolate chip cookies.

Whenever I buy a package of them, I think, “Candle to the flame.” I’m just another moth whirling helplessly around, fluttering to my doom. You’d think that a human might do better than a moth, allegedly having a brain and so on. Do you have a candle in your life that you orbit around endlessly?


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