WHEELS ON HEELS
I was in Boston on Saint Patrick’s Day. Some wouldn’t see it as a Big Deal? But it was a big deal for me. While our Minister, Michael Ring, was chatting to the great and good in Boston City Hall I fell into conversation with Mr. Haakon Doherty, Professor of genetics at a Swedish University. He had been giving a lecture at the the department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.. When I found out what field he was in I started to do a bit of showing off. I pointed out to the good professor that the Wicklow mountain hare has two short legs on the right side of his body. He has evolved this adapted feature through following the sun around the Wicklow hills for millions of years. I claimed that the our hare is the only animal in the world to have this genetic advantage.
The great man wasn’t long taking the wind out of my sails. He quoted chapter and verse and explained to me that the Canadian hill badger is evolving in that direction and is only a few thousand years behind the Wicklow mountain hare in this race. Professor Doherty , has found evidence in human feet of the evolution of “wheels.” He agrees that it took millions of years for legs to evolve from fins but he has claimed in a recently published paper that he has discovered a process to accelerate the rate of human evolution to such an extent that as early as the year 2100 it will be possible to have humans traveling on their own “wheels.” I asked him two questions;
“Where did you get the surname Doherty ”? and “ Why have species millions of years older than ourselves not grown wheels”?
He told me that his Grandfather Hugh Doherty was Irish; Editor of the Barnasmore Bugle newspaper in Donegal and when the paper ceased publication in 1903 he went to work for a newspaper in Stockholm where he married a Swede. In answer to my second question he said, “We didn’t grow wheels because there weren’t any roads or flat surfaces until a few thousand years ago, which is the blink of an eye in cosmic terms. He explained that when biology was facilitating travel the terrain to be negotiated was catered for by legs, fins and wings . Evolution adapts us to suit our environment and may cause either the gain of a new feature, or the loss of an existing feature. He said “If there were motorways a hundred million years ago we would be moving around Quincy Market on our own “flesh-and-blood roller skates” ..
He went on to explain that , “ The larvae of the mother-of-pearl moth when startled, will roll itself into a round shape and roll away and he mentioned a bacterium. I can’t pronounce the clinical term but it moves by spinning filaments called flagella like tiny propellers which rotate at a speed of several hundred times per minute.” Seeing that I was taken aback he went on, “ if those are not wheels they are fairly bloody close.” He told me (without giving any detail) that his formula to accelerate human evolution can be employed to enable humans to grow such things as “ear lids” within a few generations but for now he is concentrating on the “wheels.” The human castors, according to Professor Doherty would have an outer re-generating “tyre” of hard tissue and the centre would be cartilage- like I was wondering about the blood supply to the “inner tube” but didn’t dare ask the question. The professor read my mind, and said “ The flesh-and-blood wheel could use the umbilical connection similar to that used on merry-go-rounds”.
Seeing that his erudite instruction was falling on barren ground he gave me a practical demonstration using a CD and one of my shoelaces.
Back in my hotel The Boston Plaza Park, maybe it was my imagination, but when I checked each foot I think I could detect the beginning of little stub-axles below the ankle bone but I would like a second opinion
It was 1959. The National Council for The Blind of Ireland gave my visually impaired mother a wireless. It was our first radio. At the time my contemporaries were clued in to the highlights of Radio Luxemburg and the Light Programme. But, always one to live in the past, I had a preference for the folk programmes on Radio Eireann. My adrenalin was really let loose by the prologue to one in particular…