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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Climbing Mount Improbable

While appreciating that The Actuary is not intended to be a biology magazine, I couldn’t let Peter Currie’s letter (June issue) go unanswered.It is actually very easy to come up with plausible explanations of how flight could have evolved and I can recommend numerous books which explain it far better than I can – try anything by Stephen J Gould or Richard Dawkins, for a starter. Given the numerous species around today which make their living by gliding, jumping, or riding air currents, surely it is obvious that even a small improvement – for example the ability to glide even slightly further or using slightly less energy – could represent an advantage and ultimately, over many generations, lead to ‘true’ flight.

There is very strong evidence that flight has evolved independently many times (insects, birds, and bats being three obvious examples). Peter’s statement that ‘Wings may well be an advantage, but only when fully developed’ is simply nonsense.