In England at the beginning of the last century a system of milk delivery began where people had bottles of milk delivered to their doorsteps. After about twenty years in one city, Southampton, blue tits started tearing off the tops of the milk bottles and drinking the cream from the bottle. This was a very successful habit. It spread by imitation throughout the whole city, and usually it worked very well. There were a few tragic cases where blue tits were found drowned, headfirst, in people’s milk bottles, but most of these birds got a free breakfast. After a while this turned up in another city far away. The rate at which the habit spread throughout Britain was carefully monitored by observers all over the country.
Now, blue tits are home-loving birds. They move very short distances from their homes, so at the time, it was concluded that the habit was being independently discovered again and again in different parts of the country.Yet the rate of discovery was accelerating.The most interesting developments actually came from Holland. After British blue tits had started stealing milk, Continental ones began doing it, too. And in Holland the habit spread as it had in England, until by the time of the Second World War, all over Holland blue tits were stealing milk. Then unfortunately for the Dutch blue tits, the Germans invaded and milk delivery stopped. It was not until 1948 that deliveries began again. But blue tits do not live more than three or four years, so there could have been no blue tits around in 1948 that remembered the golden age of free cream before the war. Nevertheless the habit re-established itself all over Holland within two or three years.
el geko – TARSIS
This is one of the few well documented cases that have many interesting implications for change in the human realm. It suggests a new view of evolution, because it allows new patterns of form and behavior to spread much more quickly and effectively than they could on the basis of conventional Darwinian evolutionary theory based on random genetic mutation followed by generations of natural selection.
– Rupert Sheldrake
RUPERT SHELDRAKE received his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Cambridge and was a research fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and director of studies in cell biology and biochemistry. He studied philosophy at Harvard, where he was a Frank Knox Fellow, and has done research on tropical plants in Malaysia and India. He is the author of the books, A New Science of Life, The Presence of the Past, and The Rebirth of Nature