The Larva: On children and metamorphosis
Over kinderen en metamorfose
Life on Earth is mainly immature
Writer-biologist Midas Dekkers has a great passion: the deeply rooted similarity between humans and animals. His style is ironic and at times simply sarcastic, but attests consistently to a warm love for nature and the animal-in-man. With pointed questions and sometimes disconcerting comparisons Dekkers succeeds in holding the attention of his readers like few others. In The Larva Dekkers addresses the subject of youth.
He parades every possible organism before us, from flies and dragonflies to eels, from salamanders and frogs to, of course, humans as well. The Larva shows that those who find the subject of youth unspectacular are sorely mistaken; the biodiversity on Earth consists primarily of organisms that have not reached adulthood: life on Earth is mainly immature.
Even nature lovers and those in the biological sciences pay little attention to this remarkable fact, and in daily life, immature organisms like larvae, caterpillars and maggots are regarded as annoying or harmful fellow creatures. We admire butterflies for their splendid colors, but we fight their larvae – the caterpillars – with all the means at our disposal. Dekkers confronts us with many such inconsistencies in our attitude towards nature.
Wherever we look – in a drop of seawater, in a ditch, in the vegetable garden or in a tropical rain forest – we encounter immature life forms everywhere, and everywhere growth and development is the feature of life that is the most striking. The growth towards adulthood occurs mainly by way of intermediate forms – larval stages. According to Dekkers we are guilty of a major error if we consider these larvae incomplete or inferior versions of the adult forms: every larval form is perfectly adapted to its specific situation and outstandingly equipped for the struggle for life.
In actuality each individual stage in the growth process can be regarded as a fully-fledged organism in its own right. This also applies to our own species, human beings. Children far outnumber adults, although the adult minority maintains a firm grasp on its power. The human larva – baby, toddler, adolescent – is fundamentally different from the adult, not only in its anatomy and physiology, but also in its behavior and mental capabilities. In their ability to learn new information, children’s brains are dramatically superior to those of adults. In short, the true predecessor of (adult) man is, more than any protohuman, the child.