Spiders Weave Intricate Insect-Catching Nets Hugely Bigger Than Themselves

Spiders Weave Intricate Insect-Catching Nets Hugely Bigger Than Themselves
Photo: Christof Stache, Getty Images

This is a scientific experiment.

Richard Dawkins, the Niel DeGrasse Tyson of evolutionary biology, is broadly credited with coining the term meme in 1976. On Monday, the 79-year-old public intellectual became a meme in his own right when he decided to ponder the mysteries of the universe on Twitter.

“If lions were discovered weaving antelope-catching nets ten lion-lengths wide, it would be headline news,” Dawkins tweeted. “Yet spiders weave intricate insect-catching nets hugely bigger than themselves, and we treat it as commonplace. What’s the difference?”

In a matter of hours, Dawkins was trending on Twitter with users dunking on his feigned inability to understand why a spider building a web wouldn’t be especially notable in a world where spiders have been building webs for 100 million years. “Never thought I’d see the day when Richard Dawkins went full Insane Clown Posse, but it’s been a strange year,” one user wrote. Another user urged people to not allow themselves to become so annoyed with Dawkins that they “get all spiteful and weird about lions and how famous spiders actually are.”

As an editor at a tech and science website, my first instinct is to mock Dawkins for not understanding the concept of news. As a lover and respecter of the scientific method, I also have no data to prove or disprove the notion that readers would click-through to an article that promises affirmation of a common but awe-inspiring fact.

That’s where you come in. What we’re doing right now is building that crucial data together. I’ve been in the game long enough to know that the headline “Lions Were Discovered Weaving Antelope-Catching Nets Ten Lion-Lengths Wide” could use a little workshopping, but the story would be a guaranteed banger. Now, we’re going to find out the level of interest in spiders building webs. If this blog does numbers, maybe in the new year we’ll bring you more blogs about subjects we take for granted, yet, still deserve our attention.