Does the design of mushrooms show a divine sense of humor?

Does the design of mushrooms show a divine sense of humor?

Okay, I promised I'd share my thoughts about Lycoperdon (Puffball mushrooms).

Young puffballs prepared for peelingEach fall we see clusters of these rimming the various trails through the forest areas where we hunt Chanterelles and other delicious shrooms. We've harvested them while they're young (firm and white), but they are a lot of trouble to peel. Their flavor is fairly nondescript, many compare it to scrambled eggs or tofu. And like tofu, they pretty much soak up the flavor of whatever you cook them in or with.

But the painful part is that you have to peel off the tough, leathery outer shell, and when the mushrooms are small, like Lycoperdon, this is quite tedious. When puffballs grow huge, like Calvatea (which means "giant head" — on my daughter's farm in Pennsylvania, they get Calvatea puffballs the size of softballs, as my granddaughter demonstrates below, or even volleyballs) then consuming them is much more appealing. Many people even slice them and use them as pizza dough or similar uses.

That firm white stuff inside puffballs is seminal spore material. Once they hit middle-age that white stuff begins to turn yucky grayish, greenish, or yellowish, and more custard-like in consistency. Eventually the Calvatea can swell and burst, sending billions of spores aloft. The smaller Lycoperdon sometimes develop vents on the top through which some spores escape, but mostly depend upon being smashed ... usually trodden underfoot, I'm assuming by animals, or else stomped on by humans.

My granddaughter Annabelle with a Calvatea harvested on her farm in Pennsylvania.The amazing thing, to me, is why it's so tempting to stomp on mature Lycoperdon. The translation from the Latin gives a clue as to what happens next: These "wolf farts" explode in an amazing and delightful display of greenish-brown "smoke" which contains the billions of airborne spores. What kid (even grown kids-at-heart like me) can resist THAT?

The interesting thing is, I've never really seen puffballs growing in soft soil, off trail. They do grow in my grass at home, and even, incredibly on my gravel driveway, where I invariably run over or step on them accidentally.

I suppose it could be chance that puffballs like the hard-pack, or perhaps even that they "evolved" through adaptive permutations to prefer places where humans and animals enjoy walking.

But how on earth could they know that their profuse display of smoky fireworks would make them so attractive to little boys at heart like me, that we would send countless trillions of their spores aloft each fall simply to satisfy our sense of boyish mischief?

Could all be chance, I suppose. But Occam's Razor tells me otherwise. There is an amazing and profuse array of life on this planet, and if you understand ANYTHING about it the conclusion that it appears "designed" is nearly inescapable. You have to do mental contortions to convince yourself that it is all accidental.

The eye of a relatively dumb bird, an eagle, is a miracle of engineering which cannot be paralleled by anything humans have invented. In fact, our own brains and how they operate are fundamentally beyond our comprehension. We know enough to dabble, sometimes just enough to be dangerous. But do we really understand how our own bodies work? Not yet, not fully.

From the simplest mushroom, like a puffball, all the way up to the most complex animal on the planet; and beyond, to the complex dance of the stars and galaxies and the "dark energy" that fills the universe, which we have never yet seen and can only theoretically comprehend because of the fantastic effects we see exerted upon the cosmos — the conclusion that it's all designed for a purpose is inescapable.

So the question that next begs is: What is the purpose?


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