Field of Science

Blogging the Origin

Alright a couple of points before we even get started. Before the actual book is a historical perspective and introduction written by Darwin. Take home message, ideas and thoughts about the origin of species had a long and noble life before Darwin. The decades leading up to 1859 had a fair number of ideas related to species the environment and diversity. (Actually it is harder to believe this wouldn't have been the case, many people had many animals and plants and exposure to many more animals and plants. You just can't miss the diversity out there, the effect of the environments on organisms, and the intrinsic problem with trying to organizing life into understandable units.)

The introduction is essentially an extended abstract of the book. Darwin briefly explains the point of each chapter so you know what's coming.

OK, once I complete chapter 1 Ill be back with a few notes on thoughts from said chapter "Variation Under Domestication"

Response from a non-football fan aka debate attendee

While I was not able to attend the seminal debate between PZ Myers and Jerry Bergman addressing the question "Should intelligent design be taught in the schools?" several of my colleagues did. (Big shoutout to my peeps.) One attendee had a particularly eloquent synopsis for me that they kindly said I could post. I have included a few comments, in black, and only edited for anonymity.

... you didn't miss much. PZ did clean up the floor with Bergman. But I have to be honest - Bergman was so disorganized and so off topic the whole time I almost felt sorry for him. He came across as someone dangerously close to having a treatable mental illness. He squandered most of his opening 20 minutes blithering on about his own upbringing (although he conveniently failed to describe his sham PhD). In one sentence (and he did this *multiple* times) he would go from the irreducible complexity of quarks (I kid you not (thank you Sarah Palin for ruining this phrase)) to the multiple functions of the human appendix to the horrors of Nazi Germany. There was just no following the guy. And oh - the delusions of persecution (another sign of psychiatric pathology). There are apparently scores of ID-loving biologists in fine universities across the country who are afraid to "come out of the closet" for fear of losing their jobs. In spite of this, they have published about 1000 (Bergman's number) papers in the scientific literature on ID. Of course, there was not a single citation offered, nor an explanation as to how one gets published from in the closet. Pseudonyms? (Clearly, I gravitate to those of a more sarcastic nature)Bergman himself has been ostracized from the Jehovah's Witnesses (he was one for years) and the atheists (he was one for years), and now all his Nobel laureate friends won't write back to him now that he's an ID'er. That last one sounded like a pretty bad delusion of grandeur to me. And - it was all on Powerpoint slides. He never actaully answered the question, which was Should ID Be Taught in Schools? He did go on and on about his own groundbreaking work in the development of MRI and other imaging technologies and his cutting-edge research on mutations in cancer cells. Oh - and he was among the first to prove that so-called junk DNA isn't junk after all. Hard to believe that a CV like that can't get you a better job than at a community college in Ohio .....In any event, he (Jerry Bergman) freely admitted (multiple times) that ID has no actual stated theory, mechanistic explanations for how things work, empirical data to go on, or predictive power. But, since evolution is only (his words) "From the goo to you, by way of the zoo" then ID must be right. How *do* you debate someone that far off the rails?

PZ was spot on, and used what I thought were several interesting tacks besides science. For instance, he pointed out the ethical responsibility teachers have when they agree to work within a curriculum and framed it in a very compelling argument.
(This is a great point until you realize how tenuous the hold of science is in these issues. If the curriculum is changed to a creationist one, then teachers would also have a legal, note I didnt say ethical, responsibility to work within this curriculum. Cheri Yecke almost derailed the last Minnesota science standards, not to mention Kansas, Texas, Florida, etc.) He also talked about how new ideas in science get vetted, starting at the highest levels, and how ID has attempted to do an end-run around the whole process.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, there were plenty of bible-clutching home-schooled teenagers there drinking the koolaid with their parents/teachers. One teenages had the ignorance to trot out the "But it's *only* a theory" whine when the Q&A started. PZ answered it beautifully, without condescension.
(Clearly a missed opportunity)

(and probably the most important point my friend made was....)On the whole, I doubt a single mind in the audience was opened or enlightened, much less changed (and herein lies our greatest hurtle). One debater was prepared and focused, and the other would probably benefit from medication.

Many thanks for giving me a run down of the "debate" and allowing to post these comments. And I truly am sorry and wish I had been there to see PZ toss his notes over his shoulder when he realized they would be superfluous.

More fun the football


"Should Intelligent Design Be Taught In The Schools?"

Monday, November 16, 2009
7:30pm - 9:30pm
St Paul Student Center
2017 Buford Ave S
University of Minnesota
St. Paul Campus

I mean come on, Baltimore is going to crush Cleveland...although ID will likely make the Browns look good.

Real Americans Wanted

Thanks Michelle Bachmann. Thank you for being the poster child of uncivil discourse. Thank you for leading the masses into a vitriolic hate-laced frenzy that will inevitably lead to more people getting hurt. Now I freely admit Representative Bachmann is not the only one using this approach to effect policy, but she always seems to be smack in the middle of it.

Socialist, Fascist, Death panels, elitist, DemocRAT, the list goes on....but now we have "real Freedom loving Americans." This is to compare with those Americans that are less real and hate freedom.

Let's back up a minute and think about human nature. What is it that allows people who love their parents, their children, their neighbors to do horrible despicable things to other people? How does someone torture, murder, maim one person but go home to hug their spouse and tuck in their children only to spend the night worrying over a sick pet? You know what, let's be completely honest for a minute. Instead of torture, murder, and maim, let's you actual events that happen. People mutilate each other, sever hands, breasts, tongues, gouge out eyes. Rape, gang rape, sodomize others. Will kill one member of a family in front of another, will burn human beings alive.

I guess we can assume that people who commit such acts are really inhuman. But frankly I think you're kidding yourself and are abjectly horrified to look in the mirror. African fighters that mutilate children and innocent men and women are different, they aren't like us. We say that as we embrace Jack Bauer obtaining that vital information in any way possible. We say that as we allow Dick Cheney to walk free and happily laud his role in legalizing torture. You know because when we do it, its different.

Regardless of your politics, I think there is one important psychological trait that allows church going family members to be evil (and that's really what we're talking about). That trait is making the human being you are torturing, about to murder, raped no longer a human being in your mind. Once you have separated a person from the circle of humanity, it becomes possible to justify anything as morally legit.

Every year at this time I set a bunch of traps to eliminate the field mice that move in when the weather changes. Im not a fan of killing cute mammals, I rescue moles from the window wells in the summer and release them in the woods. But I separate these field mice from the circle of cute mammals but throwing in a destructive pest criteria. This allows me to easily set the traps and dispose of them. It allows me to euthanize those mice that were caught but not killed without regret (except that they werent immediately killed and suffered in the short term). It allows me to set glue traps, when the spring traps continually fail. I think it less quick and more stressful on the mice, but they need to go and I can't keep fattening them up on peanut butter. That's how I sleep at night killing field mice. You might be thinking, "come on, its just a freaking mouse, grow a pair!" I agree, its just a mouse. Now how do you think our neighbors that dragged a black man to his death, beat the homosexual to death, murdered women and children in Vietnam sleep at night? I think, except in cases of sociopathy, its much the same way. All you need to do is separate the person that you are torturing from the circle of humanity. Once they become the "other" anything goes.

And you know what? The faces of the republican party are excellent at establishing the "other." Michelle Bachmann knows a rat when she sees one. Ann Coulter logically deals with contra-arguments. But you know what, these people the Limbaughs Hannitys and Becks of the world tell us about, they aren't real, they definitely don't love freedom, and they are most certainly the "other." And since they are the "other" you may freely hate them. Despise them. Loathe them. And when one of you decides to torture murder maim and/or rape one of them, remember its ok. Because the "other" really isn't one of us anyway. But don't take my word for it. Im not even real.

Origin of Species - a bookclub

Happy 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. I started this book several years ago but quickly got bogged down with other things. I thought I would (re)read it and try to toss out a few post on my thoughts as I go. Maybe a post a chapter, we''ll see. I thought about getting Bananaman's version of the book but I wasn't sure what I would do with all the vomit.

Anyway, I recommend you all pick up a copy from the library, dust off the copy on your shelf, or even shell out a few bucks to a bookstore and read it with me. (although to be completely honest Im not going to burn through it so you'll probably finish it before me)

No Longer Proud

WTF Maine?!?!

Do you not remember this?
Have you not heard about hospitals refusing to allow same sex partners or their children to visit patients as they are dying?

Well good for you Maine.
You have protected the institution of marriage!

Remind me from what?
Is your divorce rate magically going down now to pre-May 2009 levels?
Less domestic abuse occurring?
Adultery, which never occurred before last May will now stop?

Or maybe your just keeping the good word of your god?
Banning marriage is one thing, but it shouldn't stop the divine retribution you might be concerned about.
So I expect the death penalty is back on the table?
Off to ban lobster fishing next I expect?

Any rationale reason why equality is a bad thing? I know many people (men) have the "eww" factor when they think of gay men kissing, so what many people (men) have an "eww" factor when they think of menstruation. Maybe reproductively mature women should lose their rights too.

Until I get a rationale reason to explain these results, Ill go on the assumption that Maine is populated with a majority of ignorant bigots. And despite the fact that I have a few dear friends and relatives in Maine, Im still sending a big FUCK YOU back home.