Field of Science

Santorum Is an Ass, a RANT (You Were Warned).

So here is Santorum going after colleges and universities last week:

The question is 'Why?' Has America reached this point, where we cheer the demagogy of higher education. Fuck, we don't need no engineers, scientists, doctors, historians. Them bastards just think they know shit we don't know.

62% of college students who enter steeped in faith, leave without it. Hmm, so college educated students think something different than when they were 7 and going to Sunday school. How can Santorum actually say colleges indoctrinate adults and not be hit upside the head by an exploding irony meter? I guess where he comes from all those weeks of Sunday school that 4-10 year olds go to isn't indoctrination, but those courses 18-21 year olds choose to take are. Of course we have our ACLU dog whistle. You know, I never hear the right wing talk about those cases where the ACLU defends the rights of Christian students. (Of course it's not about defending rights, it's about Christian hegemony).

62% of college students who enter steeped in faith, leave without it. What does that say about your faith Rick?

What's Santorum's solution? Stop funding higher education. Yeah, fuck em. They just think they know shit and stuff.
This isn't just a bat-shit crazy fucknut Santorum, Gingrich said much the same:

'Take back power from the minority elite.' Not trying to blow any racist dog-whistles there are you.

So we have the right-wing bringing out ELITIST as a derogatory term, yet again. I'm not sure they actually put it away, but it is front and center again especially when it comes to Obama (you know the guy raised by a single mom without a trust fund or rich parents to pave the way, although she was educated so obviously elitist). Of course when republicans are talking about the elites, they are talking about the college educated. They are not talking about the multi-millionaires, like Romney. They are not talking about those with the keys to power, like Boehner or Gingrich. They are not talking about the aristocracy, just the serfs who were fortunate enough to have the ability to think above their station. They are talking about those people who have studied hard, probably taken a bunch of student loans they are still paying back, and learned something most people may not know or understand very well. This seems to piss the aristocracy off, so they call us elites to fire up the rest of the serfs to hate those serfs were able to leave serfdom behind. Yet somehow the aristocracy avoids being called on their position of eliteness. By the way, I don't have any reservations using aristocracy, look at who are leaders are. Bush, Bush Jr, Jeb. Mitt and George. Teddy and Franklin. Power is concentrated in the few, and they want it to stay that way. Education can be a great equalizer and most of the entrenched elites aren't fans.

This is the problem with readily available education. If you are smart enough (and butt-ass lucky if you happen to come from an impoverished background), you can enter into the halls of these educated elites. Those college professors and instructors do not care who your daddy was and what kind of car you drive (hell, my 'new' car was 10 years old when I bought it). You can become the leaders of tomorrow in whatever field you chose, but since your parents weren't already part of this elite group, the aristocracy does not approve.

It almost warrants a high school analogy. Republicans are talking about those geeks and nerds that could help you with your homework in high school. You know back when the geeks and nerds knew their place. See the jocks had the world on a stick then, they could be good at football or basketball and people cheered, the town supported them, everyone wanted to be their friend. Of course the nerds and geeks had their spelling bees and science fairs and maybe we could appreciate the star tennis player or track star occasionally, but those didn't really count to the world at large. The true elites have always liked their position and really don't want any of you non-elites fucking with their chi. 

Origin of Species Book Club: Historical Sketch & Introduction

Alright apologies to those waiting for updates on OoS, but real life is a fuck-all-the-time-and-not-in-a-good-way (fattaniagw). Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on the Historical Sketch and Introduction. Please add any thoughts you have including disagreements in the comments and we can continue a discussion there.

Historical Sketch: This is really damn important for all of us involved in the culture war. I think by-and-large people think the concept of evolution started with Charles Darwin. But this is not true. First of all, we have to realize the problem Darwin was trying to address and that is clearly laid out in the title of his book Origin of Species. Where do species come from? That is the question he was dealing with. As I look in my fairly simple backyard, I can see grass, a white pine, lilac bush, gray squirrels, rabbits, juncoes, and a cardinal. (Often there are blue jays, roses, daffodils, chickadees, chipmunks, etc). Where did these different organisms come from? how did they come about? why do they stay as discrete entities and we don't see chipbits or cardinadees or even squirrelpines? Basically, Darwin is asking that age old question, what the fuck is going on?

This is the current problem, because when we think about it from the grandiose perspective of 'what the fuck is going on?' we step on the toes of religion. This was not Darwin's purpose or goal, but it is a ramification of the fact that Darwin is even asking this question. What's important is to realize that Darwin was not the only one asking these questions. In fact, these questions have been asked since humans gained the ability to ask questions. Although Darwin mentions Aristotle in his historical perspective, he really focuses on scientists writing in the 100 years prior to Origin of Species. The point he makes over and over is that many of the observations that he will use throughout the Origin were made by earlier scientists. Basically 34 previous scientists had established the facts that variation exists within a species and that species indeed change over time. The question that had not been adequately addressed was why had species changed. Essentially no viable mechanism had been proposed that explained all the data available. Admittedly Lamarck made an impressive stab at this problem but it didn't make sense in many cases nor was it supported by available data. At this point in time, the Christian idea of creation as defined by Genesis chapter 1 (not chapter 2) held sway. Although it had been clearly incorrect for several hundred years, an explanatory hypothesis had not yet been put forward.

Favorite passage (emphasis mine and I appreciate the recent musings of Cornelius Hunter for making this so amusing.):
This address was delivered after the papers by Mr. Wallace and myself on the Origin of Species, presently to be referred to, had been read before the Linnean Society. When the first edition of this work was published, I was so completely deceived, as were many others, by such expressions as “the continuous operation of creative power,” that I included Professor Owen with other pal├Žontologists as being firmly convinced of the immutability of species; but it appears (‘Anat. of Vertebrates,’ vol. iii. p. 796) that this was on my part a preposterous error. In the last edition of this work I inferred, and the inference still seems to me perfectly just, from a passage beginning with the words “no doubt the type-form,” &c. (Ibid., vol. i. p. xxxv.), that Professor Owen admitted that natural selection may have done something in the formation of a new species; but this it appears (Ibid., vol. iii. p. 798) is inaccurate and without evidence. I also gave some extracts from a correspondence between Professor Owen and the Editor of the ‘London Review,’ from which it appeared manifest to the Editor as well as to myself, that Professor Owen claimed to have promulgated the theory of natural selection before I had done so; and I expressed my surprise and satisfaction at this announcement; but as far as it is possible to understand certain recently published passages (Ibid., vol. iii. p. 798) I have either partially or wholly again fallen into error. It is consolatory to me that others find Professor Owen’s controversial writings as difficult to understand and to reconcile with each other, as I do. As far as the mere enunciation of the principle of natural selection is concerned, it is quite immaterial whether or not Professor Owen preceded me, for both of us, as shown is this historical sketch, were long ago preceded by Dr. Wells and Mr. Matthews.
Introduction: This is basically what we now call an abstract for a scientific paper. Although at 5.5 pages for a 600+ page book seems sedate. Here, Darwin starts with his voyage on the Beagle and lays out the basic question being addressed and how he is going to go about answering it. I am not going to pick out a favorite passage here, because the entire thing is an eloquent and clear description of the wonderful things to come.

OK, book club readers, please toss in a response even if it's 'ditto' (better not be though, Im not Rush fucking Limbaugh). The pressure of knowing others are involved will help keep this book near the top of my personal to do list.

Next up: Chapter 1: Variation Under Domestication (Let's shoot for the end of the month, I have a grant due soon.)

Save the Date: Lying to Children in the Name of God Poster Session

TCCSA science
In a month (February 18-19), the annual Home School Science Fair is taking place at the Har Mar Mall in Roseville. I will of course be attending this year and will report to those of you who cannot make it.

Remember these students will be primed to go, they are told to:
1. Know your material.
2. Be confident.
3. Communicate well.
4. Be thorough.
5. Pray your exhibit will witness to non-Christian visitors.

So you know there should be some quality science taking place.

Just to be clear, the Home School Science Fair is brought to you by the Twin Cities Creation Science Association 
TCCSA (emphasis mine). The TCCSA science fair motto:
Unlike Some Science Fair Sites
We Are For Real!
Unlike Many Secular Educators
We Teach The Scientific Method!  (emphasis theirs)

Creation thinking impedes understanding

I have become aware of something during my recent blogument with a wall creationist. Actually it was a comment left on defense of the creationist's position that really nailed down an idea I had floundering in the back of my mind. But I think a little background is necessary for those who haven't been reading some of my recent posts. The issue started over bad use of probability and ended up coming back repeatedly to the origin of life.

I pointed out that biologists do not propose that cells simply poofed into existence from a bunch of precursors. This was in response to creationists, who suggest that biologists think this, and then laugh at the ridiculousness of such a proposition. A creationist, who chose to rear his delicate sensibilities, then accused me of being a doody head for suggesting that creationists make such accusations. He then accused biologists of thinking that cells just poofed into existence. (Rinse and repeat.)

I realize that the creationist doesn't understand biology, although he thinks he does. This leaves him having to insist that biologists must accept the fact that cells poofed into existence fully formed if they accept evolution, because that's the way he conceptualizes what's going on. Based on his limited (extremely limited, I might add) imagination, the only thing he can come up with is POOF, therefore that must be the only possible solution to the problem. This is the 'if the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like a nail' fallacy.

So this is kind of where things were percolating and then I saw this comment:
I think you've entirely missed CH's point: Per "evolutionary" dogma---which doesn't allow any "teleology"---the ONLY way that a cell (=life) can come about is from "scratch", else something would be "swimming around in that warm little pond before evolution got going."
It's your point of view that forces the issue; not the non-Darwinian perspective.
Again, this person has an understanding (a profoundly incorrect one I should add) of what is going and decides that this is 'the only way' things could possibly happen. You know because nature never figured out really cool surprising ways of doing things.
Drakea pretending to be a female wasp in order to get pollinated by a male
wasp that is just trying to get laid. 
So, now we have two potentially independent people who have the same misconception that the first cells poofed into existence. Want to see an independent representation of this kind of 'thinking'? Here's a Bananaman example. Bananaman argues that evolution can not be true because the first female elephant to evolve would need to mate with a male elephant that has not yet evolved. Again the underlying assumption is that the first female elephant evolved by poofing into existence, and of course Bananaman let's us know this is absurd. (Although Bananaman is perfectly fine positing a magic megalomaniac poofed elephants into existence.) These utterances led me to wonder where this misconception comes from. I think it's because people intellectually require that things have a beginning and an end. But why do we have this intellectual bias?

Babies are not born with an understanding of object permanence, the idea that when a toy or person can no longer be sensed it no longer exists. Hence peek-a-boo can be fun or terrifying depending on the newborn. An understanding of object permanence develops within a couple of months, although peek-a-boo can still be a fun game, mostly because infants enjoy watching their parents make fools of themselves. So maybe object permanence is hardwired into our brains and that explains the need to have things poof into and out of existence.

However, I think there is another reason, at least in the US, and that is Christianity. Well not Christianity so much, but the Bible and Genesis in particular. Even if your children are not attending church regularly, they live in a Christian culture, which they cannot readily escape. Children are indoctrinated at a very young age that the Earth, Sun, Moon didn't exist and then...God poofed them into existence. One minute, no celestial bodies; next minute, they're all there. We indoctrinate infants that animals, plants, people didn't exist and then...God poofed them into existence. One minute, no giraffes; next minute, giraffes. It won't be for another ten or so years before we start teaching them that things came from earlier things, which may have been much different. I think the problem is that early in childhood we plant the seeds of an intellectual framework that becomes so deeply intrenched in our psyche that it is easy to be unaware of it as adults. Except the real world doesn't work that way. Consider the mountain. Has that mountain always been there? Did it just poof into existence? Some think the answer to both questions is 'Yes,' but the answers are of course no.

One way a mountain can form, or at least a mountain range, is when two tectonic plates slam into each other. As the plates collide, they can push each other up or one plate can be pushed up over the top of the of the other. This is an incredibly slow process, by human standards of time.
When we look at a mountain, we are looking at a snapshot in time. So when did that mountain begin? When the plates first meet, there is no mountain. As the plates are colliding or moving past each other, the land is rising, but still there is no mountain, although some hills are probably formed. Part of the problem with the question 'when did that mountain begin?' is an issue of language and the imprecise nature of words. What is the definition of a mountain? How much higher does it have to be in relation to the surrounding land to be a mountain? 500 feet? 1000 feet? Everest is ~29,000 feet. How steep does it have to be? If the elevation changed 1 inch every half mile, it would be a long, ~174,000 miles, but relatively easy walk to the top of Everest (not factoring in the reduction in oxygen here). For our purposes, let's simply say that a mountain is a land mass that rises 500 feet above the surrounding area with a minimum slope of at least 15°. When that land mass was 499 feet, it was not a mountain. When it was 499.5 feet, it was not a mountain. When it was 499.75 feet, it was not a mountain. When it was 499.999 feet, it was not a mountain. But when it gained that extra 0.001 feet (~1/100th of an inch), it instantaneously became a mountain. So I guess it did just poof into existence.

Ford Model T
Even in the artificial world things don't poof into existence. Cars are a given in this day and age. A couple of hundred years ago there were no cars. When did the first car poof into existence? Again there is the issue of language. We make ultimately arbitrary decisions on what defines a car, does it have to have four wheels? Does it have to run on gasoline? Let's say yes to both of these questions. Is the Model T the first car? No, there were earlier versions of cars. There were wind-powered cars developed hundreds of years earlier. The engines in early gas powered cars were derived from earlier engines invented for different purposes. If we take any of these early cars and say that this is the first car, ergo cars poofed into existence at this point, then someone can readily show us something earlier and legitimately argue that this is the technology that is derived into the 'first' car, ergo cars did not poof into existence.

What about life? Some argue that life begins at conception. While the genetic contingent that represents you did not come together until your parents got busy, that does not mean you poofed into existence. Did your life begin when that sperm burrowed it's way into the egg? or was it when the calcium flux occurred that prevented other sperm from burrowing their way in? or was it when the sperm nucleus fused with the egg nucleus? Were the sperm and egg not life and if not, when did they die? If the fertilized egg represents life poofing into existence, does that mean identical twins are each a half life or did life poof into existence independent of fertilization? Don't even bother to ask about asexual organisms. Maybe you think these ideas are ivory tower philosophical musings, but remember a fair number of political elections are based on these musings (usually by people that don't bother musing too much).

The point I am trying to make here is that at least some creationist thinking about evolution is locked into the creation framework. God poofs things into existence. Therefore, evolution poofs things into existence. But evolution is not simply a rebranding of the Christian God concept. No more than understanding electro-magnetism is a rebranding of the Zeus concept. They are not equivalent. This makes it nigh impossible to discuss evolution with determined creationists. They are intellectually wired in a way that makes common ground an undiscovered country.

The creationist mindset impedes understanding things in historical terms. When the human decision is made for when God did his poofing, that's it. There can be nothing earlier. That mountain was always there, cars were invented de novo, and life began at conception. It's quite sad actually when you think about all the things we understand in this universe and how this knowledge is not available to the creationist.

What I read (2011)

(Grade A-F, no E's) Title-Author Additional thoughts

B+ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson Reasonably good story which I flew through in a couple of days. Mostly enjoyed the cultural differences reading a book written by a Swede and taking place in Sweden and translated into English. 

D- Science and Religion edited by Gary B. Fergren The subject of a blog post, but really a book containing mostly apologetics with a bonus chapter on Intelligent Design.

A Watchmen by Alan Moore & David Gibbons Just a great story.

B- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordin Interesting retelling of Greek Mythology in a modern age. Definitely for kids, but I prefer the classics.

B The Measure of the Magic by Terry Brooks Enjoyed it, but the ending wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly. 

B A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin Good storytelling, but the plot needs to start moving forward.

C Harriet Spies Again by Louise Fitzhugh Meh

B A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin A reread in preparation for A Dance with Dragons

A Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer Only Zimmer could get you to commiserate with life threatening parasites.

B The Escapement by KJ Parker 

C Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh A read this as a kid and read it to my kid. I remembered it a lot differently.

A The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris Excellent book. Did you republicns were not always insane?

B+ The Passage by Justin Cronin Good story, especially the first half.  Recommended reading by a server at a pub I frequent.

D The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown Kind of liked it the first time I read it when it was called The DaVinci Code.

B Lord Brocktree by Brian Jacques

A The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios All around good time reading. Makes a number of important points about science and society along the way.

B The Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson This story has to end soon. Although the books have gotten better. 

C+ The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

C Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan I read the first 7,8,9? books about 10 years ago and got sick of them. Started strong and then nothing happened to drive the story forward for about 5 books so Knife of Dreams sat on the shelf until this year.

A- The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins Great book on evolution (Not quite as good as The Ancestor's Tale). Some new ways of thinking about evolutionary concepts for me.

C Evil for Evil by K. J. Parker

A The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein Great book I read to my son, who of course loved it.

A Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects by Bertrand Russell Wow! and people say the New Atheists are mean and horrible. I guess they don't like Russell much either. 

A Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman Great description of the New Testament and issues therein.
B- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling The beginning of what I like to call the whiny years in the Harry Potter universe.

B Shadowheart by Tad Williams I've always thought Tad Williams was a good story teller, same applies here.

26 books this year (again). Only 6 were books I read to my son this year. Of the remaining 20: 13 were fiction for fun (holy crap no Terry Pratchett this year, must rectify that in 2012), 1 was biography/US history, 3 were philosophy/religion, and 3 were science (2 were biology).

Once more into the dark...recesses of a creationist

I hate to send traffic to a creationist but so it goes.

I wrote, what I thought, was a thoughtful response to a question I was asked regarding math and evolution and creationists. This, not surprisingly, raised the hackles of a creationist who wrote a series of obsfucated posts in response. 

In my original post, I pointed out one creationist argument against the theory of evolution misuses probability. The argument goes like this: using these assumptions, the odds of life originating is infinitesimally small therefore god and Jesus and homosexuals can not visit each other in the hospital. Of course the creationist does not ever say 'using these assumptions'. Instead the creationist uses definitive sounding statements that allow them to move unquestionably to calculating odds. Creationists often use the number of atoms in the universe as the biggest big number and then show the odds (calculated incorrectly) against evolution happening being greater than that biggest big number. Ergo god-->Jesus--> no gay hospital visits. One point of my post was to show that it is trivial to get an infinitesimally small odds number using common examples, like flipping a coin or playing the lottery. However, I note, quite clearly IMHO, that the assumptions creationists use in these situations are bullshit. From this one post (that had more in it than this), creationist Cornelius Hunter wrote his series.

Post #1 Cornelius tries a different example. Instead of dealing with the fact that creationist assumptions are pure fiction, Cornelius takes a different tact. Poker and scrabble. See the odds of three players each getting an amazing poker hand at the same time is a really small number therefore evolution can not be true or the odds of pulling out scrabble tiles in order that spell out CONSTANTINOPLE is a really small number therefore evolution can not be true. So if flipping a coin or the lottery are not sufficient evidence, then poker and scrabble will be? Poker and scrabble did not even exist 10,000 years ago, therefore the world can not be that old (if I understand Cornelius' way of thinking). The problem isn't getting small numbers. That's easy, I brought up two ways and now we have two more. The problem is the assumptions creationists make, they are not reality.

Post #2 Cornelius doubles down on the stupid. Cornelius spends most of his post rewriting the story of Darwin and Kelvin and the age of the Earth that I wrote. Ultimately he arrives at this conclusion:
In any case, geology soon extended the age of the earth into the billions of years, and evolution’s requirement for long time periods, so it seemed, was fulfilled.
So Cornelius is accepts that the Earth 4.5 billion years old. Except he doesn't or he does I get confused. You tell me, here's what he writes next (emphasis mine).
It is now known, however, that evolution has nowhere near the eons of time it requires. Indeed, the time windows available are even less than those allowed by William Thomson, which themselves were unacceptable to the evolutionists. This falsification of evolution’s expectation does not derive from the age of the earth, but rather from the fossil record. We now know that, even with billions of years of earth history, the major events in the fossil record take place in time windows that are no longer than a few tens of millions of years or even less.
William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) had the age of the Earth at 20-40 million years, not 4.5 billion. So how old do you think the world is Cornelius? 

Cornelius says nothing here but make grandiose statements with no backing. So the major evolutionary events occurred in tens of millions of year. What is a major evolution event and how long do you think it will take? Presumably he is talking about the Cambrian explosion. I ask you, how long should it have taken and based on what to you make these calculations? A lot of diversification can happen rapidly. After most dinosaurs died out (65 million years ago), mammalian diversification exploded over 10 million years or so. Flowering plants had a massive diversification over about 40 million years. Changing body types is quite trivial, here's what selection (albeit man-made aka artificial) did in a couple of hundred years without knowing much about what we were doing.


Convergent evolution
Given the opening of new niches due to the extinction of most dinosaurs, nature can have a grand old time selecting for variants better suited to aboreal life, marine life, underground life, open plain life, etc. Want another example, compare marsupials in Australia to mammals in North America. Species occupying similar niches evolved similar characteristics. Selection is a powerful process providing the raw material (genetic diversity) is available. You want a major event in evolution, screw small changes in body plan. Go with something really major like the first eukaryotic cells! Bacterial-like cells first show up about 3.8 billion years, it took almost 2 billion years before the first eukaryotes showed up! That must have been a major fucking hurdle. It was another billion years before complex multicellular life is observed (major event?). From the time simple animals are observed it's only 400 million years to get all the animal diversity we see today. All the hard stuff was already done in the first 3 billion years of life. So while the Cambrian explosion is impressive in its macroscopic visual appeal, it probably represents little from the standpoint of major evolutionary events. (I am using 'major' as in difficult).

His penultimate paragraph (the last is simply playground "Im telling mommy' rhetoric) contains some gems (emphasis mine):
But of course this is all wrong. If evolution is true we must believe it performs its uncanny miracles much faster than 4.5 billion years. The creation of life, the origin of fantastically complex cells, the creation of biology’s myriad designs, new species arising, and yes giraffes could not have evolved over billions of years. They could not have evolved even over hundreds of millions of years. It all must have happened much faster, in what are sometimes referred to as evolution’s “Big Bangs” where evolution leaves the equilibrium and for some reason becomes punctuated.
It all happened much faster?!?! What the hell does that mean? Doesn't Cornelius realize billions (X,000,000,000) is larger that hundreds of millions (X00,000,000)? Oh look, Cornelius uses words he heard before like 'punctuated' and 'equilibrium'. It's almost like he knows something about biology. Here's an interesting point, Cornelius often makes the case that evolutionists say there are no problems or issues in evolution and then pulls punctuated equilibrium out of his ass hat. Here's an issue that is not resolved in evolutionary biology. Regardless I posted this still unaddressed comment in response to this post. 
"You state that 4.5 billion years isn't long enough. How long is? How to you come to that conclusion? What is the evidence to support your conclusion. 
Here's evidence from scientists, not creationists, molecular genetics, using established mutation rates, comes up with ~3.5 billion years for the last common ancestor. Earliest fossils are ~3.5 billion years bacteria. Seems to fit within the 4.5 billion year time frame.
Your evidence is what? Nah Ah, ergo Jesus?"

Post #3 Cornelius makes up bullshit scenario to show evolution wrong. Remember at the beginning of this post I mentioned assumptions creationists use but never define as assumptions? They tend to be along these lines: one day there were a bunch of chemicals in a pool of ichor, lightening hit said pool, and WHAMMO a fully formed cell containing all the information and proteins needed to survive was formed. I stated repeatedly that no scientists worth their salt thinks this is what happened. What is Cornelius' response (which includes a quote from me in blue)?
So chemicals did not come together to form the first cell?

I don’t want to get into a discussion about the origin of life in this post, 
Because the absurdity of the creation myth would rapidly become apparent. It would be a tremendous miracle—the spontaneous formation of the first cell, and all life thereafter. 

See that comma at the end of my quote? Want to know the whole sentence was? Let me simply put up Cornelius' response again with my sentence intact. 

 So chemicals did not come together to form the first cell? 
I don’t want to get into a discussion about the origin of life in this post, but I do want to stress that I have never seen the absurd idea that cells just poofed into existence fully formed from scratch except by creationists.
Because the absurdity of the creation myth would rapidly become apparent. It would be a tremendous miracle—the spontaneous formation of the first cell, and all life thereafter. 
It is Cornelius who has an absurd (I wonder what made him use that word absurdity) creation myth. You know a talking snakes that has legs, genetic bottleneck of two (really one) people, women being the downfall of all mankind, all that fun stuff. He is stuck on the idea that scientists think a cell just poofed into existence, regardless of what we say, he refuses to accept it and keeps harping the same lie over and over.

Want to ask me how the first cell showed up? Well, I don't know. I've read a few things about some ideas and work that is being done to address these ideas, but frankly I don't know. But do you know what? That doesn't mean Cornelius gets to make up any old shit he wants and say that's what happened. Here's a big difference between Cornelius' world-view and mine. My world-view allows us to ask questions and test those ideas to gain a greater understanding, I could know a lot more about the current thinking on the origin of life if I spent time reading up on it. Would I be able to tell you exactly what happened? No, but I could tell you what the people thinking the hardest about it are finding out. We don't know everything, if we did we would stop. Cornelius' world-view is that the Bible (as he interprets it) is correct and the universe must fit into that tiny little corpuscle of his imagination. He is intellectual stagnation. What has he offered to explain the diversity of life on the planet? What evidence does he have to back up those ideas? Mostly, he seems to spend his time making glib inaccurate posts that misrepresent evolutionary thought. I'm sure that appeals to his readers, but it kind of pisses me off that he lies (commandment IX). (In his defense he doesn't use swear words like those I've used in this post including bullshit, ass, shit, and fuckwad, oh wait I didn't use that word I just thought it....crap....double crap. Someone get Cornelius a couch to faint on.)

I know it's not an echidna

Origin of Species Book Club

OK, hopefully everybody has a copy or access to a copy of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. Although it is not in the book, I am reading the 6th edition based on the fact it has Chapter VII Miscellaneous Objections to the Theory of Natural Selection. Those of you reading earlier versions will not have this chapter. Alright, this week I'm reading 'An Historical Sketch' and 'Introduction' and will get a post up Sunday. I look forward to your thoughts and comments regarding these readings when the post is up.