Posts Tagged ‘creationist nonsense’

PZ Myers Signed My Squid

22 January 2010

Loligo opalescens (click for hi-res version)

“I just need one whole squid.” To his credit, the fishmonger did not bat an eye.  Even better, he gave it to me free of charge.

Later, before the talk, I confessed, “I have a mollusc in my pocket.” “Me too!  I have a limpet that’s been in there for 2 years.”  “Neil’s is a bit fresher than that.”

Later, “Oh no. What have you done?” saith PZ Myers,  “This almost feels wrong.” (I’d like to report he said ‘sacrilegious,’ but he didn’t.)

“What are you going to do with it?” asketh PZ, “Are you going to eat it?”

“Well, it’s been sitting in my pocket for a few hours”

“I wouldn’t recommend eating it then…”

Wise words from a wise man.  Likewise when he compared Ray Comfort to an incompetent sphincter.

The squid is in the freezer with Spike the water monitor.  I think I’ll name it PZ Jr.

Ussher…He’s the one with the band-aid right?

24 October 2007

While most of us were presumably present at the moment of our own birth, few can honestly say they can clearly recall it.  Even fewer had a good sense of the exact hour or day when this singularly important event took place, at least at the time.

While we tend to take knowledge of our own birthdate for granted (mine’s November 1 by the way, I know you’ve all been trolling my Amazon wishlist), we of course depend upon the memory of other interested parties, namely our parents.  Dial back several centuries or so, and most humans had only a very hazy idea of when the were born perhaps narrowed down to a particular season of a given year.

High-born Europeans, like James Ussher, were better off than most, and we might assume that his literate clerk father is responsible for the unusually exact record we have for Ussher’s birth (see image above).

As Primate of All Ireland, Ussher took it upon himself to calculate the exact birthdate of the Earth using the best documentary accounts of his time.  After considerable scholarly investigation Ussher deduced that the planet was created around nightfall on October 22nd, 4004 BCE.

Hearty chortles across the interweb today in response to the WorldNetDaily piece commemorating the 6010th [sic] birthday of the planet.  Anyone adhering to Ussher’s chronology in 2007 deserves a chortle.

However, it’s important to remember that Ussher himself was working in 1658 well before Jim Hutton, Chas Lyell, or Chuck D.  In building his chronology Ussher attempted to integrate historical records from different cultures across the “Middle East” (what’s the PC term for the fertile crescent anyway?), or what WorldNetDaily hilariously calls “secular sources.”  All hail secular Marduk!

Uh, anyway…go read Steve Gould’s classic “Fall in the House of Ussher” for an excellent account of how the Irish Primate should be a hero for modern academics and not reality-challenged young earthers.

Not again…

24 August 2007

National Geographic is reporting on the Choroapithecus abyssinicus, with this nails-on-the chalkboard headline: “New Fossil Ape May Shatter Human Evolution Theory.” Guys. Come on?

The shattering find: a 10 million year-old african ape that may push the human-gorilla split back well before what genetic studies have predicted, appearing in this week’s Nature (abstract here).

Two weeks ago we were “questioning” and now we’re “shattering” human evolution??? By finding ancient fossils that shed new light on the radiation and ramification of our clade? It’s enough to make you want to cover your body in hoodia diet patches and wait for the rapture.

Pharyngula and Afarensis have already taken this horribly sloppy headline writing to task, while John Hawks strikes back with an equally ambitious, but not blatantly false, headline: Did Gen Suwa just save paleoanthropology?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a letter to write.

Turks and Cuckoos, or Divine Secrets of the Yahya Sisterhood vol. 1

20 August 2007

Well I just don’t know what to think. First, Adnan Oktar aka Harun Yahya aka Assisted Living Dracula sends me a FREE copy of his beautiful 700 page full color magnum opus Atlas of Creation, vol. 1. But then, he gets my website banned in Turkey along with the rest of WordPress.com! Which is it Adnan, are we hermanos or what?

Man, first China now Turkey…is California the last bastion of sanity of earth? (yeah, that’s troll bait)

An Inordinate Fondness, or Can’t We All Just Get Along?

13 August 2007

Male Convergent Ladybird Beetle (Hippodamia convergens) getting frisky with a mating pair of Asian/Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis).

I‘ve received my first online burn over in the comment stream at Laelaps. Well, if not the first, then certainly the most impassioned:

Neil,

I’m glad you wrote a letter. Good for you! You can write, but did you read anything I wrote? And? Just for the record, once again, I specifically said, at my blog, that I did not believe this particular revision in the evolutionary doctrine was going to prove anything for Christianity or Creation. Please, please I wish you all would stop suggesting that I said otherwise. I was perfectly content to post the article, make a comment or two, and let people draw their own conclusions until Brian linked back to my blog with his smart title, condescending remarks, and until many other started posting their ’science’ at my blog. But at my blog, I can defend it my way. I do wish you would stop mischaracterizing my blog entry.

Honestly, I am a bit confused that I provoked such a passionate responce since I hadn’t directly addressed either Jerry’s original blog post or his comments to Brian’s post. I had noted, by linking to Brian’s original post, that creationist bloggers had picked up the AP story about the Ileret skulls, in my post about the same. I also mentioned my exchange with the AP reporter in a comment which apparently inspired the portion of Jerry’s comment directed at me. Addressing the whole group of Laelaps readers Jerry goes on…

Thanks for all the fun. I leave you all with your rocks, bones, theories, charts, graphs, and unbelief. If I ever want to know about beetles (!) or water or trees or mars or ’science’, I’ll get back with you. If any of you ever need or want to know about Christ, well…you know where my blog is! Happy trails!

I guess that that too is meant as a burn, although I’m not sure what’s so uninteresting/irrelevant about water, trees or Mars (or bones and graphs for that matter). As far as beetles go, as J. B. S. Haldane observed, and Carel has recently reminded us (complete with his stunning beetle vanitas), a fondness for beetles would appear to put me in good company. I am glad that He cranked down the oxygen though, but more on that later.

Namaste!

Larval Asian/Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) cannibalize a pupa of the same.

Groan…

10 August 2007

Is this the most irresponsible reporting by a science journalist this year?

Surprising fossils dug up in Africa are creating messy kinks in the iconic straight line of human evolution with its knuckle-dragging ape and briefcase-carrying man.

The new research by famed paleontologist Meave Leakey in Kenya shows our family tree is more like a wayward bush with stubby branches, calling into question the evolution of our ancestors.Seth Borenstein AP

Sadly, probably not, but it’s pretty dang awful. Predictably, the creationists are breaking out the champagne flutes. A quick glance at the abstract of the new Nature paper by Spoor et al. shows that the researchers are hardly calling evolution into question.

What Seth means, of course, is that the new research is calling into question widely held misconceptions about human evolution as an evenly-graded straight-line trajectory from Lucy to you.

While scientists had largely given up this simplistic model years ago there has remained vibrant debate about the specific temporal, geographic and evolutionary relationships between three early hominins, H. erectus, H. habilis and H. ergaster.

Unfortunately, it’s hard (but not impossible!) to draw a picture of this, and Rudy Zallinger’s infamous ‘March of Progress’ painting is so deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness that given the task of pictorializing human evolution, most people would no doubt ape some version of it.

Image borrowed from here

Fortunately, those looking for nuanced, well-contextualized analysis of the new study have Afarensis and John Hawks to look to. Both of whom realize that chimpanzees are, in fact, apes and so this sentence makes no sense at all…

Like chimps and apes, “they’d just avoid each other, they don’t feel comfortable in each other’s company,” he said.

Um, maybe Mr. Borenstein should stick to writing about climate.  Um, we don’t exchange in ad hominins around here, anymore, for now.

Okay, two cranky posts in a row, something more fun next, I promise!

POSTSCRIPT:  Seth Borenstein sent me a link to an updated, and substantially improved version of the story: http://www.wtop.com/?nid=220&sid=1212984  I’m still bummed that the original version went to press.   I also probably won’t be landing any science writing jobs at the AP anytime soon.

Ker-splash!

24 July 2007

So goes the theory of pterosaurian mega-skimmers according to a new PLOS paper by Humphries et al. The researchers, including Flickr pterosaur maven Mark Witton, employed the bane of all arm-waving theories, math, to model the energy costs of a large flying pterosaur dipping it’s jaws into the surf to scoop up fish. At least one group of extant birds, the aptly named Skimmers, engages in this behavior. Perceived skeletal similarities (mostly a long, tapered ‘bill’) had led some to infer this style of feeding in pterosaurs.

The authors conclude that the drag incurred by such a behavior would have rendered it a near-impossibility, at least among the large pterosaurs that have been most commonly depicted skimming. The researchers also compared the skulls of pterosaurs with living Skimmers and found the former lacking many of the morphological specializations that would be expected in organisms adapted to skimming.

Once again, PLoS = totally awesome (see, I can use math too!) Much more at Laelaps, if we’re lucky, Darren might weigh in too. Above image questionably sourced from this questionable source.

POSTSCRIPT:
Mark Witton’s awesome illustration and a personal account is here. A summary by Liza Gross, PLoS is here.