“Mommy, is a rhinoceros a dinosaur?”

31 12 2006

One of a Cheetah Trio at the Philadelphia Zoo

Hello everyone! I hope everyone is getting a chance to enjoy the holidays and are looking forward to the new year. I’ve been busy petsitting since Christmas ended, enjoying the holiday with my wife’s family in New York and coming out of it a few books heavier (I currently am loving Estes’ Behavior Guide to African Mammals and The Seashell on the Mountaintop by Cutler). It seems that activity has died down on my ProgressiveU blog a bit as well, but that’s to be expected; I don’t really want to get into evolution mega-posts over the vacation. Indeed, it seems that nothing constructive is being said in the previously uber-active threads that kept me checking my blog every hour a few weeks ago, but it’s nice not having to deal with creationist arguments on a daily basis. I just find it funny, however, for all the writing and attention given to my posts by anti-evolution folks, they’ve yet to explain anything scientifically and most of what’s floating around in the comments would be better off flushed (mind you, hannodb’s comments were more civil and constructive but contained nothing new and no scientific support for ID).

I did make good use of my holiday, however, and visited the Philadelphia Zoo yesterday. I love going to the zoo, although often I am often saddened by the conditions under which the animals are kept. There are always lots of parents with children going “Look at the big kitty” (pointing to a lion or tiger) as well, making sure their children get as close to the glass or fence as possible to the carnivores. Granted, little kids get front-row seats because I love to see children excited about wildlife, but I don’t think they’re really learning much respect for it or understanding how awesome these animals are. Case in point; as I walked through Big Cat Falls I came upon a young cougar sitting right in front of the glass and I got some wonderful pictures. As I sat there, children aged 3 to 10 all paraded in front of the “big kitty”, tapping the glass for a moment or two and then wandering off, losing interest in the big cat. A few teenagers pestered another of the 3 cougars in the enclosure with a stick, trying to get the cat to eat it (I’m surprised they didn’t leave with a few less fingers).

A young cougar at the Philadelphia Zoo

Now, if any of these people had seen this big cat while walking through the woods, taking out the trash, or going for a stroll in the suburbs (oh yes, cougars can do quite well in suburbia) I don’t think the reactions would have been the same. Sure, a lion may be fierce on the African Plains but in the zoo it’s just nothing more than a big version of a lazy housecat, most people treating it with passing interest or even overall indifference. I’m appalled by how little people know about these animals, watching them for a few minutes but not really learning anything about them, so that when children ask good questions about the animals the parents respond with outright wrong or even stupid answers. One such example was when I was passing the white rhino on display, hearing a child ask “It’s got two horns, just like a kind of dinosaur!” to which the mother replied “That’s right, rhinos are a kind of dinosaur.” Ugh…

Some may consider this post to be nitpicking, but I really am surprised by how little people know about nature and how little they take in. Dinosaur skeletons, big cats, sharks, orcas, etc. are viewed at various institutions for their inherent power, majesty, and mystery but few seem to take any time to learn anything about the animals. Kids often have a nearly insatiable appetite to know more about such animals, but parents are often ill-equipped to answer the questions, squashing the child’s inquiring spirit or feeding them faulty information. I wonder how many more eco-savvy people there would be if parents actually took the time to actually answer their childrens questions about nature instead of trying to come out with an answer to shut them up. I don’t mean such statements as a sweeping generalization, as there are some good parents out there who care about their kids actually learning something and appreciating nature, but for yesterday’s crowd at the Philly Zoo at least, it seems that the animals were little more than a cheap thrill or diversion for a sunny Thursday off from school.

Another odd encounter was had at the cheetah enclosure, where a cheetah trio (adult males often form coalitions of two or three while females are usually soliatary) was up and playing. The cheetahs were relatively close, certainly within earshot, so I decided to try and communicate with at least one of the group. You see, cheetahs make a high-pitched yelping noise that sounds like “meh!” which is “the usual call given given by females to summon hidden or lost cubs, by greeting or courting adults, or by cubs around a kill, the intensity reflecting the degree of excitement (Estes, 1991, p. 381), and since this is an easy (and non-threatening) call to make I thought I would try to say “Hello” to the cheetahs. I didn’t expect it to work, being I’m not a cheetah and would most likely mess the call up, but one of the adults sitting in front of my replied over and over to my calls, bringing a wide grin to my face. Next to me, however, was a mother and two children, and not long after my exchange with the cheetah began she said “Oh, he’s getting angry. See him growling? We should go,” alluding that the cheetah would likely jump the barrier if agitated (this thought fed by a cheetah that jumped on the roof of its habitat enclosure earlier). Cheetahs do growl, hiss, and even spit, but the simple greeting call is about one of the most inoffensive big cat noises I’ve ever heard (to get an idea of a cheetah’s vocal range, rent the film Duma, a Born Free-like tale about a boy and his cheetah). Most others watched the cheetahs walk around for a few minutes before departing, the only comment about a male cheetah that scent marked its enclosure via its urine coming from a child saying “It’s doing a wee!” I by no means consider myself an expert on cheetahs or other big cats, but there was plenty of interesting behavior that anyone with even a cursory knowledge of these animals could have observed, but instead most just passed by, arguing over if they were leopards or not, not really learning or appreciating anything. There really should be some sort of free guided tour or something to teach people more about these animals, as the informational signs put up by the enclosures (while a valiant effort) hardly ever seem to get read.

A cheetah making a greeting call at the Philadelphia Zoo

I’m sure I’ll write more about my ideas involving animals in captivity in the future (after I finish the book I intend to write on the evolution/ID controversy, I plan on making my follow-up a book about the ethics of keeping animals in captivity, tentatively titled The Dolphin’s Frown [yes, it is a reference to Gould’s collection of essays entitled The Flamingo’s Smile]). Don’t misunderstand me, I think zoos are doing a lot to help us repopulate wild stocks, show people majestic animals worth saving, and work with conservation groups (the WCS/Bronx Zoo being chief among them) but regardless of how powerful a male Amur tiger may be in an enclosure, it’s nowhere near as wonderful as the real thing in the wild. I love being able to photograph and observe big cats and other animals in zoos, but at the same time it does little to sate my desire to see them in their own habitat, where they are as they should be and not reduced to being a big housecat. I want to see a black panther slinking through the jungle for myself, not watch some poor creature pace back and forth before flopping down in front of the enclosure entrance, desperate for some stimulation from its keepers. Is that all that is going to remain of magnificent animals we’re driving to extinction? To be locked away in a zoo for a breeding program, no longer roaming the wilderness? The day we lose the tiger, the polar bear, the cheetah, the great white shark, or any number of other animals it will be truly sad for the world will be that much less wild, that much less amazing or enthralling, and we will only have ourselves to blame for the tragedy.

Merry Christmas and Other Assorted Holidays!

26 12 2006

Happy Holidays everyone! So far, I have no idea if anyone is actually reading what I have to say, but in the case of such an eventuality I thought I should wish such a visitor a festive year-end. I have the week off and plenty of new books to read (courtesy of my in-laws and wife) on mammals of the neo-tropics, African mammal behavior, and the Galapagos Islands, so I’ll be cramming my brain full of new information before the year is out. In any case, Happy Holidays to everyone, and I hope that regardless of how you end your year, you’re able to spend it safe, warm, and with loved ones.

I am so smart, S-M-R-T

22 12 2006

Just to lighten things up a bit, here is my Peculiar Aristocratic Name

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Duke Brian the Educated of Leighton in the Bucket
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Via Pharyngula

Intelligent Design’s Failure to Launch

22 12 2006

A thought struck me as I looked over DaveScot’s latest asinine assertions on Uncommon Descent: Intelligent Design has a severe case of multiple personality disorder. There is little doubt in my mind that ID is creationism in disguise, the Christian leanings of its primary proponents and the aims of their “Wedge Strategy” well-known, but at the same time Intelligent Design seeks to replicate the methodological naturalism that they rail against. While metaphysical naturalism (the assertion that nature is all there is and the supernatural does not exist) and supernatural theologies do run into conflict, methodological naturalism (if it exists, we can study it) is the bedrock of scientific thought and has thus far revealed much to us. Some say that naturalism in nature rules out God or the supernatural, but this is not so. Rather, it simply says that if God exists and has acted within the world, we should be able to detect this and study it proving what did or did not happen without appealing to arguments such as “God is outside science.”

In any event, DaveScot prefaces the article about pathenogensis in Komodo Dragons with this statement:

“I blogged about the possibility of parthenogenesis in mammals a month or so ago. Here’s another newly discovered case of it in a higher animal.”

This seems inoffensive enough at first, but the entry DaveScot is referring to was a half-cocked scientific hypothesis as to how Christ could have been born to a virgin mother, essentially saying that since we observe pathenogenesis in a “higher” vertebrate like a Komodo Dragon it is not unreasonable to think it could not happen in mammals, or even humans. I just wonder how anyone can continue to take this joker seriously, or not realize that he has shot himself in the foot with his unfounded hypotheses about an event most hold to be supernatural. You see, what DaveScot has done in trying to prove that the virgin birth of Christ could happen via methodological naturalism is remove the necessity of God for the process, essentially arguing the historical accuracy rather than Divine Invervention. Even the writer himself recognizes that the supernatural (if he was correct, that is) would become natural via his explanation, but he doesn’t seem to go a step further and think about the implications of how to show that Jesus was indeed God if he was somehow born of an aberrant parthenogenic process.

At times like these, most IDers shrink away into the realm of “That’s outside science” or, essentially “God can do anything He wants.” Hardly scientific, don’t you think? They try so hard to take supernatural intervention and convince us it operates under the rules of methodological naturalism, but then when pressed for details they suddenly become silent or say such things are irrelevant. This is precisely why no scientific work has been done regarding intelligent design, instead existing as a philosophical and theological argument with no basis in empirical reality. You see, if we can prove something is in fact intelligently designed, then it follows that we can find out who the designer is or how they did it or when they did it or even come into contact with such a deity (although some, like Michael Behe, allow for time-travelling scientists or planet-seeding aliens to be the designer [at least in public forums that is]). I’ve brought this up many times with ID-believers, each time only to hear that such studies are immaterial and not relevant to discussion. Oh, how deluded they have become. Intelligent design succeeds because it makes grandiose claims it cannot prove, so instead of actually doing any work it puts the burden on evolutionary scientists and say “Prove me wrong.” Even beyond this, many bemoan the decline in their brand of conservative Christian morality, speaking openly about their religious convictions on blogs and in private but suddenly denying all ties to religion when called in front of a jury. It simply amazes me how people can be continued to be duped by such foolishness, especially when the bait-and-switch of occurs of an intelligent designer that acts in our world but is somehow outside of it at the same time.

As I’ve said many times before, I actually look forward to see what the Disco Institute or others may come up with that attempt to prove a designer acted in our world. If right, it would be an amazing discovery and we could perhaps finally find out the identity of the designer (I don’t find this scenario likely for theological, philosophical, and empirical reasons) and if wrong then it would allow the current state of pseudoscience ID resides in to be struck down. Although the Biologic Institute (funded by the Discovery Institute) claims to be hard at work on detecting ID, I’m not holding my breath for any studies as it seems that ID pundits spend more time, energy, and money on mud-slinging than actually doing any science. Funny how a group dedicated to moral values systematically lie and act immorally in order to brainwash the American people as people would just stop doing bad things if we all believed we were designed. In case any one is inclined to join up with such a group, consider this: In the Old Testament God was with His people as a Pillar of Smoke and a Pillar of Fire and (assuming historical accuracy, of course) had actual contact with His people but they still stole, murdered, raped, lied, etc. What makes anyone think that belief in God is the great prerequisite for morality?

No, I won’t back down

21 12 2006

Most people I meet quickly discover my fascination with evolution; if I’m not wearing my Darwin exhibition t-shirt that day, there is usually some new book, study, or idea that sends me off into an excited discourse of how marvelous evolution is. Some people, like my wife, listen with interest and patiently let me explain what has my attention that moment, but I usually try to control myself when I meet someone new. In such a case, I typically ask “What do you think about evolution?”, with the response typically both surprising and disappointing.

Although evolution and intelligent design seem to be getting a bit of fair play in the media these days, many people I speak to don’t seem to have an opinion, or if they do its aligned with their belief system for lack of research into the topic. The most common response, in fact, seems to be “I don’t want to discuss it” or “It’s not important to me.” In the past I’ve let this slide, not wanting to come off as a raving lunatic, but such statements seem to fly in the face of what it is to be a living, thinking human being. Surely, some people are more deep and philosophical than others, but aren’t some of the great questions (i.e. “Where did I come from?”) that many people ask themselves at some point or another related to our evolutionary past? It seems that many people turn to religion to find their identity, to be comforted in the belief that they were planned for and made by a loving deity who has a plan for them, but readily reject science (which makes no claim on morality) because it threatens the basis of questions at the core of faith. Hence, science dealing with origins or changes in life is not to be entertained: such is seen as inviting the devil into your own house, seemingly following the axiom of “ignorance is bliss.” Who doesn’t want to know where their origins lie, why we are formed as we are and why (hard as we may try) we can not escape the “original sins” inherited from our evolutionary past? Such thoughts are dangerous, even heretical, to those who hold to a dogmatic view of the world, and it frustrates me to no end that creationists blind themselves so that they cannot see that they too are products of evolution.

In Christian apologetics, there is often a theme of “Remember God loves atheists/homosexuals/single mothers/etc too,” which can be a good thing (making the person more understanding and accepting) or a bad thing (increasing condescension and the mindset of “Poor sinner, I’ll pray that they’ll be more righteous like me.”). While some may agree or disagree with this tactic, it is one that works both ways, as even when I am being blasted by an intelligent design advocate I can’t help but smile that they’re using their tetrapod limbs, derived from ancient Sarcopterygian fish, to physically express the words being formed by their jaws, first appearing well over 400 million years ago in fish. Is there a designer? Possibly, possibly not; such proof or disproof is not the aim of this entry. Rather, I can’t understand how anyone can look at the fossil record and even our own bodies and not see the beautiful construction evolution has provided every organism. As separate as we may believe we are from nature, we are not the crowning achievement of all nature, but rather part of the unity and diversity that is life on this planet, irrevocably connected to it not only through our bodies and history, but through our actions. I can no longer say in conversation that evolution is not important or that we shouldn’t be arguing about it; there are few things that have such huge implications and importance as our own history and place on this planet as evolution. No, it is time to stop making allowances for people to live in their own little protective cocoons, complete with any reality they see fit to create for themselves, and instead speak the truth plainly and honestly so that everyone can understand. What good could possibly ever come from remaining ignorant?

Virgin Births in Geckos

19 12 2006

Seemingly just in time for Christmas, a recent news story via The Australian tells of a problem of invasive mourning geckos. Invasive species are a problem anywhere they show up, and Australia has had many problems with invasive critters in the past, but this problem is different as these geckos are entirely female. That’s right, much like the whiptail lizards of the U.S., this species is apparently entirely made up of females that can fertilize their own eggs, doubling the reproduction rate. This has important ramifications for ecological and evolutionary patterns, especially in terms of Founder Effect, which is the effect of a new population being established by a small number of individuals. Think of it this way, the mourning geckos (only requiring females to reproduce) somehow catch a lift on a piece of flotsam to an island not far away, are released by a collector that can’t keep them, or catch a lift by boat or plane. Provided the geckos survive their trip and find habitat on the island, they can readily reproduce and the population will grow at a higher rate than endemic species requiring sexual reproduction being that all the offspring are females and all females can reproduce. This seems to be an effective short-term strategy, and there is some genetic difference between mother and daughters (the daughters are not clones), but the net genetic difference that sexual reproduction allows for is reduced. Thus, the species may not be as likely to adapt to quick ecological changes or have natural selection work on changes brought about through random mutation. The converse of this is that since there is less random mutation as a result as sexual reproduction, there are less harmful mutations and the species is more stable, but again this strategy may be a downfall in the long term. In essence it’s a trade off, exchanging genetic variability for reproductive success, having both pros and cons to the process, as well as having little change from the parent population making parthenogenic creatures like these geckos unlikely candidates for rapid evolutionary change through punctuated equilibrium.

I searched PubMed for mourning geckos or any information on what precisely is happening in their sexual cycle, but the only article that came up involved intestinal parasites, and the article that led me to this story in the first place is ambiguous, suggesting that the females have made their “male counterpart[s] redundant.” If this were true, that the females have spurned their male partners to reproduce on their own, it would be an amazing evolutionary event, but this does not appear to be the case. Upon a further Google search for “mourning gecko + male”, it appears that male mourning geckos are unknown, the closest thing to a male being “bisexual” females. I haven’t found any reference to how these females are “bisexual” either, but from what I understand I’m assuming that the mourning gecko’s reproductive cycle is akin to that the the whiptail lizards, in that some females mount other females during certain times of the year. Although one female can not fertilize another (nor does one need to), the copulation seems to increase certain hormone levels that result in greater reproductive success, so while they are parthenogenic in their reproductive cycle sex still plays an important role.

Whenever I go to the zoo, there are always parents telling their children how a mommy bear and a daddy bear make a baby bear, or how the mama tiger takes care of her cubs, playing into the anthropomorphism common when it comes to most animals; explaining parthenogenesis or gay penguins or any of natures vast reproductive strategies would most likely only further confuse parent and child. Even so, there is a view that all “higher” animals (chordates on up) have the strongest males breeding with the most viable females, making it easy to generalize about how reproduction happens. Unfortunately for the uninformed, most organisms do not reproduce as we do, using a vast array of behaviors and appendages that would seem alien if we did not observe them among extant taxa. I can only imagine what the reproductive strategy of extinct organisms like Stegosaurs must have been like, although I’m sure the old adage of “very carefully” would describe how such spiny behemoths went about their intimate affairs.

Condescending paternalism, just in time for Christmas, from William Dembski

18 12 2006

It’s now only a week until Christmas, and I would have thought that the “long argument” over evolution and creationism would have subsided over the holidays, giving everyone a little year-end break. Hell, even Richard Dawkins had this to say, via note reproduced in the New York Times:

“Presumably your reason for asking me is that ‘The God Delusion’ is an atheistic book, and you still think of Christmas as a religious festival,” Mr. Dawkins wrote, in a reply printed here in its entirety. “But of course it has long since ceased to be a religious festival. I participate for family reasons, with a reluctance that owes more to aesthetics than atheistics. I detest Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and the obscene spending bonanza that nowadays seems to occupy not just December, but November and much of October, too.”

He added: “So divorced has Christmas become from religion that I find no necessity to bother with euphemisms such as happy holiday season. In the same way as many of my friends call themselves Jewish atheists, I acknowledge that I come from Christian cultural roots. I am a post-Christian atheist. So, understanding full well that the phrase retains zero religious significance, I unhesitatingly wish everyone a Merry Christmas.”

So while grad students and researchers settle in for a short winters nap, creationists show up giving out back-handed slaps. While feuds between William Dembski and evolutionary researchers are usually confined to scienceblogs.com and the Panda’s Thumb, the latest insult comes in the form of an animated flash cartoon featuring evolution-advocates like Kenneth Miller, Richard Dawkins, and Eugenie Scott yanking a pull-string on Judge Jones’ back (making a fart noise), at which point Jones makes some anti-ID or pro-evolution comment from the Dover trial in a voice not unlike Alvin of Chipmunk fame. Don’t believe me? See for yourself via overwhelmingevidence.com, a website designed specifically to give young ID advocates a place to discuss ID and never have to justify their beliefs.

Now, some of you might be saying, “Wait, there aren’t any fart noises in that presentation at all.” Well, that’s because they have been deleted as more about this flash has come to light. Initially, it came to my attention early yesterday morning when it was simply stupid and offensive by its own merits. There was something suspicious about Judge Jones’ voice, however, so a former Uncommon Descent (Dembski’s blog) commenter used some technological knowhow to slow down the speech and lower the pitch, only to discover the faux Jones is none other than Dembski himself. I guess this goes to show that Dembski is as mature as many of the ID-trolls found hiding in the comments of many blogs all over the web (including this one). If such an insult wasn’t over-the-top enough, Dembski wrote this letter to those featured in the animation:

“There’s a Christmas present for you at http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com

— a flash animation that features each of you prominently (some of you are probably aware of it already). We’re still planning a few enhancements, including getting Eric Rothschild in there and having Judge Jones do the actual voiceovers himself (right now it’s me speeded up though it’s his actual words). In return for the judge doing himself, we’ll drop some of the less flattering sound effects. We would have included Prof. Padian, but the images of him on the internet weren’t of sufficient quality (I’m copying Prof. Padian — if you send me a hi res jpg of yourself, I’m sure we can work you in — you were after all the expert witness at the trial).

Best wishes,
Bill Dembski”

There’s an entire string of words I would like to use to describe a man such as Bill Dembski, but I am afraid that a post containing said string of words would make this post inappropriate for most viewing audiences. Thus, I would refer you to the seasonally appropriate rant Chevy Chase goes on in the classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when his character discovers that he has been enrolled in a jelly-of-the-month club rather than receive a Christmas bonus. In any case, once Dembski was “outed” he obviously must have had something to say for himself, and here is his whiny attempt at justifying the objectionable cartoon:

“The other side is making much about my having attained yet another “new low” in being the creative force behind the Judge Jones School of Law (go to http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com). Just to be clear, my aim in this flash animation was not to shake up the convictions of convinced Darwinists. Rather, my aim was to render Judge Jones and his decision ridiculous in the eyes of many young people, who from here on will never take Darwinian evolution or him seriously. If the cost of accomplishing this is yet another lowering of my estimation in the eyes of PT or Richard Dawkins, that’s a price I’m only too glad to pay — heck, I regard that as a benefit of the deal.”

Oh, ok, Dembski wasn’t trying to change the way I think, but rather to indoctrinate and delude “young people” who are most likely not very familiar with the important details of the current culture and science wars going on about this. Posters to Overwhelming Evidence who are in favor of evolution are often booted and their comments stricken from the site, which doesn’t add to its credibility. What I find interesting is that scientists at the forefront of this debate may criticize and blast their opponents in public forums, but they at least show some vestige of respect and don’t stoop to making literal caricatures of people like Dembski, Wells, etc. (then again, such people are “looney-tunes” enough as it is). As offensive as the cartoon is, perhaps it will actually help evolutionary scientists by showing how arrogant and idiotic some members of the ID camp truly are. Perhaps even Dembski himself realizes this, as the cartoon is now being edited:

“The Rembrandt of flash animation and I are working to enhance “The Judge Jones School of Law.” As a first step we have made the animation less offensive to more refined sensibilities. All the overt flatulence has therefore been removed. Go to http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com for the less objectional version of this animation (we are keeping the original, however, so that when the history of evolution’s demise is written, all versions of this animation will be available to historians).”

As a side note, “All the over flatulence has therefore been removed.” There’s covert flatulence in the cartoon they haven’t taken out? I guess they’re standing their ground on the “silent but deadly” variety in the flash.

Somehow I doubt Judge Jones is going to donate his voice to this piece, nor do I find it likely that Padian will present a hi-res picture of himself to be mocked by Dembski & Co. I have yet to see replies from the other featured scientists (I’m sure they are forthcoming), but Dawkins had this to say via his website:

“Anybody who resorts to tactics of desperation like this has to be a real loser. Dembski is a loser, and it now looks as though he KNOWS it. My guess is that he will try to take it down when he realizes how foolish it makes him look.”

If all this were not enough, Dembski once again takes ID beyond the scientific or political and delves in the Biblical realm, attempting to justify his actions with some rather violent allusions. Via PT and UD:

“Let me suggest you all read your Old Testament — Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal (and then, oh my, killling them); Micaiah the prophet telling Ahab the king to look forward to his coming death; and Jehu’s respectful treatment of Queen Jezebel (throwing her out a window and letting the dogs lap up her blood). And then in the New Testament we find Paul wishing that certain Judaizers didn’t just circumcise themselves but would go the whole way and castrate themselves. I see the JJSchLaw as an instrument of grace to bring Dawkins and others to their senses (if such a thing were possible). What have you done lately, dopderbeck, to jar Dawkins out of his dogmatic rampage?”

And yet, people still claim that ID has nothing to do with religion. *smacks forehead* I can only imagine how much some ID advocates would love being able to prophetically forecast the death of Dawkins or wish that evolution advocates castrate themselves, thus preventing our offspring from potentially doing good science in the future. While the overtly public face of ID will deny any connection to religious motivation up and down, those who embroil themselves in the debate on a daily basis know that when no one’s looking, all these funny little religious statements and allusions start creeping back out, only to go away again when said advocate is on the witness stand.

But wait, there’s more! As a sloppy sleight of blog trick, Dembski attempts to draw attention away from his idiocy by claiming that he can post any of Richard Dawkins’ correspondance with Dembski, being that Dawkins saw it fit to share Bill’s holiday note with everyone. How much more immature can the man possibly get? I still wonder why anyone can possibly still read Uncommon Descent after the terrible post about how we can scientifically explain the virgin birth of Christ, but in the spirit of full disclosure that post came from Dembski’s Dachshund DaveScot and not Dembski himself.

I’ve been waiting to see what Kenneth Miller has to say about all this nonsense, and I was pleasantly surprised with his exceedingly funny offer to help Dembski and Co. with some extra footage and sound bites for the flash. You can read the e-mail for yourself here.

I don’t expect too many people to change sides one way or another over this issue, stalwart ID advocates claiming said animation was justified and evolutionary thinkers will see it for what it truly is, but in a culture war there are some tactics that work and others that don’t, and in this case Dembski pulled the pin, counted to 3, and dropped the grenade in his own foxhole.

Coming Attraction: In looking over Overwhelming Evidence, I spied, with my evolved eyes, that the first chapter of the Wells/Dembski textbook collaboration had been put online for all to see. Yes folks, is as vapid as you imagined. I’ll have a review and dissection of the sadly misguided text coming in the next few days.

Movin’ on up…

18 12 2006

Hello everyone! I’ve only been on WordPress for about 20 minutes now and already I am impressed with the quality of this website. It certainly beats my old xanga and progressiveu accounts by a mile. Speaking of which, for those of you that have followed me over from my blog under the name Evolutiongeek, thank you for your continued support and readership (unless you’re a troll, in which case you can kindly go back to your bridge and await the arrival of the Three Billy Goats Gruff).

In any event, I’m just another late-comer to the blogging phenomenon, but I do hope to bring something new to the table and not merely parrot Pharyngula or the Panda’s Thumb in every post. There are a wide variety of topics that interest or infuriate me (sometimes both), so if nothing else I hope to enter into a dialog with others via this website that will benefit everyone who might stumble upon it.

As for the name, well, I couldn’t think of anything incredibly witty or interesting so I picked one of the defunct names for Dryptosaurus, a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex known from a fragmentary skeleton that once lived in my own state of New Jersey. Geeky as such a choice may be, I decided Laelaps as it was a dog in Greek mythology that always caught its quarry. Ultimately, the Laelaps was turned to stone by Zeus when sent to hunt a fox that could never be caught, the god ending a chase that would have surely gone on until death. Why choose such an unfortunate canine as my pseudonym? I am utterly enthralled with the natural world, always wanting to know more about how life came to be as it is today, but there are always more questions than answers, condemning me to forever quest after more knowledge until I too ultimately am turned into the elements that make up my body. This isn’t a curse, but a passion that I hope to carry for the rest of my life.

So, welcome friend. If nothing else I hope my musing are of mild interest and that they may plant the seeds of later realizations and insights in the minds of others. What else can a man like me aspire to?

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you.” – Job 12:7-8