Where oh where have the creationists gone?

30 04 2007

Is it just me or have creationists been awfully silent lately? Answers in Genesis hasn’t updated its website in several days (how can I live without “News to Note”?!), Uncommon Descent features mostly posts made by DaveScot about global climate change, and the UD-wannabe blog site Overwhelming Evidence has essentially halted (minus a few posts from O’Leary and hoaxers, which don’t count). Sure, there are plenty of smaller personal blogs that are still coming forward with anti-evo content, but much of it is recycled Disco Institute & AiG material consists of running around in circles, arms waving and going “Duh duh duh”, so they’re not really adding anything to the discussion. While I am not going to be so brash as to herald the end of ID, could it be that people are just getting tired of hearing of it, or that some in the creationist crowd are running out of ideas the random Bible Verse+Idiotic assertion generators at the Disco Institute & AiG have broken down? (We all know there’s been no new creationist ideas since the mid-1800’s, although the “new” ideas of the time were on par with the already-discussed Omphalos) I’m sure some of this has to do with the opening of the creation museum on AiG’s part, but I am curious as to why the normally loud-mouthed Disco Institute crew hasn’t been relatively quiet lately. Regardless of this, I suggest that we all enjoy the silence before another fart-filled flash animation or “hoax of dodos” shows up.

Update: After searching for nearly an hour for anything on WordPress to respond to involving creationism, I came up with practically nothing new. Sometimes I just feel the need to have an all out debate and I was hoping to stir up the hornet’s nest a little bit, but it appears that creationists have mysteriously disappeared. Could it be that I’ve been Left Below?

Update the 2nd: TheBrummell has once again corrected my erroneous statements; shame on me for giving the creationists too much credit.

Update the 3rd: AiG is back up and running again, claiming that they had so much computer trouble because of all the traffic they’ve been getting as of late. I was intrigued, however, by this statement they made about the glitches;

Over the last week, the AiG website experienced significant technical difficulties, which severely limited access. It’s just one of those things that happens in a fallen world using computers built by fallen humans being run by fallen people. As we tell people, “The reason the AiG website had problems is due to sin! And the answer’s in Genesis!”

What was it Mark Twain once said about such statements? Oh yes, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Indeed, if it was not for original sin we’d never have any computer problems at all. At least when the web is slow or my computer crashes I now know who’s actually to blame…

Dryptosaurus, I hardly knew ye

30 04 2007

Every once in a while I have a little bit of dinosaur deja vu, encountered photographs, paintings, models, documentaries, etc. that I haven’t seen since I was about 10 or 11 years old. Such was the case when I received my copy of David Raup’s Extinction: Bad Genes of Bad Luck? in the mail today. I recognized the painting on the cover immediately as one I had seen from a paleontology documentary years ago (although I can’t remember much of it except interviews with Stephen Jay Gould, Bob Bakker RE: Nanotyrannus, and David B. Weishampel with his functional reconstruction of a Parasaurolophus crest, interspersed with pictures from David Norman’s The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs), although I must admit I couldn’t quite figure out what sort of dinosaur I was supposed to be looking at. The painting as a whole is beautiful, but the dinosaurs seem a bit grotesque; my mind wanted to say dromeosaur but I knew that couldn’t be right. The back cover, however, revealed the answer; the painting is supposed to be of a male and female Dryptosaurus (ex-Laelaps)!

While the skeletal remains of Dryptosaurus remain elusive, I’ve heard a few things about some attempts to figure out what it really looked like. Now that the weather is nicer I plan to go searching for some bits of it myself in the Big Brook area, although given their rarity I’m not likely to come up with anything (which doesn’t mean I won’t still be dreaming of a fully articulated skeleton, hanging out of a riverbank begging to be excavated). Indeed, New Jersey seems to be suffering from neglect when it comes to nature (regardless of whether it’s conservation now or figuring out what was here millions of years ago) but there is much to find for those willing to look. I still can’t forget carefully slicing away the green marl from the Main Fossiliferous Layer at the Inversand Pit, the sandy material giving up just a few fragments of bone. I’ll probably never find out what they once belonged to, but it was utterly exciting nonetheless.

Can a camel stop WalMart?

30 04 2007

According to this LiveScience article, construction workers digging a hole for an ornamental citrus tree at the location of a future WalMart uncovered the bones of an approximately 10,000 year old camel. The article is light on details, and while it has been agreed that the camel will go on display at Arizona State University, nothing has been said as to whether the area will be checked for more fossils. Does this remind anyone else of the famous Simpsons episode “Lisa the Skeptic” (featuring Stephen J. Gould, no less) where the fossil of an “angel” is found? I’m not saying WalMart planted the camel as a scheme, but I would like to see the area looked over for other fossils before yet another WalMart is established (how many more do we need, really?). I intend on writing the company to ask what its intentions are for the site, even though I fully expect a form-letter reply. Whatever correspondence I get I will post here.

More movie nonsense: Hogzilla

30 04 2007

One of my first posts here on Laelaps was about “Hogzilla” and a National Geographic program devoted to the supersized pig. The documentary wasn’t that good and I suspected that after it was discovered that the monsterous swine was a full 4 feet shorter than claimed it would slip away into obscurity. I was wrong.

According to this news article, Hogzilla is going to be the titular monster of what is likely to be a direct-to-DVD B-film, and I’m sure the estimate of the pigs size will increase (because an 8-foot killer pig just isn’t enough, I suppose). If any of this sounds strangely familiar to you then you might be recalling the Aussie horror film Razorback, based in part on the famous Azaria Chamberlain case (the origin of the famous “The dingo ate my baby” phrase). Razorback is perfect movie trash, featuring surrealistic shots (part of the film takes place in a factory where kangaroos are minced up and canned, much of the rest taking place in the outback where cars adorn the branches of trees denuded of foliage) and a monster that bears closer resemblance to a Muppet than anything truly terrifying. Regardless of big-screen hits and misses when it comes to monster movies, direct-to-DVD specialists like Lions Gate have been pumping out monster-filled gore fests for years, any there’s any number of cookie-cutter films featuring Sasquatch, C. megalodon, giant killer spiders, Chupacabras, ancient carnivorous insects, cephalopods, and anything else that might strike your fancy. Perhaps they’ll all be riffed-on by an MST3K-clone in the future (one can only hope).

Speaking of which (and this is the last tangent, I swear), Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson, and Bill Corbett are still at it under the new moniker “The Film Crew” (same MST3K goodness, but no puppets or silhouettes) and if you head over to their website you can vote for what the first video release will be. My vote is for The Wild Women of Wongo, how about you?

I Can Has Cheezburger?

30 04 2007

I stumbled onto the photoblog I Can Has Cheezburger? the other day and I have no choice but to add it to my blogroll; I’m a sucker for stupid animal photos. Maybe it’s not the most intelligent brand of humor out there, but I just can’t help but laugh at many of the pictures that go up daily.

Jurassic Park 4: Noah’s Ark

30 04 2007

This just in via Cinescape (or Mania, as it’s now called); Darren Aronofksy (of Requiem for a Dream fame) is planning on making a film about Noah. This won’t be like the upcoming Evan Almighty however; Aronofksy is planning on looking at the “dark side” of the character, explaining in an interview that;

Noah was the first person to plant vineyards and drink wine and get drunk… It’s there in the Bible – it was one of the first things he did when he reached land. There was some real survivor’s guilt going on there. He’s a dark, complicated character.

The big question is, however, will Noah be sharing his ship with a pack of Deinonychus? If AiG had their way, I’m sure there would be.

Painful & Purple Prose: Omphalos

30 04 2007

Late Sunday afternoon I was finally able to close Philip Henry Gosse’s pretentious creationist work Omphalos and relieve the pain I had been putting my brain through. I must admit that I did not read every single page, however, as Gosse makes a point of taking the reader on a walk through the Creation just after it had been “called into being”, picking various examples from the plant & animal kingdoms and explaining how the age of an individual is determined. After a long discussion of how old the elephant, palm tree, or beetle in front of the hypothetical tourist is, Gosse triumphantly exclaims that any such assertion would be wrong being that we know that all life is not even an hour old.

Gosse does try very hard to reconcile geology with church doctrine, but alas, unless one already accepts a 6 day creation event (although Gosse makes a point of not saying whether this event happend 6,000 years ago or 6,000,000,000) Gosse’s entire premise falls flat. To save you the trouble of reading the work yourself, Gosse accepts that God “called into being” all life on the planet as well as creating Earth itself. He also (obviously) rejects “transmutation of species” and so all elephants were always born to elephants, and at the moment of creation only a just-sexually-mature adult would have appeared being that such a stage of life is the most perfect (the same goes for the rest of life, including us). What about fossils? Well, just as God would have created all adult beings with the vestiges of age, so too would God have created the world as if it were really ancient, as if there was no other way to do it (dinosaurs and other fossils being the equivalent to a tree’s growth rings). Gosse does cover his bases, however, and explains that species too have a life cycle, and the elephants of ancient times were just another stage in the continuous and unbroken lifecycle of elephants altogether. Screwy, ain’t he?

Obviously Gosse’s work did not have the impact he was wishing for, giving the faithful the impression that God was a deceiver while asking geologists to accept that they are finding the vestiges of creation in fossils rather than animals that once lived on earth. The whole book could have been written in about 25-50 pages, but Gosse goes to great length to lay out the arguments of others and then to use example after example after example in an attempt at straw man arguments. Gosse’s folly, however, is that he really sets up “stone man” arguments; he wants to make those who don’t accept Creation look like fools, only ending up looking foolish himself. Even beyond this silliness, Gosse’s writing style while walking the reader through the Garden of Eden is laughably pretentious. Here’s an example during an encounter with the ideal horse;

See this Horse, a newly created, really wild Horse,

“Wild as the wild deer, and untaught,
With spur and bridle undefiled,”-

his sleek coat a dun-mouse colour, with a black stripe running down his back, and with a full black mane and tail. He has a wild spiteful glance; and his eye, and his lips now and then drawn back displaying his teeth, indicate no very amiable temper. Still, we want to look at those teeth of his. Please to moderate your rancour, generous Dobbin, and let us make an inspection of their condition!

Luckily for me, I just received George Gaylord Simpson’s Horses so I can undo the brain damage such passages caused me. In all, Gosse’s book is more of a curiosity and a failed attempt to reconcile science and scripture. I do wonder, however, why more creationists have not tried his approach to fit geology into a Biblical context; most likely because it comes out being inconsistant with their beliefs. Then again, I wouldn’t say having a Tyrannosaurus rex in Eden, chomping on coconuts, lends much more credibility to the modern creationist movement.

Post Script: After reading Omphalos I turned to Errol Fuller’s Extinct Birds: Revised Edition. While beautifully illustrated and informative, it was very dry and not the sort of book easily read cover to cover, being that I only got to page 118 before having to give up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful book, but not one that makes for riveting reading. Thus, in the wee hours of the night, I opened up a copy of Carl Zimmer’s At the Water’s Edge I had purchased the day before on campus for $2 and thus far it’s proven to be rewarding. So much to learn, so little time…