Tuesday Night Notes

31 07 2007

I’m compelled to blog, even though I don’t really have much of a major post in me at the moment. Being that I’m drawing a blank, here’s what I’ve been up to;

1) I read another 100 pages of White’s A History of the Warfare of Science…. I’m now nearing the end of the first volume, and hopefully I’ll be finished with it by the weekend. He does use the term “sundry” quite a bit, but overall it is an excellent work and a good primer for those concerned with how religious authorities have essentially tried to beat down anything that seemed to contradict a narrow interpretation of the Bible for hundreds of years. It just takes some time to get through.

2) I watched Pan’s Labyrinth with my wife. Overall it was a very imaginative and well-shot film, although some of the gore was a bit over-the-top. Do I really need to see someone get their face based in or someone’s cheek torn open by a razor blade? You could make the argument that it advances the story in its brutality, but I just found the close up views of gore to be a bit much.

3) I leafed through the newest issue of Prehistoric Times. If I was an artist I’d submit something, but I’m nowhere near as talented as many of the contributors.

4) I wrote the general outline for part of my book, the part specifically dealing with modern creationist ideas about the Noachian Deluge and even when I play by the creationists own rules it doesn’t make sense and requires even more special pleading. I’ve got about 3-4 pages in word, but they are essentially the core ideas which will be expanded as I incorporate more information. In fact I’ve found that the best way for me to work on this book is to write down my ideas as they come to me/as I learn new things, arranging them and expanding them as I go to fill in the picture rather than trying to do it all in one go. I’m going to try and write at least something every night (even if I end up throwing it out later), and to help facilitate that every night I’m going to read at least one scientific paper and summarize it in greater or lesser detail for inclusion in the book. Not everything will make the cut in the end, but I want to build up a body of data to work with that I can tie together with various themes (i.e. Nisbett’s Arizonasaurus paper made me think of doing at least a section of a chapter on sails in extinct organisms, arising at least 3 different times. Any organs that spread a membrane out from a bony structure could be included in a more general discussion, but for now I’m just going to focus on fin-backed critters). As I’ve said before, I hope to at least have a working final draft done by the time I turn 25, so that gives me 7 months to really get things together. Even if it’s immediately picked up it probably won’t see the light of day for a year after that, but at that point at least I can say I’ve finished it and start compiling information for another project. If I could, I would just do as Buffon did and write volume after volume in a series on natural history, but I don’t know if I have the attention span and I surely lack the expertise. Either way, it’s about time that I really got serious about something I’ve been promising.


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6 responses

1 08 2007
Christopher Taylor

modern creationist ideas about the Noachian Deluge and even when I play by the creationists own rules it doesn’t make sense and requires even more special pleading

I’m inclined to agree with this one. I was struck while reading a creationist book a number of years ago about how the modern scientific interpretation of the world’s origin actually seemed more consistent with the account in Genesis than the incredible set-up the book’s author was trying to sell me (crystalline vapour ceilings, anyone?) I’m afraid I can’t recall the individual book in question, but I do recall that Barney was involved somehow.

1 08 2007
laelaps

Christopher; Thanks for the comment. As I was thinking about it, I figured that a better term for creationists would be Deluvianists or something similar, as the literal creation of the universe in 6 24-hour days in central to their dogma, but their main explanatory filter is the Flood. Without the Flood, the argument would be so strained they’d either have to accept science or claim that fossils were created by God to trick us or were tricks of the Devil, positions that have been rightly dismissed in the past. Still, even with the Flood, so much focus is put on pointing to features like the Grand Canyon and saying “The Flood happened” that little to no detail occurred. Following the Grand Canyon example, the rocks would have to have been pulverized into sediment, ancient animals buried in the exact order we would expect to find if evolution/an old earth were true, and then the whole thing would have to harden before the grand canyon was actually cut, the time allotted for all this being a year. Likewise, Adam and Eve are pointed to as everyone’s ancestors, but in reality Noah and his family would be if creationists were right, and they would have lived over 1600 years after the creation began, which would have allowed for harmful mutations to accumulate in their genomes (which would come out through the inevitable in-breeding). All this, of course, is saying nothing about the Ice Again that followed the Flood and came and left with great violence. Nor is the K/T impact crater under the Yucatan explained, which would have to have hit after the Flood being it underlies continents in their current forms, although how we would have survived and why no one made a note of this, I have no clue. Even among the creation “journals” like CRSQ, little attention to detail is given, and I find it hard to believe that anyone can sincerely hold that a global Flood struck the earth for a year, followed by a quick and violent Ice Age, only to have the following generations dispersed at Babel and degenerate into hominids. It’s enough to drive you up the wall.

1 08 2007
Zach Miller

Animals I know of that have independantly evolved sails:

Dimetrodon (carnivorous pelycosaur)
Edaphosaurus (herbivorous pelycosaur not closely related to Dimetrodon)
Spinosaurs (theropod dinosaur)
Ouranosaurus (ornithischian dinosaur)
Platyhystrix (amphibian)

Sails really are quite awesome!

1 08 2007
Christopher Taylor

I think there’s some disagreement about whether Ouranosaurus had a ‘sail’. The long blades on its vertebrae may have supported a more solid hump-back, like some modern cattle.

1 08 2007
Zach Miller

The only serious discussion of a “hump-back” structure in Ouranosaurus (and Spinosaurus) was a 1992 (I believe that’s the year) article in the journal “Paleontology.” I haven’t heard from that idea since, and there are actually quite a few differences between the vertebral column in Ouranosaurus and that of cattle. Overall constant height, for one.

1 08 2007
laelaps

Thanks Zach; you beat me to it. The overall problem with a hump-backed Ouranosaurus is that the neural spines are just too high; if it was a massive hump, the dinosaur may have well toppled over! Still, animals today like buffalo have humps that are associated with elongated neurals, and I’d definitely like to know if anyone has figured out what genes control this (and when in development these genes are triggered) as it might give us some clues as to how it may have happened in the past. Then again, buffalo are a long way from Dimetrodon, but the worst that could come from taking a look is a hypothesis being proven wrong.

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