World in Flames Free Fire Zone #27

All the news is either about the coming election or else it’s about lunacy elsewhere in the world. What’s wrong with everyone out there? Aren’t they interested in The Controversy between evolution and creationism?

Until we find some good stuff to write about, here are a few items that you may find interesting: Are our bones well designed? Insects and crabs have a leg up on us. It seems the designer — blessed be he! — has been holding out on us.

And if you’re worried about a mid-life crisis, be glad you’re not a mollusk: Research team finds mollusk changes gender as it ages.

Finally, just when you thought you were getting a grip on things, it all slips away: Scientists cast doubt on renowned uncertainty principle.

That’s all we’ve got, so once again, we have to entertain ourselves. As with all our free-fire zones, we’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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32 responses to “World in Flames Free Fire Zone #27

  1. If I can no longer be certain of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle….

    I guess there is nothing as uncertain as uncertainty itself.

  2. Regarding “Scientists cast doubt on renowned uncertainty principle:” this is exact what sciences is about … doubting. Since nothing can be proved absolutely, one must constantly challenge the status quo. If the concepts uphold the challenges they get stronger, if not they get weaker. Our creationist friends, on the other hand, do not allow for doubt, do not want their ideas challenged because they are “divinely inspired,” whatever the heck that means. Only weak ideas cannot stand up to challenges. Only weak gods are challenged by thinking or, for that matter, idiot videos.

  3. Curmudgeon: “Aren’t they interested in The Controversy between evolution and creationism?”

    No. Because, as you know, there is none.

    Evolution won, and in retrospect, nothing makes that more dramatically clear than the “evolution” of creationism during the last century from honest, if misguided belief, to full blown pseudoscience. Especially dramatic are the last 2-3 decades where the pseudoscience “evolved” from clever attempts to shoehorn evidence to “support” several mutually contradictory fairy tales – not even taken literally by most religions! – to an all-out scam. One that promotes unreasonable doubt of evolution by any means possible, and refuses to speculate on what happened (& when) instead. One that always ties those claims to a nonexistent conspiracy of scientists to replace God with Hitler. One that demonstrates, to any reasonable person paying attention and unwilling to bear false witness, nothing more than the radical, paranoid authoritarian agenda of the peddler of “creationism.”

  4. Frank J:[Creationism has evolved into]…an all-out scam.

    One that demonstrates, to any reasonable person paying attention and unwilling to bear false witness, nothing more than the radical, paranoid authoritarian agenda of the peddler of “creationism.”

    Yep. There are a lot of Elmer Gantrys out there fleecing the flocks. Besides the multitude of Southern Baptist creationist preachers and others of similar cloth pushing “that old-time religion”, we have Ken Ham hawking his Creation Museum and Ark Park fraud; the “Discovery” Institute hawking their books and doing all they can to get those books into public schools across the nation; and the ICR trying to peddle the idea that “Creation Science” is really science.

    There’s also a major push to privatize public education. We see that in the states that have already established voucher plans or have them in the works. There’s lots of money to be made by individuals starting their own private schools if only they can get the states to pay the tuition. Besides painting all of public education as being as bad as the worst of the inner-city schools, the lobbyists (DI, for instance) use biblical creationism vs. evolution to sway the religiously-inclined public to push their state assemblies to establish a voucher system. In order to get enough support to pass the legislation, the bills need to include the parochial schools in any voucher plan.

    I may be cynical, but I think it’s all about the money.

  5. An anecdote:

    In an utterly idle moment (well, ok, while bored during a business meeting) I had what I thought to be a real challenge for Creationists: why don’t microbes get a mention in Genesis?

    So I googled the question, “on which day of creation did God make microbes?”, and lo, readily unearthed another gem from Answers in Genesis, Microbes and the Days of Creation

    It’s a hoot! Though I occasionally worry that finding entertainment therein is probably as unseemly as the popular custom, in the 18th century, to visit Bedlam for the sake of a hearty laugh at the resident lunatics…

  6. Well, one thing’s for certain. William Jennings Bryan had some real loser agendas. He supported and encouraged Prohibition . (Perhaps he was supporting a Tennessee constituency moonshiner base.) He was quite certain of, and very vocal about, evolution being the root of all societal ills.
    I think the Curm has suggested he might be considered one of the founding fathers, if not the founding father, of creationism as we see it in the American south today. He ran for President and was Secretary of State, until his views caused enough of a stir during WWI, that he was forced to resign in 1915
    Theodore Roosevelt, on the other hand, a favorite populist President, was known to carry “On The Origin of Species” in a coat pocket when in the outdoors. I’m going with Teddy and Darwin, they had panache.
    Bryan should have stuck to playing tic tac toe on the back pages of his anti- science tracts. Has he received a retroactive Buffoon award yet?
    If not, lets nominate him! I want to find out more about this guy.

  7. @Megalonyx You must have been really bored at that meeting. That is one long article at AiG!

  8. Will asks: “Has he [Bryan] received a retroactive Buffoon award yet?
    If not, lets nominate him! I want to find out more about this guy.”

    Being dead — a good thing in Bryan’s case — he hasn’t been so honored. If he were alive I’d have to invent a new award — the All-Time, Galaxy-Class Idiot award. My thoughts on him are expressed here: Let’s Have William Jennings Bryan Day!

  9. Megalonyx says: “So I googled the question, on which day of creation did God make microbes?, and lo, readily unearthed another gem from Answers in Genesis”

    That article is absolutely insane.

  10. Ceteris Paribus

    Re the non-existence of scientific controversy and the reality of growth of the authoritarian agenda of creationism:

    All that the original perpetrators of the creationist scam had in mind was making a mere couple of million dollars by peddling their creationist textbooks to big purchasers such as the Texas State Board of Education.

    But there is a connection between radical paranoid authoritarian agendas and profit, which demonstrates that the market system is no way to run a government.

    It was the post WWII era of McCarthyism which opened up the doors of government to theocrats who swiftly inserted mandatory supplications to their god into what had previously been secular government.

    And that quickly morphed into the military-industrial-congressional complex which must be maintained at any price, to protect us from godless communism.

    The problem is that now that both parties must carefully check their political platforms and public prayer schedules to make sure they are make sufficient supplication to their god, what is the probability that there will ever arise a profit motive to protect us from their godly crony capitalism?

  11. Regarding the AIG article on microbes, the only conclusion I can come to is that these guys must moonlight as writers for The Onion. If not, they’re misusing their talent.

  12. Nice find, Megalonyx.

  13. Charles Deetz ;)

    Found this article today: a business guru using evolution as a metaphor. Don’t know if it is true or not: All the slow hedgehogs are dead

    Motor cars in the UK often left behind road kill. Hedgehogs would meander across the road and splat.

    Today, you hardly see that anymore. One reason is that there are fewer hedgehogs due to suburbanization. The real reason, though, is that slow hedgehogs became former hedgehogs, which meant that they were unable to produce more slow hedgehog kids.

  14. TomS: “Nice find, Megalonyx.

    Ditto that. Hope you have lots of boring business meetings, Meg.

  15. The Curmudgeon says Bryan deserves “The All-Time Galaxy Class Idiot Award”………. more studying here.
    Teddy Roosevelt, the Bull Moose Party and his pocket Darwin reference ,, sweet..

  16. Has he [Bryan] received a retroactive Buffoon award yet?

    Well, yes — in a manner of speaking. It was bestowed posthumously in memorable fashion by H. L. Mencken.

  17. I posted a question on another site (sorry, Curmie, but I’ve met someone else. we can still be friends.) and got this response regarding Coppedge’s case. If Becker is resetting the clock, why?

    Yes, the judge could rule against Coppedge with a simple “judgment for defendant.”

    If the plaintiff or defendant requests a “Statement of Decision,” then the judge must prepare a written opinion goign into some detail. Most judges know how to write these to bulletproof them on appeal.

    Under California law, the judge must render a decision within 90 days after the case has been submitted.

    Reading between the lines in the linked article, Becker has continued to submit post-trial briefs, essentially re-setting the 90 day clock.

    I suspect that’s why JPL is not filing a response to his latest–they don’t want to re-set the clock any more.

    The judge also has the power to prohibit further filings. I do not know why the judge has not done so in this case. Most judges I know would have cut Becker off by now and rendered the decision.

    If you recall, Becker’s recent brief lacked any substance: no facts of the case, no references to evidence; just an assertion that JPL was mean to his client.

  18. retiredsciguy: “Yep. There are a lot of Elmer Gantrys out there fleecing the flocks.”

    I’m glad you pluralized “flocks,” but I must add my usual demographics. One flock – committed Biblical literalists – needs no fleecing; they’ll throw money at whatever feels good. But there are 2 others that, like the first, each consist of ~1/4 of the population, and they are the target of my concern. One has varying, apparently reversible, doubts of evolution caused by the many misconceptions that the activists keep alive – too often with our unwitting help. The other claims to have no problem with evolution, but understands it poorly and thinks it’s fair to learn what the scam artists peddle in science class.

    You may be right that it’s all about the money, but I give the scam artists at least some benefit of the doubt that they might truly believe that they’re saving the world by having the “masses” believe what they know ain’t so. I won’t, however, go as far as most critics do, which is to assume that they honestly believe what they peddle, or that their apparent misunderstanding of science is not even partly faked.

  19. Well, Frank, as you say, they’re scam artists. And what’s the point of a scam if not to make money?

  20. Charles Deetz said “Found this article today: a business guru using evolution as a metaphor. Don’t know if it is true or not: All the slow hedgehogs are dead”
    Eureka!!Trekking in the Highlands of Scotland last August, we saw a sign in someones drive in Invergarry, that said “Slow, puppy about”,,,
    “slow puppy about,,,,,,,,,,,………
    what”?
    The pup was cur-tailed by a car ? ?
    Confusing sign. Fortunately, we found beer soon after.
    Think I’ll go read about Mencken, Neon’s “Sage of Baltimore”.

  21. On the claimed cause for the decline in the UK’s slow-moving hedgehog population, Charles Deetz declares:

    Don’t know if it is true or not.

    Without wishing to claim any specialised expertise on this, I would nonetheless argue that the claim is almost certainly not true.

    I reason thus: the hedgehog is a slow, waddling, and—frankly—cute little creature that does not look to celerity for defense from predators. Rather, in the face of peril (such as my bloodthirsty and irrepressible Jack Russell), the hedgehog rolls itself up into a ball, presenting to its tormentor an impenetrable array of sharp spines. And this, I can attest, is sufficient proof against marauding foxes or domestic terriers–but woefully inadequate against a Pirelli or Goodyear approaching at speed. Fleetness of foot is simply not being subjected to a selection filter here.

    There is still a suitable “organisational analogy” to be drawn from this if one wishes (and as the author of the linked blog article enjoins us so to do), but I would suggest it would better hinge on the limitations of an inflexible and wholly defensive approach to challenges in contrast to more proactive approaches. But for the actual decline in the hedgehog population, I little doubt other causes (chiefly, I understand, loss of habitat) are more likely.

    A thought occurs here (and forgive me, but once I start waffling…): in addition to the wilful distortions and outright fabrications of the Creationists, we are often ill served by much journalistic simplification of science generally, which gives rise to a wide-spread but deeply inaccurate version of ‘Darwinism’ – and it is this ‘Darwinism’ which many find not credible (as indeed it is not). This ‘Darwinism’ portrays ‘Evolution’ (and the capitalisation is deliberate) as if it were an active quasi-mystical force which intervenes at the level of individuals, a perception arising (I suspect) from short-hand analogies used, such as the phrase ‘Evolutionary arms race.’ Which is a fine short-hand to illustrate the tendency of populations to have evolutionary filtering effects on subsequent generations (slower rabbits are preyed upon before reproductive maturity by faster wolves, leaving slower wolves to starve and faster rabbits to survive, etc.). But if misunderstood as an active, directed, and purposeful process, it can give rise to no end of nonsense “refutations”, e.g., “If Evolution equips animals in an arms race, why aren’t there now bullet-proof deer?”

  22. Of a printed Scottish notice, Will observes:

    Confusing sign

    Indeed. As an American long resident in Britain, I have my own copious collection of similar differences in UK and US usage, but will confine myself to just two exemplars.

    The first is a sign posted beside the pond in Kensington Gardens:

    Please do not worry the ducks

    I was not sure what I could possibly do that could cause a duck to worry, unless perhaps to stare at it while licking my lips and brandishing a bowl of orange sauce, though I subsequently learned that ‘worry’ may be correctly used here transitively, with the sense of ‘to harry, chase, annoy,’ as in, “Please stop your dog from worrying my sheep.”

    Confusion can reign in the other direction, as when I take my (British) wife for visits to the American South. In England, “a shag” is a popular colloquialism for an act of coitus, so my better half was ill-prepared for the bold billboard we encountered outside Charleston SC:

    Shag Lessons every Wednesday at Eastland Mall, the place for Shoppin’ and Shaggin’!

    Two nations divided by a common language, indeed!

  23. Megalonyx:…it can give rise to no end of nonsense “refutations”, e.g.,”If Evolution equips animals in an arms race, why aren’t there now bullet-proof deer?”

    The answer to that question,perhaps, is that guns haven’t been around long enough for a race of deer to have evolved with very thick, impenetrable skin. On the other hand, predators with sharp teeth have been around for a long time. Thus, we have turtles, elephants, hippos, and rhinos. Not perfectly bulletproof (depending on the caliber & muzzle speed), but adequately tooth-proof. Other animals, such as deer, rely on their speed and alertness to avoid teeth.

    It might have been possible for hedgehogs to have evolved into a race that avoids cars, but it would have nothing to do with speed. Rather, if a particular family of hedgehogs didn’t like the feel of pavement underfoot, they would avoid roads, and thus avoid death by motorcar.

    Here in the US, we see many roadkill skunks, opossum, and raccoons. Skunks and opossum are famous for their particular defense strategies, but unfortunately for them, those defenses are ineffective against Buicks. That doesn’t seem to have made them less common, though. Not sure why raccoons get squished as often as they do; probably because they’re just not fast enough to get out of the way. But we still have plenty of raccoons, so going back to the hedgehog, it’s probably not cars causing their decline.

  24. Megalonyx says: “I reason thus: the hedgehog is a slow, waddling, and—frankly—cute little creature that does not look to celerity for defense from predators.”

    The obvious answer is to outlaw 16-oz cups for hedgehogs. Problem solved! (I’m such an environmentalist.)

  25. SC: “The obvious answer is to outlaw 16-oz cups for hedgehogs. Problem solved! (I’m such an environmentalist.)

    Quibble — since we’re talking about the UK, wouldn’t that be half-liter cups?

  26. retiredsciguy asks:

    Quibble — since we’re talking about the UK, wouldn’t that be half-liter cups?

    Not a quibble, and (in some quarters at least), a recurring political hot topic, as well as a fine illustration of British insularity/obstinance/heroic resistance to the French (delete as applicable).

    Brief explication: British resistance to EU metrification is intense. Earlier EU legislation which rendered non-metric (Imperial) measures illegal in retail transactions have been partly rolled-back, and replaced by a de facto ‘fudge and mudge’ singular way of doing things. So, for example, the move to sell milk in litres instead of Imperial pints (which are not the same as US pints, but that is by the by) was defeated by popular resistance–but legal compliance is maintained by inclusion of mandatory labelling in metric units. Thus, I still buy milk in a large carton which contains 4 Pints, but which is also required to be labelled as containing 2.272 litres. This compromise appears to keep British consumers and Brussels bureaucrats content, but it must look at least moderately crazy to the rest of the world, and likely is far beyond the grasp of hedgehogs.

    And Curmy’s Bloombergian solution suggests to me an empirical study. As it happens, the British Isles were originally home to a species of red squirrel, but these natives have largely been suplanted by the North American grey squirrel, which arrived here from thence as shipboard stowaways. I offer two observations arising:

    [1] Here the grey squirrel, unlike the hedgehog, makes a frequent appearance as road-kill on British highways (perhaps, despite their triumph over the indigenous red squirrel, they are simply unable to adjust to the British driving on the left?)

    [2] It was very striking to me, during a recent visit to New York City and a stroll in Battery Park, that the grey squirrels of Manhattan are indeed substantially more obese than the descendants of their cousins who migrated to Britain (and whose entrails so often grease the country roads of Shropshire).

    Will Bloomberg’s dictum trickle down to the rodents of the Big Apple? Only time will tell…

  27. An English road side sign, “Mind the Toads”.

  28. Directional road sign in England:

    Secret Nuclear Bunker

    Thank you very much!

  29. Megalonyx: “Here the grey squirrel, unlike the hedgehog, makes a frequent appearance as road-kill on British highways (perhaps, despite their triumph over the indigenous red squirrel, they are simply unable to adjust to the British driving on the left?)

    Interesting and clever hypothesis! However, we have lots of grey squirrels splattered on our US roads as well. Besides, your grey squirrels most likely came over before the advent of the automobile, so …

    (Yes, I know your tongue was firmly in cheek, Megalonyx. I just can’t help being the pedant.)

    The fox squirrel is another species common in the US that’s substantially larger than the grey squirrel. They’re “just born that way”, so cutting down on their intake of sugary drinks probably won’t help much. Have they made their way to the UK as well?

  30. Here is my one original joke:

    Why did the chicken cross the road?
    To show the possum that it could be done.

    Some one sent this in to the Reader’s Digest, and I have seen it with other animals substituted for the possum. I wonder if it is a matter of cultural diffusion, or independent origin in different places when the time is right.

  31. Squirrels evolved an open-ground escape strategy that’s pretty effective against predators but disastrous on highways. When they see a threat approaching fast, they dart rapidly back and forth over a space of a couple of yards or less, to trick a hawk or fox into zigging when the squirrel zags. To further confuse the issue, the tail, being about the same apparent size as the body, serves as a decoy target. An approaching car, having no appetite for squirrel meat, generally barrels straight ahead. It’s a little wider than the squirrel’s diversionary pattern, so that a squirrel missed by a front tire on one side is likely to get squashed by the rear on the other.

  32. @Retired Prof: Thank you for explaining this behavior of squirrels! I have observed this many times, and I just thought that in the squirrel’s panic, it couldn’t decide which way to go. It always appeared that it would have been so much safer for the squirrel to just keep running in one direction. So, this apparently “squirrelly” behavior actually has survival value. Evolution at work! Eventually, a race of squirrels may develop that can discern the difference between a fox and a Ford. Or a hawk and a Honda.