Archive for the ‘creationism’ Category

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Lumpers, Splitters and Noah’s Ark

19 August, 2010

One of my father’s frequent pithy comments, one of his stock phrases, was, “The world is made up of two kinds of people:  lumpers and splitters.”  And palaeontologists are no exception.  Actually, they may be the definition of lumpers and splitters.

Scientists in almost every discipline are, whether they choose to admit it or not, are natural splitters.  Every (well, almost every) budding palaeontologist is a splitter.  Why?  What better way to get one’s name noticed, to get that elusive grant or, even better, teaching position, than to have your very own genus chalked up on your wall of fame?  This means, of course, that species are sometimes described based upon flimsy evidence.  One of the most famous was Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus.  Othniel Marsh, one of the true giants of early palaeontology, described Apatosaurus ajax based on a very incomplete fossil in 1877.  Then, two years later, he described Brontosaurus excelsus  based on six skeletons and part of a skull.  A quarter century later, the species, which had been split, was lumped back together by Elmer Riggs.  Of course, Brontosaurus is such a beautiful name that we continue to use it, though it is a junior synonym. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Corporate Sponsorship of Palaeontological Research and Education

16 July, 2010
I was sitting on the can last night (too much information?), reading A Guide to Dinosaurs (Brochu, Long, McHenry, Scanlon, and Willis; Fog City Press, 2002), and ran across this image:
Qantassauras
Qantassaurus, from A Guide To Dinosaurs, 2002

 

Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Anti-American GOP

15 July, 2010

How’s that for an inflammatory title?  I think I can support it, though.

Democracy is the philosophy which holds the United States of America together.  The rules apply to all.  We all pay taxes1, taxes which we, through our elected representatives, have agreed to pay as an admission fee for a civilized country.  We all obey the same laws, laws which we, through our elected representatives, have agreed to obey to make our lives safer.  Yet one of our major political parties, the Grand Old Party, the Republican Party, is attempting to short circuit this grand experiment in self-government.   

Democracy cannot be enforced at the point of a bayonet2.  It is a social and governmental compact to which we, as citizens and residents, have agreed.  The idea that all men are created equal, that there are certain inalienable rights which apply to all, requires fealty to the idea that we all must follow the same rules, tolerate the same red tape, stand in the same lines.  We expect there to be no special privileges such as the hochadel of the 1600s enjoyed, such as the lords of England enjoyed, such as the party members of the USSR enjoyed.

But democracy also requires three basic conditions — literacy, free time, and wealth.  And, since the Reagan Revolution of the early 1980s, what has been under attack by the new conservatives?  Education and middle class wealth, and the free time that wealth created. Read the rest of this entry ?

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I Don’t Need to Know This: Mythology and the Protection of World Views

20 September, 2009

Over at the Spanish Inquisitor, SI brought into the discussion about the recent study showing that religiosity and teen pregnancy are closely linked a view into the willful ignorance of faith.  Faith, the willingness to believe something despite no or contrary evidence, requires ignoring certain aspects of the world around us.  And to protect the worldview of the faithful, almost anything — the beliefs of other religions and cultures, any contrary world view, even the findings of scientists  — can be relegated to myth.   The thing of it is, though, every religion teaches that their mythology is fact, and all others are myth.  Maybe they are all correct. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Shark Jumping GOP

7 September, 2009

There was a time, long ago, last century, to be exact, that the Republican Party, the GOP, was a party of ideas.  The ideas were bullshit, but they had ideas.  Cut taxes for the rich, raise taxes on everyone else, and the economy will improve.  Cut taxes and the tax revenue will increase.  Punish people for being poor and the poor will bootstrap themselves right up.  Deregulate industry and industry will  regulate itself.  These policies have given us huge deficits, a wider gap between rich and the rest of us, businesses bankrupting themselves for lack of regulation, and a government which does not have the money to provide the basic services Americans expect.  This is all the direct result of the GOP’s ideas.

Now, the GOP has become the party of no.  No ideas.  Just say no to everything.  Loudly.  Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Poverty of a Young Earth Viewpoint

10 July, 2009

When I was 12 years old, my father took me out of school for two days and we hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  As we passed the Temple Butte Limestone and the  Tonto formation (Muav Limestone, Bright Angel Shale and Tapeats Sandstone) we began taking samples of each layer, placing them in my almost empty backpack, and carrying them down to Phantom Ranch.  We sampled the Temple Butte (a nice exposure along the Kaibab Trail), the Tonto, the accessible Grand Canyon Group, the Vishnu Schist and the Zoroaster Granite.  We also sampled the dikes and sills within the metamorphosed pre-Cambrian formations.  By the time we got to the bottom, my pack weighed around 60 pounds.  Those rocks came out of the canyon by mule.  We repeated the process on the way up, sampling the Redwall Limestone, the Supai Group, the Hermit Shale, Coconino Sandstone, Toroweap Limestone and Kaibab Limestone.

Ordinarily, this would be illegal as all get-out, but my dad was a Park Ranger and we were collecting the rocks for the museum at Yavapai Point.  Years later, when I visited the canyon again, I was rather put-out.  The large rocks we had hauled up and down the canyon trails had been cut down to samples twice the size of my fist.  I carried rocks three times the size, and they cut them down to little bitty pieces.  We could have chopped them down to size before lugging them around.

 According to more than half of Americans, the Grand Canyon is a monument to Noah’s Flood.   The shales, limestones, sandstones, lava flows, block faulting of the Grand Canyon Supergroup, the metamorphic Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite (metamorphosed from sandstone, limestone, shale and lava flows) were deposited during and directly after the Noatic flood.  Read the rest of this entry ?

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At Least Ussher Had An Excuse

26 May, 2009

Archbishop James Ussher was a  brilliant man.  He decided to figure out just how old the earthis and used both written history, astronomy, and the Old Testament of the Bible to do it.  And he arrived at the “entrance of the night preceding  the twenty-third day of October in the year of the Julian calendar 710.”  In other words, October 22, 4004 BC.  Despite slipshod calculations and a hefty helping of assumptions, this date is accepted by a remarkable number of Americans.  In the early 17th century, science was so limited, so primitive, so unrefined, that Ussher’s estimate was not bad.  Wrong, but, given the temporally necessary limitations, not bad.  He had an excuse.  He did not have to disbelieve almost everything in order to hang on to that date. Read the rest of this entry ?