Archive for the ‘Evolution’ Category

h1

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 ?

h1

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 ?

h1

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 ?

h1

SEX!

22 July, 2009

By this time, most of you (at the very least, the six regular readers I have) should know that I am a naturalist.  Which means, of course, that I do not by into the Genesis version of the creation of the world, the universe, life, or the myriad species inhabiting our earth.  And I view evolution as an established fact (it is only called a theory because we do not yet (and probably will never) know all of the exact details regarding every event). 

One of the reasons that I found evolution rather boring in the science classes I took was a neglect of sex.  Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

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 ?

h1

Six Arguments for the Existence of God

7 July, 2009

I jumped over to LoLGod for some religiously-based humour.  Oddly, advertisements are mixed in.  Included in that was a link to a web site which answers the question, “Does God exist?” via “six straight-forward reasons to believe that God is really there.”  Now I am not a logician, I am not a lawyer, I am not a philosopher;  I am a rank amateur when it comes to arguments.  I am also not a biologist, a potted plant, or a seminarian.  I am, however, a reasonably well-read historian with a fairly good understanding of the natural world.  So I clicked over and realized, very quickly, that the arguments are rather amateurish.

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

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 ?