Speaking of Catholicism…

Here’s a Catholic priest writing about the problems of Catholicism.

Everywhere from Boston to Minneapolis, Catholic churches have closed or been consolidated into regional clusters. The chief reason is declining Mass attendance.

In New York, Mass attendance has fallen to European levels, around 15 percent on an average Sunday, according to The New York Times. In Boston, it is even lower, around 12 percent.

Nationwide, only 24 percent of Catholics go to Mass on an average Sunday, down from 55 percent in 1965.

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Friday Cephalopod: Winning!

This week, everyone has been sending me a link to that horrible series of photos showing a seal gnawing and dismembering an octopus (no, I will not link to it! I might cry.) So instead I’m showing you a happy movie of a successful octopus gnawing and dismembering a crab.

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Humanity will change! Give me money now.

Man, I hate TED talks. I know there are some good ones, but like anything, 99% of them are crap, and the garbage gets gobbled up with the same fervor as the jewels.

So I get this blurb from a book publisher, promoting a new book coming out about evolution, by some guy whose main claim to fame seems to be that he’s a “TED all-star” (I looked a little deeper: he’s also a businessman who runs a biotech investment company). The email was titled “George Clooney’s wedding isn’t just unfair, it’s unnatural selection”, which set off alarms all over the place — klaxons and those whoop-whoop howling noises I’d hear from the fireboats on Puget Sound. (Actually, every morning my inbox produces a cacophony of bullshit, so this is nothing suprising.)

I was curious, though, so I read it instead of hitting delete.

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It’s not just creationists!

It’s also MDs who avoid the “E” word. A survey of the literature found an interesting shift in usage:

The results of our survey showed a huge disparity in word use between the evolutionary biology and biomedical research literature. In research reports in journals with primarily evolutionary or genetic content, the word “evolution” was used 65.8% of the time to describe evolutionary processes (range 10%–94%, mode 50%–60%, from a total of 632 phrases referring to evolution). However, in research reports in the biomedical literature, the word “evolution” was used only 2.7% of the time (range 0%–75%, mode 0%–10%, from a total of 292 phrases referring to evolution), a highly significant difference (chi-square, p < 0.001). Indeed, whereas all the articles in the evolutionary genetics journals used the word “evolution,” ten out of 15 of the articles in the biomedical literature failed to do so completely. Instead, 60.0% of the time antimicrobial resistance was described as “emerging,” “spreading,” or “increasing” (range 0%–86%, mode 30%–40%); in contrast, these words were used only 7.5% of the time in the evolutionary literature (range 0%–25%, mode 0%–10%). Other nontechnical words describing the evolutionary process included “develop,” “acquire,” “appear,” “trend,” “become common,” “improve,” and “arise.” Inclusion of technical words relating to evolution (e.g., “selection,” “differential fitness,” “genetic change,” or “adaptation”) did not substantially alter the picture: in evolutionary journals, evolution-related words were used 79.1% of the time that there was an opportunity to use them (range 26%–98%, mode 50%–60%), whereas in biomedical journals they were used only 17.8% of the time (range 0%–92%, mode 0%–10%).

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