No debate freebies!

I just had to mention to someone who is trying to arrange a Darwin Day debate for 2019 (I am favorably impressed that they’re planning way ahead), that I actually have specific requirements for creationist debates nowadays. Usually that scares them away, but we’ll see this time.

Much of that is negotiable, depending on who’s doing the asking. I was just getting a little tired of being the talking monkey dragged into church to face a hostile audience of bussed-in parishioners who were always unsatisfied when my opponent failed to draw blood.

Born 150 million years too late

I’m reading a few papers on cephalopod evolution, and one helped me pinpoint my happy time.

Coleoid cephalopod molluscs comprise squid, cuttlefish and octopuses, and represent nearly the entire diversity of modern cephalopods. Sophisticated adaptations such as the use of colour for camouflage and communication, jet propulsion and the ink sac highlight the unique nature of the group. Despite these striking adaptations, there are clear parallels in ecology between coleoids and bony fishes. The coleoid fossil record is limited, however, hindering confident analysis of the tempo and pattern of their evolution. Here we use a molecular dataset (180 genes, approx. 36 000 amino acids) of 26 cephalopod species to explore the phylogeny and timing of cephalopod evolution. We show that crown cephalopods diverged in the Silurian–Devonian, while crown coleoids had origins in the latest Palaeozoic. While the deep-sea vampire squid and dumbo octopuses have ancient origins extending to the Early Mesozoic Era, 242 ± 38 Ma, incirrate octopuses and the decabrachian coleoids (10-armed squid) diversified in the Jurassic Period. These divergence estimates highlight the modern diversity of coleoid cephalopods emerging in the Mesozoic Marine Revolution, a period that also witnessed the radiation of most ray-finned fish groups in addition to several other marine vertebrates. This suggests that that the origin of modern cephalopod biodiversity was contingent on ecological competition with marine vertebrates.

There are lots of details, but the summary is this: they’ve used the molecular data to calibrate a tree of cephalopod phylogeny to place the major diversifications of the group in context, and they’ve also looked at degrees of diversity over time. And the answer is summarized in this one diagram:

Chronogram of cephalopods, plus 26 bivalve and gastropod molluscs, one scaphopod and four annelids as outgroups and calibration nodes; 36 156 amino acid positions analysed under CAT-GTR substitution model, CIR clock model, Yule birth–death process, soft bound of 0.05, and a root prior of 565 Ma with a standard deviation of ±10 Ma. Bars at nodes represent 95% confidence intervals (recent nodes not labelled with bars to aid clarity). Red dots indicated calibrated nodes; red dotted lines represent extent of calibration minima. Environmental conditions and sea-level curve simplified from Miller et al. Curves for belemnite, actinopterygian, chondrichthyan and Palaeozoic fish diversity are based on fossil observations on diversity, data from Palaeobiology Database (pbdb.org), electronic supplementary material, table S5. Red vertical lines represent major extinction events. Aqua-blue vertical bar signifies the extent of the Mesozoic Marine Revolution.

Chronogram of cephalopods, plus 26 bivalve and gastropod molluscs, one scaphopod and four annelids as outgroups and calibration nodes; 36 156 amino acid positions analysed under CAT-GTR substitution model, CIR clock model, Yule birth–death process, soft bound of 0.05, and a root prior of 565 Ma with a standard deviation of ±10 Ma. Bars at nodes represent 95% confidence intervals (recent nodes not labelled with bars to aid clarity). Red dots indicated calibrated nodes; red dotted lines represent extent of calibration minima. Environmental conditions and sea-level curve simplified from Miller et al. Curves for belemnite, actinopterygian, chondrichthyan and Palaeozoic fish diversity are based on fossil observations on diversity, data from Palaeobiology Database (pbdb.org), electronic supplementary material, table S5. Red vertical lines represent major extinction events. Aqua-blue vertical bar signifies the extent of the Mesozoic Marine Revolution.

They’ve got a good story behind it, too. What drove the concurrent evolution of both cephalopods and bony fish was a competition to occupy the nektonic space. That is, before the Devonian, animals were primarily benthic — the lowest level of the aquatic environment than includes the floor of the body of water — and that the hot new space to occupy was the nekton, the upper levels of the water. This required new strategies, fish evolved jaws, cephalopods evolved beaks, that opened up new predator/prey relationships. Further, as these groups evolved in the nekton, there was a switch in defensive strategies from making heavy armor to stripping down and becoming more agile. Those trends are conspicuous in both groups.

Taken together, molecular divergence times and the cephalopod fossil record are consistent with a scenario in which predator–prey arms races shaped the coleoid body plan, biodiversity and ecology. The coincidence with the evolution of jawed vertebrates and teleost fishes during the Devonian Nekton Revolution and the Mesozoic Marine Revolution, suggests that nektonic marine vertebrates have been key antagonists towards cephalopods throughout most of their evolution.

So it all started with the Devonian Nekton Revolution, and reached completion in the Mesozoic Marine Revolution, which they call “the final stage in the shift from Palaeozoic ecologies into the modern structure of marine ecosystems”. What you can also see in the diagram is that there has been a shift in the diversity of the phyla occupying that nektonic niche, with cephalopods owning the Mesozoic seas, and teleosts taking over in the Cenezoic.

Which tells me that when I retire, I need to set the dials on my time machine to the late Jurassic/early Cretaceous, and settle down to start fishing/squidding. I was just checking my maps and I see that there was a big inland sea stretching from British Columbia and Calgary, down to most of North Dakota and the western part of South Dakota, so I would only have to move a few hundred miles west.

And 150 million years back.


Tanner AR, Fuchs D, Winkelmann IE, Gilbert MT, Pankey MS, Ribeiro ÂM, Kocot KM, Halanych KM, Oakley TH, da Fonseca RR, Pisani D, Vinther J. (2017) Molecular clocks indicate turnover and diversification of modern coleoid cephalopods during the Mesozoic Marine Revolution. Proc Biol Sci. 284(1850). pii: 20162818. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2818.

Steve King watch

He simply doesn’t know when to shut up. He was interviewed about his previous racist comments, and guess what he babbled about? The coming Race War.

Iowa Rep. Steve King said Monday that blacks and Hispanics will be fighting each other before overtaking whites in the US population.

King, a Republican, was on the radio responding to a question about Univision anchor Jorge Ramos’ comment to Tucker Carlson on Fox News that whites would become a majority-minority demographic in America by 2044, a point Ramos used to make the argument that it is a multiracial country.

Jorge Ramos’ stock in trade is identifying and trying to drive wedges between race, King told Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson on 1040 WHO. Race and ethnicity, I should say to be more correct. When you start accentuating the differences, then you start ending up with people that are at each other’s throats. And he’s adding up Hispanics and blacks into what he predicts will be in greater number than whites in America. I will predict that Hispanics and the blacks will be fighting each other before that happens.

Because white people have always been innocent bystanders. No, sir, white Americans never tried to commit genocide, or enslave and torture black people, or or carry out wars of conquest in Latin America — that was just all those people fighting with each other.

raspail

You won’t believe his source for this prediction.

King concluded the interview by recommending that listeners read the novel, “The Camp of the Saints,” by French author Jean Raspail, a book about Europe being overcome by immigrants which has also frequently been referenced by top Trump advisers Steve Bannon. The book has been criticized as presenting a racist view of immigration.

Yep. A work of fiction, written by a racist, about a South Asian armada full of impoverished people preparing to invade Europe.

Only white Europeans like Calgues are portrayed as truly human in The Camp of the Saints. The Indian armada brings thousands of wretched creatures whose very bodies arouse disgust: Scraggy branches, brown and black … All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms. Poor brown children are spoiled fruit starting to rot, all wormy inside, or turned so you can’t see the mold.

The ship’s inhabitants are also sexual deviants who turn the voyage into a grotesque orgy. Everywhere, rivers of sperm, Raspail writes. Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers.

This is what Steve King reads in his spare time? It’s what he recommends to journalists?

Hygge-what?

I could get into this hygge thing. The Danes have had a good idea or two.

Enter hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”). It’s a Danish word without a precise analog, but loosely translated as cozy contentment. It’s an important part of the Danish world view — people talk about how hyggeligt it will be to get together, and how hyggelig that get-together was.

Sounds nice. I’m thinking that a nice curl-up with a good book would make for a nice break. But…

Appropriate to Denmark’s climate (and our winter), hygge is about hunkering down: It’s all candles, blazing fires, warm blankets and fuzzy slippers, reading nooks (called hyggekrog), comfortable pants (hyggebukser), wollen socks (hyggesokker) and tea.

I’m getting a bit hoogaed out just reading about it. I’ve got a hyggekrog and some nice hyggebukser and hyggesokker, and I was going to get a cup of hot tea, but this is getting to be a bit much. Also, a fire isn’t the most efficient way to heat the house, and they say I also have to consciously hygge, and that candlelight is important? Nah, I prefer the pleasant glow of a flat screen.

It just goes round and round and round

I joined the Great Debate Community last night to talk about this chromosome 2 fusion thing again. One of the topics was about why we have to keep hammering away at the obvious beyond the point where any rational human being would have to accept the facts. Another question was why Jeffrey Tomkins is so committed to promoting a counterfactual that is neither supported by the evidence nor is required by the doctrines of his religion.

If you have an explanation, tell me. Or just watch the video.

Racism is a state of mind

A woman — this woman — pestered poor Sean Spicer with a volley of criticisms while he was out shopping. He mostly ignored her, as is his right, but he opened his mouth once to reply to her. And this is what he chose to say.

We live in a great country that allows you to be here, Spicer said.

Wow. What makes Spicer think that her right to be here might be in question? That he gets to make what sounds an awful lot like a threat? Read Shree’s own response to that comment.

If the price of homogeneity is that we all have to look like Steve King, I’m not paying

Steve King, who is definitely one of the dumbest politicians in America, put his foot in his mouth once again. He is endorsing openly racist ideas, making David Duke happy, and confirming once again that the Republican party has become the shit-hole where we dump our very worst people.

King in a tweet praised Geert Wilders, including a cartoon depicting Wilders plugging a hole in a wall that reads Western civilization.

Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies, the congressman wrote.

Actually, yes you can. In fact, you must. Our country alone contains over 300 million people, is Steve King planning to fill the nation with the fruit of his loins? Obviously not. When he says our civilization, he has a broader group of people in mind than just his immediate family. When he says somebody else’s babies, he’s explicitly making a division among the people living here to exclude a group. The question is, where is he drawing the line within our people?

I think we can all guess. And it’s understood that somebody else’s babies are quite simply the brown people who don’t look like him.

There’s a word I like: ecumene. It recognizes that there is a broader community of people living in a land, bound together by the ties of our culture, but still allowing for diversity. I don’t like people who want to shatter our ecumene.

It’s a clear message, King said on Monday. We need to get our birth rates up or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half century or a little more. And Geert Wilders knows that and that’s part of his campaign and part of his agenda.

Guess what, Steve King? Our countries are going to be transformed whether you like it or not, and whether one ethnic group or another has greater birth rates. People gripe about different generations within a population, and always have. Cultures change, always. It’s human nature. The concern is to shape those changes in positive directions. One example of that is public education, which Steve King’s party wants to destroy.

Also, our birth rates? Whose? Is Steve King a resident of the Netherlands? Perhaps he thinks he’s being inclusive. I warn you, though: allow Iowans to find commonality with the Nederlanders, and next thing you know, you’re going to have to let Belgians into the club. And if you let Belgians in, you’re going to have to recognize your affinity to the French. From there it’s a slippery slope to Iowans becoming cosmopolitan people of the world, and there goes your dream of redneck insularity.

King went on to criticize illegal immigration to the United States and immigrants who don’t assimilate into the American culture.

I’m in a state where you can buy lefse and lutefisk any day of the year, where communities celebrate Syttende Mai, where individuals proudly fly blue and yellow flags, where we tell Ole and Lena jokes. Is that OK, Steve King? I notice that you have a motley assortment of flags on your desk, including a Traitor’s Flag.

Steve-King-Confederate-Flag

I think that it is fine to be proud of your heritage, and people should celebrate the customs of their Latin American or African or European or Asian ancestors. It’s when it becomes exclusionary, and you try to shame people for their history, or you use your history to justify oppression, that it becomes a problem.

Living in enclaves, refusing to assimilate into the American culture and civilization. Some embrace it, yes. But many are two and three generations living in enclaves that are pushing back now and resisting against the assimilation, he said.

Like, say, Minnesota? My family came over from Sweden and Norway in the early 19th century, it’s been like five generations, and they haven’t forgotten old customs. My grandparents even moved again from Minnesota to Washington state and found communities of like-minded Scandinavians to live among! Yet somehow second-generation citizens who speak English at school and still speak Spanish to their abuelita are a problem?

How much assimilation do you want?

King also emphasized his view that western civilization is a superior civilization.

I like Western civilization, too, but I think its strengths are openness and willingness to share the benefits of society with all (which, come to think of it, was also true once upon a time of Islamic civilization and Roman civilization and Chinese civilizations, or at least, those civilizations that thrived and grew).

So why does Steve King want to make changes that turn us into an inferior civilization?

I’d like to see an America that’s just so homogenous that we look a lot the same, from that perspective, he said.

Oh, jebus. I just imagined an America populated exclusively by balding, potato-nosed, pop-eyed, pale-skinned, thin-lipped stupid people, and it was horrific.