Phosphatized pre-Cambrian embryos are cool. It’s amazing that they’ve been preserved at all, and they are spectacularly gorgeous. We can learn about the evolution of development from their superficial appearance, but what we really want to do is poke around their interiors and analyze them cell by cell, something that has been hard to do without destroying them in the process. Until now.
A report in Nature (and a too short mention on a researcher’s web page) describes the application of synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM) to these fossilized embryos to resolve their internal structure. It’s a powerful tool, and it’s generating some beautiful images.
In regional news, the Catholic church is getting sued. Two hundred bishops have been named in a lawsuit filed by a Wisconsin family. I suspect you won’t even need to read the article to guess what it’s about.
That’s right: a conspiracy by the church hierarchy to protect a pedophile priest.
This priest committed suicide after the police homed in on him in a murder investigation, which makes it a little more sordid. Apparently, the priest, Ryan Erickson, argued with a local man about the accusations of child abuse, and shot him and an innocent bystander to shut him up. Erickson wasn’t just a messed up pedophile, he was a gun nut who wore a pistol under his robes at Mass, and had a reputation as a histrionic religious fanatic, even more so than you’d expect of a priest. One of the bizarre revelations at that last link is that the guy was also in charge of sex education for his parish, and was particularly interested in suppressing and condemning masturbation. I guess, actually, it’s not masturbation if you get a little boy to help you out.
I’ll be very surprised if this lawsuit goes anywhere, though. Religion is always regarded as a solid defense.
That Moonie creationist with a degree in developmental biology, Jonathan Wells, floated an actual hypothesis a while back: he postulated that the centrioles were little turbines that generated a force with their rotation. I never saw it as much of a support for Intelligent Design; it was an idea about how centrioles function that did not rule out that they arose by evolutionary mechanisms. Wells seemed to think it was significant because he was inspired by an analogy with a human artifact, but la de da…I don’t think benzene rings are actually made of snakes, despite Kekule’s inspiration.
Anyway, now Ian Musgrave hammers another stake through that idea’s heart: Wells’ hypothesis is falsified.
Jake Young has a good discussion of gender differences and performance in the sciences. His conclusion is one I agree with: there are real differences between men’s and women’s brains, but they are not of a sort to account for the differences in representation in scientific fields. For that, we have to go to culture, and the imposition of extrinsic limits on what people are allowed to do.
I’d better go home and put on my “Welcome Squid Overlords” t-shirt—someone has caught an octopus…in the Ohio River.
Unfortunately, this is almost certainly a case of some bastard bringing a cephalopod home, allowing it to die, and throwing it out like a piece of garbage. When the cephalopod overlords do show up, I hope they take care of him/her first.
Since there was a comment asking about that strange “PYGMIES + DWARFS” exclamation we sometimes get in these parts, I thought I’d bring over all the articles from the old site, just to have them here and explain some of the inside baseball lingo. So here’s the collection:
“PYGMIES + DWARFS” is simple—it’s a wonderfully illogical non sequitur. How do we know that there were biblical giants? Because there are very short people nowadays. It’s a representative example of a whole mindset, where any random observation is marshaled by an unconscious chain of absurdist logic to prop up an unlikely claim. It’s not just Pinkoski that does this, there’s also a reek of the same silliness to Francis Collins, for instance: seeing a three-part waterfall and leaping to the conclusion that the Christian trinity is a universal truth is a perfect example of “PYGMIES + DWARFS” logic.
One other thing. I think I’ve been rather mean to poor Pinkoski, publicly and repeatedly exposing his foolishness like this. I suspect from my few interactions with him that he is a decent human being, lives a normal life, and has a bit of talent. Don’t forget that, inane as his ideas are, he’s still a person who has every right to enjoy the privileges of his life and that he has done nothing criminal.
What we have to do, though, is criticize these idiotic ideas as harshly as possible. They’re wrong, they’re insane, and Pinkoski is part of a whole network of people whose goal is to disseminate ideologically-driven lies as far as possible, and Pinkoski’s role in this is to write comic books that appeal to kids to corrupt them as early as possible. Pinkoski might be a nice guy on a personal level, but we can’t afford to pull punches when such flaming gobshite is presented to the public.
It’s been a little while since I last brought up Pinkoski, so maybe you can handle another dollop. When I got his creationism comic book, I also picked up another, titled “Christian SF”, which promised to be the first in a series of comics containing science fiction stories with Christian themes.
Oh, it is bad.
Ignoring the Christian content completely, it is a major rip-off. It contains all of two stories, each given only 3 or four pages, which barely set up the premise and then stop cold, telling you to buy Christian SF #2 to find out what happens.
The first is titled “Who is the model citizen”, and consists of a few pages of exposition about terrorist attacks on the US requiring new weapons, and then the unveiling of a humanoid robot. That’s it.
The second, “The aliens”, sets the stage with some alien worlds where everyone is perfect and happy and worships God, when another alien shows up and announces that there has been a “great non-friendliness among the beings that serve the great I AM”, and that part of the Milky Way has been declared off-limits. Again, it just ends there.
As science fiction and as story telling, this thing just plain sucks. It’s got a few pages of the beginnings of some very lame stories, and everything in between is evangelical Christian babbling…and that’s where you’ll find the real science fiction. I haven’t seen such bizarre theology since I caught a glimpse of premillennial dispensationalism—what is it about the crazed Christian extremists that they can simultaneously declare their belief in literal biblical fundamentalism while indulging in the most fantastic distortions of the book itself?
For instance, here’s how Pinkoski explains the Christian Trinity.