Did Watterson ever do squid?

Here’s a spiffy picture.


It’s almost ruined for me by the artist’s description, though.

Here, raw sexual aggression is symbolized by the sperm whale, while the squid acts as a thinly-disguised metaphor for the multi-armed oligarchies of Rockefeller, Hearst, and Morgan. Their battle plays against the backdrop of the sea, standing in for—what else?—the vastness of the unconscious mind.

He can’t possibly be serious. It reminded me more of this:


Forget the metaphors and monopolies and minds…it’s just cooooool.

I guess Bush really didn’t mean anything

Bush didn’t really mean we were going to try and reduce our dependency on Middle East oil.

Bush didn’t really mean we were going to invest more in alternative energy research.

In this thread, I’ve got Bush apologists trying to tell me he didn’t really mean that he was going to prohibit a wide range of reproductive biotechnologies.

Now look at this analysis. Bush apparently proposed to increase the numbers of math and science teachers by 70,000 over four years. But what he actually seems to have meant was retraining 70,000 existing teachers, but without saying anything about ever paying for it.

Did he say anything in that speech that was actually true? I’m beginning to suspect that if he started by saying, “My fellow Americans…,” that it might be fruitful to check into the INS records and see if he actually is a citizen.

I am certain now that the media stuck the label “serial exaggerator” on the wrong man in the 2000 election.

The real truth about the Sasquatch

As a proud native of the great Pacific Northwest, when an article on one of our noblest creatures was mentioned to me, I had to read it. Here’s the center of the story.

In July 2005, nine residents of Teslin, Yukon,
witnessed through a kitchen window a large bipedal
animal moving through the brush. The next morning, they
collected a tuft of coarse, dark hair and also observed a
footprint measuring 43 cm in length and 11.5 cm in width.

That’s right: physical evidence, a footprint and hair, from…Bigfoot. The Sasquatch. A sample captured in the wild and brought into the lab. Pinned against the wall, trapped and unable to escape the probing appendages of an implacable, intrusive Science.

So they extracted DNA from the hair and amplified conserved mammalian sequences. They sequenced fragments of the DNA and compared them against sequences in the databases, and got a shocking answer. Prepare yourself: here is a diagram of the phylogenetic relationship of Sasquatch to other mammalian species.

Maximum parsimony tree illustrating the position of the Sasquatch hair sample. Bootstrap support values are given at the nodes. The species and GenBank accession numbers are water buffalo Bubalus bubalis*, yak Bos mutus, cow Bos taurus, wisent Bos bonasus, and
North American bison Bison bison.

The scientists squirm and try to avoid the obvious conclusions of their results, inventing foolish excuses rather than facing reality.

There are several possible explanations for these
results. First, as suggested from molecular analysis of
hair from a suspected Yeti, the Sasquatch might be a
highly elusive ungulate that exhibits surprising morphological convergence with primates
. Alternately, the hair
might have originated from a real bison and be unrelated
to the Sasquatch. Parsimony would favor the second
interpretation, in which case, the identity and taxonomy
of this enigmatic and elusive creature remains a mystery.

I wonder what Radical Sasquatch will think of this.

*Wait a minute…the scientific name for the water buffalo is Bubalus bubalis? Bubalus bubalis? No wonder they’re so mean.

Coltman D, Davis C (2006) Molecular cryptozoology meets the Sasquatch . Trends in Ecology and Evolution 21(2):60-61.

Good news for Minnesota education

Dave Eaton, Mouth of Yecke, public advocate of poor education, creationist pest, has given up the fight.

On Tuesday, January 31, School Board member Dave Eaton resigned from the Minnetonka School Board. Noting personal reasons, he informed the Board that he is no longer able to continue his service. Mr. Eaton had served on the School Board since being appointed on June 4, 2002.

The School Board is expected to act on Mr. Eaton’s resignation at its Regular Meeting on Thursday, February 2, 2006. The Board will discuss a process for filling the vacancy at a scheduled work session on February 7 at Noon. Complete details of the process the Board will use to fill the Board vacancy will be released following the February 7th work session.

I hope that all is well with Mr Eaton and that he is retiring to a pleasant and productive life, but it is good news that he is going to be meddling with education less. This is also, I hope, a promising sign: as wonderful as the Dover decision was, a better prospect for the future would be to see more pro-science activists displacing creationists from local school boards. That’s one place where it is important to see this phony conflict resolved.

Darwin Day approaches

It’s almost Darwin Day!

I just learned that Cornell is going all out: 5 days of events celebrating Darwin’s birthday, on February 9-13. That’s darned good.

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is doing something slightly smaller in scale on Friday, 10 February, in an afternoon event sponsored by the Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists. I don’t have all the details yet, other than the rather important fact (to me, at least) that I’m one of the speakers. I’m planning to talk on “What Darwin Didn’t Know,” giving a brief overview of some examples of the kind of evidence uncovered in the last 25 years that has greatly strengthened evolutionary theory. I’ll put up a schedule here as I learn more.

We aren’t having a specific Darwin Day event here at UMM…well, other than the traditional cake and ice cream I’m planning to have with the family on that Sunday. However, the Cafe Scientifique Morris for February is going to be me, talking about evolution and creationism. That’s also imprecisely scheduled at this point—we’re going to try out a new venue, I hope, and one of the things I have to do this week is run around and work that out.

I know, I know—Darwin Day is over a week away, and you just can’t wait. If you’re in the Twin Cities, here’s something to whet your whistle: a talk tonight on creationism.

7:00 pm – James Curtsinger – Ten things to know about creationism
James Curtsinger will give a presentation on “Ten Things to Know about Creationism”.

From the presentation: Creationists fall into young-earth and old-earth camps. The former include biblical literalists who believe that the geologic column was formed by a Noachian Flood. Their “scientific creationism” suffered major setbacks in the 1980’s. “Intelligent design”, conceived as a movement in the 1990’s, is smarter, better educated, old-earth creationism. I.D. has popular support, but is soundly rejected by professionals, and was embarrassed in the recent Dover trial. The important battleground for these issues is the public high school science classroom. Surveys show that 20% of MN public high school science teachers teach creationism. Evangelical atheists worsen the general problem. Universities house technical and scientific expertise, but do not generally cultivate the kind of outreach needed to address this issue.
Coffman Student Union Room 323

I’d love to attend myself, but I’m feeling that exhausted sensation that comes from the first few frantic weeks of classes, and I don’t think I can push another long drive to Minneapolis on my workload right now. If any of my readers go—send me a report! It sounds fun!