Thursday, November 17 2011
It was a cold and clammy day, not exactly a good one for trying to occupy Wall Street (or any place outdoors, really). Still, when Gretchen went down to the City this evening to attend a poetry event, she ran across a big Occupy Wall Street march happening downtown, her first encounter with the movement. The occupation was recently evicted from Zuccotti Park after a brutal early-morning assault ordered by Mayor Bloomberg, part of the top 1% of the top 1%. From his perspective, we are the 99.99%.
While trying to figure out some puzzling mysteries of the Xcode Interface Builder, I decided to swallow a mystery pill that has been lying amid the screws, intergrated circuits, and other precious detritus accumulated on a narrow shelf on my computer desk. I knew it was either a powerful prescription pain killer or a muscle relaxer, but since it was unlabeled, it wasn't really useful as either. It turned out to be some sort of Valium-type drug. Unlike most people, I don't find such drugs all that pleasant, although it did relaxed me in away that made me want to read a iOS development book by the fire, sort of like taking a hot bath. Later I added a strong can of malt liquor to the mix, and the resulting buzz was noticeably stronger than normal.
At some point today I ran across an amusing post from the Answers in Genesis Facebook page (which, because I "liked it," still posts to my page, though I've long been banned from posting to theirs). The post was about an article called "Determining the Ark Kinds" and purported to be scholarly research of precisely what creatures needed to be loaded onto Noah's Ark to make it possible for us to have all the animals we see on Earth today (yes, there are actually adults who "research" such things outside the presence of a class of unruly Sunday school students). To make things easier for Noah, these "researchers" have determined that two of every species would have been overkill (or, technically, oversave). Since many species can successfully hybridize with one another, they reason that small differences between species really might have evolved (though only since the time of Noah) through mutation and other methods accepted by conventional evolutionary theory. They term taxonomic level of an organism requiring a place on the ark a "baramin" (a Hebrew-based neologism meaning "creation kind"), and it is set (by the "researchers") at about the level of what we normally consider a taxonomic family (such as Aplodontiidæ or Corvidæ). But as I read that "research," the sheer mushiness of any such definition became clear. Sure, one can get members of two different genera in one family (goats and sheep) to produce a hybrid (a shoat), but should that mean they're in the same baramin if their offspring is sterile? The article brought up something I hadn't even considered: hyrbridizations that survive only until some point in the blastocyst or embryonic stage. I'd never seen this fact presented anywhere else, but according to this article, human sperm will successfully fertilize a hamster egg, though the resulting zygote dies within only a few cell divisions. Still, that's nothing to sneeze at; the people at Answers in Genesis are some of the same people who recently tried to amend the Mississippi constitution to declare a zygote a person. Would that still be a person if only its father were human? By the time the article addressed whether or not Australopithecines should be regarded as part of the human baramin, it was clear that the researchers had unwittingly presented some of the best possible evidence for the interrelationship of all life, and that's all without ever mentioning the most obvious way of measuring taxonomic proximity: DNA similarity. (I get the feeling creationists don't like to talk about DNA, because it does nothing better than to make the case that all of us critters here on Earth are little more than experiments with cut, copy, paste, and error as seen through the sieve of survival.)
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
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