Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Not Very Strong Swimmers


Here are a couple of fun photos of freakish fish, taken at the Seattle Aquarium the other day. You can probably tell why I don't take photos for a living. Neither of these fish are very strong swimmers, so at least they held still for the camera, more or less.


The first is a cowfish, and the second is the Northwest's very own Pacific spiny lumpsucker. No, seriously, that's its real name. Honest. Oregon Magazine has a bit more about the spiny lumpsucker here, and there's a good Wikipedia article as well. Also, here's a WP article about Tetraodontiformes, an entire order of smallish and very droll fishes including cowfishes, pufferfishes (=fugu), and much, much more.

While we're on the subject, the third image is a drawing of the recently discovered Tiktaalik roseae, which looks an awful lot like a transitional form between fish and land animals. (I'm guessing it wasn't a very strong swimmer either.) You've heard of transitional forms, right? You know, the thing the creationists keep insisting doesn't exist. D'oh! If you're a hardcore Tiktaalik fan, CafePress already has a line of T. roseae casualwear.

The image links to a good story over at Pharyngula, and The Lancelet also has a good story. If you're a Nature subscriber, you can find the researchers' original articles here.

The creationists beg to differ about Tiktaalik, of course, and they'd like to offer a bit of lame and ignorant criticism of the new beastie. Another fine example of their usual faith-based "reasoning".

A good post over at HinesSight proclaims this to have been a bad week for creationism, with Tiktaalik just the tip of the iceberg. The Panda's Thumb also suggests this has not been a good week for the ID camp. Not to be outdone, a couple of posts at Scientific American's science blog call it a lousy week for creationism, giving even more reasons why this is so. The biggest reason, of course, is the new molecular evolution study, which in the end is probably a bigger (though less accessible) story than Tiktaalik, even. It may be worth noting that the lead researcher on the study is a professor at the University of Oregon.

I'd like to take things a step further and label this a truly crappy week for creationism, and more generally for the notion there are things that only religion can explain and science can't touch. Today comes a new report indicating that near-death experiences may have a purely biological basis. So much for the whole "move towards the light" thing.

Oh, and fundies in Kentucky are freaking out over efforts to replace "A.D." ("Anno Domini") with "C.E." ("Common Era") in general usage, which also seems to have some sort of murky connection with evolution, as well. At least they seem to think so. I was at the Portland Art Museum last week, and noticed that they've begun using C.E. in their exhibits. There's a sign explaining C.E. vs. A.D. in their current exhibit of Han dynasty objects. Not really the best explanation I've seen, since I think they were trying to be overly tactful and avoid criticizing the religious basis of "A.D.". Instead they just argued that "C.E." is newer, and it's the trend these days.

Also, here's a good article arguing that if you're a genuine ID true believer, you ought to witness for your faith by not getting a flu shot ever again, and most definitely not for the bird flu, since in order to pose a threat to humans, the H5N1 virus will need to evolve a bit more, which is "impossible", according to the usual ID wingnuts.

But not all the news is bad in Jesustan this week. Remember that one-eyed "cyclops" kitten that was in the news a few months back? Apparently the creationists have gotten their grubby hands on the remains, and the poor thing will soon be a new attraction at a roadside fundie freakshow in Syracuse, NY. (Don't worry, the link does not have a picture of the kitten, which you probably really don't want to see.) Either the fundies don't understand the difference between a genetic mutation and a birth defect, or they're deliberately trying to confuse the issue, or quite probably a bit of both.

Updated: Creationism is near the top of the list of things You Must Believe to be a Republican.

Also, you might enjoy Jane Smiley's recent posting titled "Tolerance", or Social Control?, about the larger secular vs. fundie conflict. I'll probably link to this story again, since placing it as an addendum near the end of an existing mostly-unrelated post doesn't do it justice.

And here's an interesting, rambling blog post speculating about the progressive/conservative divide and related matters. This is a great line: "This was going to be a post about something else. My posts never do what i want them to do.". I know the feeling. I really do.

More: A couple more related items worth reading: Tangled Bank #51: the Seattle Tour! and Does gravity explain why basketballs fall down?.


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