Flip Through

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One thing Ben Stein and Co. got correct

Evolutionary theory makes no claims about the origins of life.

Okay, that's done, now how about a million (or so) things that the so-called documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed gets wrong?

Let's see--how about the selective quoting of Darwin's Descent of Man to back up the shaky link between Darwinian theory and eugenics, which happens to leave out telling and significant bits which actually show Darwin as being anti-eugenics? How about the use of the term "Darwinism" in order to sell evolutionary theory as a completely unified school of thought,
despite the fact that evolutionary science is now synthesized between natural selection and genetic theory? How about the claims that no dissent against this "Darwinism" is allowed, despite the myriad arguments against various tenets, many of which often become accepted into the theories when they provide sufficient scientific data? How about the attempts to claim Intelligent Design as a science, when as something that is scientifically untestable it simply doesn't qualify? How about the disgusting and ham-handed use of Holocaust imagery? How about the creative editing of evolutionary biologists' quotes?

Face it: Expelled is irresponsible and scientifically incorrect. The teaching of Intelligent Design does not belong in science courses, because Intelligent Design is not science. Save it for comparative religion and philosophy, kids.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Homo Vasconensis (or, in which it is confirmed that Diana is a huge dork)

Anthropology may be proving the Basques right (unless you're a lumper). See, the paleontological discoveries at Sierra Atapuerca in Burgos in northern Spain are, according to their finders, a species apart from both earlier and later versions of Homo. It is purported that the skulls of Gran Dolina Boy and others are neither Homo erectus nor Homo heidelbergensis but another species: Homo antecessor, the ancestor to the neanderthal and sapiens lines.

There could be something to it; the bones identified as antecessor are the oldest yet found in Europe, save for the fascinating transitionary fossils found at Dmanisi in Georgia. Since the trendy line of thinking utilizes heidelbergensis as the probable antecedent to sapiens and neanderthalensis, the even older fossils at Atapuerca and La Gran Dolina are the logical predecessor to the heidelbergensis finds from various sites in Europe.

Well gee! Dating from 1.2m to 800,000ya, antecessor seems to live up to its name...if it isn't an offshoot of ergaster or the same species as heidelbergensis. Really, it depends on what side of the model and assignment arguments you're standing. Juan Luis Arsuaga, one of the antecessor discoverers, even claims that the species living in Spain commanded a symbolic, logical language. Associated tool findings show an Acheulian assemblage, indicating a dispersal out of Africa. Antecessor's proponents declare it to be the last common ancestor to both Neanderthals and early moderns--and thus, the ancestor to ourselves.

And look where it's located...right up there near the Basque country. Though situated in Castile-Leon, Burgos is close enough to Euzkadi's borders to be more than coincidental, don't you think? Maybe the famous Basque declaration of "first humans in Europe" isn't too far-fetched after all. I'm betting by and large that Basque anthropologists are splitters. While more of a lumper myself, I think it's about time we stopped using erectus (and by extension, ergaster and heidelbergensis) as a dumping ground. In this case, I may be willing to suspend my suspicions of carefree splitting--even if that willingness is due more to my fondness for Basque cake than paleoanthropological evidence.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Devil women

Why are all metal frontwomen so damn hot? I mean really. Most metal men aren't hot (the demigods of Kamelot excluded), so how is it that the most masculine of music genres, heavy metal, gets the most dollsome lady singers?

Cristina Scabbia, Lacuna Coil:

Anneke van Giersbergen, The Gathering:

Simone Simons, Epica:

Shannon den Adel, Within Temptation:

Tarja Turunen and Anette Olzon, once and future voices of Nightwish:

You see what I'm saying? And they can sing, too--ridiculous! Maybe it's because all the good metal comes out of Europe anyway. Good genes and all that. Hmmph.

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