Penguins

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The surprise hit nature documentary, March of the Penguins, has, according to the New York Times, been co-opted by social conservatives as a sort of affirmation of their views on sex and marriage. The article quotes conservative pundit Michael Medved as saying that the movie “passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing.” And there is another review, written by Andrew Coffin of the right-wing Christian World Magazine, claiming that the movie makes a strong case for intelligent design:

That any one of these eggs survives is a remarkable feat—and, some might suppose, a strong case for intelligent design.

Sadly, that’s the sum total of his argument. It would be interesting to know why having a high mortality rate makes a good argument for ID, but I guess that’ll have to remain a mystery. Maybe it’s because these penguins live in such harsh conditions that he can’t imagine how they could have adapted to the cold so suddenly. But given the fact that penguins live at the equator, it wouldn’t have been sudden.

At any rate, this embrace of a nature documentary from people who probably don’t watch many nature documentaries has provoked a bemused reaction throughout the blogosphere. Ed Brayton notes that the existence of gay penguins doesn’t exactly make them good poster species for “traditional” marriage. And PZ Myers points out that these “monogamous” penguins get new partners each and every year. But the best is Carl Zimmer’s take. He gives us a list of would-be nature documentaries that showcase some, shall we say, non-traditional family values. When these movies come out, you’d better hide the kids. Or, depending on your species, eat them.

44 Comments

Remember, being a conservative (and I mean the kind I at least can find some sort of common cause with) involves seeing only what doesn’t challenge the views you already have that make you very, very comfortable (in any way, mentally, spiritually, or physically [but especially physically]). Whatever you see and approve of is evidence proving the rightness of what you believe (or, for the more typically human conservative, at least, like monogamy or charity, say you believe, in public), and if further evidence proves embarrassing, the claim is forgotten, or the original claim is simply shouted more shrilly, or the investigator attacked.

Decent conservatives, eventually, respect overwhelming evidence (especially when the change proves to benefit them or their pocketbooks), but the crazies - a very considerable percentage (and a much higher percentage than the “liberal crazies” make) - cling to certain ideas unto death, and attempt to pass them into their offspring as well. The misuse of the arts to “justify” some political belief (as opposed to openly political art) is pretty much always a sign of conservatism at its worst.

Be sure and look at George G. Simpson’s book titled Penguins. Lots of good stuff about the various modern species plus their fossil record.

It’s interesting to contrast Roger Ebert’s take on the film with what the IDists said:

Although the compulsion to reproduce is central to all forms of life, the penguins could be forgiven if they’d said the hell with it and evolved in the direction of being able to swim to Patagonia. The film’s narrator, Morgan Freeman, tells us that Antarctica was once a warm land with rich forests that teemed with creatures. But as the climate grew colder over long centuries, one lifeform after another bailed out, until the penguins were left in a land that, as far as they can see, is inhabited pretty much by other penguins, and edged by seas filled with delicious fish. Even their predators, such as the leopard seal, give them a pass during the dark, long, cold winter.

“This is a love story,” Freeman’s narration assures us, reminding me for some reason of Tina Turner singing “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” I think it is more accurately described as the story of an evolutionary success. The penguins instinctively know, because they have been hard-wired by evolutionary trial and error, that it is necessary to march so far inland because in spring, the ice shelf will start to melt toward them, and they need to stand where the ice will remain thick enough to support them.

As a species, they learned this because the penguins who paused too soon on their treks had eggs that fell into the sea. Those who walked farther produced another generation, and eventually every penguin was descended from a long line of ancestors who were willing to walk the extra mile.

Why do penguins behave in this manner? Because it works for them, and their environment gives them little alternative. They are Darwinism embodied.

Hat tip to Jason Malloy in comments on Pharyngula.

I’ve seen the movie and very much enjoyed it, but who in their right minds sees intelligent design in flightless bird parents having to alternate 70 mile waddles in order to keep their young fed?

Let’s see… How do the penguins know how to return to the same breeding ground? The mother penguins upon returning from the 70 mile trip to the coast and back are able to recognize their one partner through sound, even though all of the father penguins look the same. Amazing! The father has a special storage area for food which he then regurgitates to the young chick at the right time if the chick is hungry and starving. So did the baby penguins end up starving to death for millions of years while the storage pouch was evolving? If so then how did the penguins survive?

Let’s see… How do the penguins know how to return to the same breeding ground?

God leads the way.

The mother penguins upon returning from the 70 mile trip to the coast and back are able to recognize their one partner through sound, even though all of the father penguins look the same. Amazing!

Do you think all Chinese look the same, too?

Um, and if they recognize them through SOUND, then what the hell does it matter what they LOOK like?

You do know the difference between “sound” and “sight”, right … ?

The father has a special storage area for food which he then regurgitates to the young chick at the right time if the chick is hungry and starving. So did the baby penguins end up starving to death for millions of years while the storage pouch was evolving? If so then how did the penguins survive?

God packed them a lunch?

When you learn some junior high biology, you will know that many animals, not just birds, barf up food for their kids. Wolves, hyenas, sea gulls … They don’t have any storage sack, and their young don’t starve.

Are creationists REALLY this ignorant and uninformed about the natural world? REALLY????????

Amazing. Fundie after fundie wants to yammer to me about how amazingly wonderfully fantastic God’s Creation is —– and they know less about it than my nine year old niece has learned from watching The Discovery Channel on weekends.

(sigh)

I thought the film was a real poke at IDers. What intelligence would “ create “ a critter to live in an environment that harsh?

They don’t have any storage sack,

Are creationists REALLY this ignorant and uninformed about the natural world? REALLY????????

Amazing. Fundie after fundie wants to yammer to me about how amazingly wonderfully fantastic God’s Creation is ——- and they know less about it than my nine year old niece has learned from watching The Discovery Channel on weekends.

Really now?

http://acad.udallas.edu/biology/Bro[…]gestive.html

In birds a blind sac develops as an outgrowth of the esophagus , and is called the crop. It is a site of food storage, and in some birds it can contain digestive enzymes for processing foods high in cellulose (as in the case of the hoatzin, described in the text) or for secretion of a milky food-like substance (stimulated by the secretion of hormones similar to those used in mammalian milk secretion) called crop milk in pigeons.

Maybe your niece will be lucky enough to get a better education than you did!

Maybe your niece will be lucky enough to get a better education than you did!

And maybe you will one day learn to read as well as she does.

Then you can look up words like “wolves”, “regurgitate” and “food”.

(sigh) No WONDER everyone thinks creationists are uneducated idiots.

Posted by Creationist Troll on September 15, 2005 06:34 PM (e) (s)

How do the penguins know how to return to the same breeding ground?

Penguins are migratory birts and ornithologists seem to have concluded that they follow solar cues. They’re also social so the trip could very well be a reinforced, learned behavior.

The mother penguins upon returning from the 70 mile trip to the coast and back are able to recognize their one partner through sound, even though all of the father penguins look the same. Amazing!

I’m better at recognizing voices than faces. No reason to think penguins couldn’t tell the difference. Also, who knows, maybe there are many mistakes and many females raise the young of others. We’re definately worse, to our knowledge, at telling one penguin from another. Heck, we can’t even visually tell the sexes apart.

The father has a special storage area for food which he then regurgitates to the young chick at the right time if the chick is hungry and starving. So did the baby penguins end up starving to death for millions of years while the storage pouch was evolving? If so then how did the penguins survive?

Not all penguins live on antarctica. They live on islands all over the southern hemisphere and some actually range into the northern hemisphere to feed.

What they do know is that there is a peptide secreted in stomach of the male penguin that stresses the bacteria and fungi and dramatically slows their reproduction. Now, this isn’t unique. Anti-microbial peptides are found through-out nature, including humans.

About all you can say about the penguins is that there’s is probably far more effective compared to ours.

And to think, I found that out by NOT BURYING MY HEAD IN THE SAND, BUT BY ACTIVELY USING MY BRAIN AND RESEARCHING THE PROBLEM instead of JUST THROWING MY HANDS UP IN THE AIR and saying GOD DID IT. Unlike many here, my biology training is abysmal and consists of just one 3-unit class in Oceanography, half of which was spent on geology… But I never bow to ignorance and the impossibility of understanding.

Posted by Creationist Troll on September 15, 2005 08:36 PM (e) (s)

http://acad.udallas.edu/biology/Brown/Anatomy/11

In birds a blind sac develops as an outgrowth of the esophagus , and is called the crop. It is a site of food storage, and in some birds it can contain digestive enzymes for processing foods high in cellulose (as in the case of the hoatzin, described in the text) or for secretion of a milky food-like substance (stimulated by the secretion of hormones similar to those used in mammalian milk secretion) called crop milk in pigeons.

Maybe your niece will be lucky enough to get a better education than you did!

Ah, chickens! Now that’s something I know about as I raised chickens. Chickens have a special organ called a crop. It is a muscular organ where they keep small stones to soften and grind difficult-to-digest food. Ducks have crops too. But they’re really small.

Now, had you been SMART, you would have bothered to LEARN before you SHOT YOUR MOUTH OFF:

The Crop

The esophagus transports food from the mouth to the stomach. Many species of birds - such as parrots have an enlarged area of the esophagus known as a crop or ingluvies. Several types of crops exist. Gulls and penguins do not have a crop, while ducks, geese and song birds possess a small fustorm dilitation of their esophagus. The crop stores food temporarily and allows food to be softened before it enters the stomach. Pigeons and doves produce “crop milk” that they feed to their young for the first two weeks after hatching. Other species - such as parrots - will regurgitate food that has been stored and softened in their crops to their young.

http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww38eiv.htm

How do the penguins know how to return to the same breeding ground?

Aliens/a metaphysical being which created the universe which isn’t God, seriously/God taught them.

The father has a special storage area for food which he then regurgitates to the young chick at the right time if the chick is hungry and starving. So did the baby penguins end up starving to death for millions of years while the storage pouch was evolving? If so then how did the penguins survive?

As I understand it the penguins in question are Emperors, in which case their ‘special storage area’ is their crop, a sack or pouch formed by the expansion and specialisation of their gullet to hold and preserve food for long periods of time. The expansion and specialisation of a given organ to form an adaptive, gradual and better solution to an environmental problem may well be beyond the ability of evolutionary scientists to explain, and if so, it falls to Intelligent Design to plug such gaps.

As to how the males know when it is the right time to feed chicks, I am afraid I genuinely don’t know, and must provide you with a just-so story. The chicks of many birds vocalise their hunger, while there are none I know of that are currently known to be individually and purposefully directed by God, aliens, or God-like products to feed their young at the correct time, (whom, being fallible, occasionally fail and allow the chicks to die,) or are genetically gifted with ESP by such beings, in their ineffable purposes. Evidence to the contrary may one day be found to explode my ignorant explorations of any or all of these just-so stories, however.

Incidentally, both male and female regurgitate food to feed to their chick. The male, however, will regurgitate its own stomach lining to feed a chick if it hatches before the return of the mother.

-Schmitt.

Comment #48367

Posted by ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank on September 15, 2005 08:51 PM (e) (s)

Maybe your niece will be lucky enough to get a better education than you did!

And maybe you will one day learn to read as well as she does.

Then you can look up words like “wolves”, “regurgitate” and “food”.

(sigh) No WONDER everyone thinks creationists are uneducated idiots.

I think he thought that since SOME birds have crops, ALL birds have crops. And that he was trying to *****-slap you for “being wrong” out of his blind-pig ignorance.

I think you didn’t actually realize the depths of his shallowness and the fragility of his understanding. He knew how to cut and paste, he didn’t know, however, what is known to a trained biologist. (And I’m not one.) Frankly, he’s more parrot than professor.

Oops. Just remembered. It’s the GIZZARD where the pebbles go to grind the grain. Not the crop. But heck, pretty good since I’m 30 years away from 4-H.

The esophagus transports food from the mouth to the stomach. Many species of birds - such as parrots have an enlarged area of the esophagus known as a crop or ingluvies. Several types of crops exist. Gulls and penguins do not have a crop, while ducks, geese and song birds possess a small fustorm dilitation of their esophagus. The crop stores food temporarily and allows food to be softened before it enters the stomach. Pigeons and doves produce “crop milk” that they feed to their young for the first two weeks after hatching. Other species - such as parrots - will regurgitate food that has been stored and softened in their crops to their young.

http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww38eiv.htm

Sorry. I stand corrected. Amazing, so much education on this board but very little common sense.

Funny that anyone would think The March of the Penguins makes a strong case for ID. Conservative columnist George Will cited the film as evidence against ID. Will said, similar to Warren Whitaker above, that any intelligent designer that would intentionally make reproduction that difficult must hate penguins.

In Andrew Coffin’s defense, maybe when you don’t have any other evidence you have to work with what you have, even if it’s only a movie.

Tell me, are the gay penguins gay, or merely bi

What’s the difference? Clearly these birds are committing crimes against nature.

God hates panda's Wrote:

Tell me, are the gay penguins gay, or merely bi

Whether they’re gay or bi, we know they weren’t born that way - it’s a lifestyle choice.

The male, however, will regurgitate its own stomach lining to feed a chick if it hatches before the return of the mother.

After last night’s birthday celebrations, poor Mr Penguin has my full sympathy.

Urrrk.

Creationist Troll: Sorry. I stand corrected. Amazing, so much education on this board but very little common sense.

Amazing, a creationist actually accepting that something has been proven to be untrue, albeit grudgingly. Remember, children, when proven wrong make disparaging remarks about the people who corrected your error ;)

Now, if only we could work on carbon dating, the second law of thermodynamics, bombardier beetles etc… that’s assuming that CT is a YEC, if not then replace the above with ‘specified information’ and ‘irreducible complexity’. However, the thermodynamics argument seems to have started cropping up again from IDiots, so maybe leave that one in.

Creationist Troll Wrote:

Amazing, so much education on this board but very little common sense.

C’mon, CT, don’t be so pessimistic. You know that the genuine article is just as crazy as what you wrote above. Just consider it a testament to your superior parody skills. ;)

The Kenosha Kid

Speaking of Roger Ebert (as Steve was in post 3824 above), I wrote him a quck note thanking him for being a consistent source of rational skepticism regarding ID. He even worked int into his review of “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”:

The church is curiously ambivalent about exorcism. It believes that the devil and his agents can be active in the world, it has a rite of exorcism, and it has exorcists. On the other hand, it is reluctant to certify possessions and authorize exorcisms, and it avoids publicity on the issue. It’s like those supporters of Intelligent Design who privately believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, but publicly distance themselves from it because that would undermine their plausibility in the wider world.

Sorry. I stand corrected. Amazing, so much education on this board but very little common sense.

The irony is that in HS, the only science class I didn’t get straight A’s was Biology which I schlepped through with a B- average. It was… poorly taught and we spent too much time memorizing useless information. In college I side-stepped the biology requirements by taking Oceanography which is multi-discipline and was only one-third, to one-half in the wildest stretch of imagination, biology-based.

Yet, just plain old common sense and an eye for magical thinking and circular arguments comprised of double-speak and mis-representations can sort things out. I don’t have to understand the rigorous details of evolution. I only have to figure who is consistently playing politics, avoiding facts and lying; and those are the creationists (including ID).

Another key is looking for the ludicrous claims. ID says that the chances of life, based on certain statistical assumptions, is some mind-boggling impossible number. But it’s either some of the worst understanding of statistics I’ve ever seen, or the person was deliberately lying with statistical concepts. I’d explain it, but this link will save us both time:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abi[…]b.html#Intro

Or that dinosaurs roamed the earth with man. Why the different dates on the fossiles? Or why is it that everytime a transitional fossile is found, you double the number of “missing transitional fossiles?” They find a whale ancestor, suddenly two more fossiles need to be found.

Or that Niagra Falls erodes too fast and that proves the Earth could not be more than 10,000 years old. Yet, all it does is confirm what scientists say - Niagra falls was formed after the last glacial melt and is about 7,000 years old.

Or the lame 2nd law of Thermodynamics arguments. Many of which, if true, would mean we’d all have died long before I got to this post. Others, OTOH, condritict other creationist arguments about hydrological sorting during “the flood.” This smacks of the “throwing **** against the wall and see what sticks” form of argument. Lucky for us, we don’t live in a closed system as we have a sun to power photosynthesis producing handy-dandy, and frequently yummy, energy concentrations. Of course, when the sun runs out, we all die. But, that’s billions of years in the future, so it’s hard to get worked up over it.

Comment #48397

Posted by God hates panda’s on September 15, 2005 11:54 PM (e) (s)

Tell me, are the gay penguins gay, or merely bi

It doesn’t matter as long as they keep pushing the Homosexual Penguin Agenda and turn antartica into the pink continent. Maybe God will strike down the WTC or destroy NOLA in revenge. Ooops, my bad, according to various Christian Spokesmen he did that because of the homosexual human agenda in America. ;)

We’ll have to find some other sign that God hates gay penguins. Maybe that big ice shelf breaking off (Larsen B) wasn’t the effects of global warming. Maybe that’s how God shows he hates gay penguins.

Our local paper had this letter in response to Will’s column. *** George Will, who gives us in-depth insights into the human condition on a regular basis, sometimes comes up short when he wanders into the field of theology. He did this recently, taking his launching cue from the breeding habits of penguins. If an Intelligent Designer is responsible for the order that we observe in nature, “why did it decide to make breeding so tedious for those penguins?” he asks.

In response, I would first note that penguins and grizzly bears relish ice and snow. The Creator obviously designed penguins and polar bears to frolic in the snow and love every minute of it. I can’t imagine Miss or Mrs. Penguin saying, “Let’s get this over with, dear, before we freeze to death!”

I am not at all sure that penguins and polar bears would find breeding in the tropics much more to their liking. Perhaps a sweaty mate might be something of a turnoff, and they would long for a rendezvous on an ice float north of the Arctic Circle. *** My response, which should be printed this weekend, points out the obvious: that penguins do live in the tropics, but don’t live north of the Arctic Circle, and wondered at people who don’t know even basic biology but presume to tell me how to teach it.

Conservatives (actually reactionaries) see some of the virtues of the Penguin lifestyle. If only they’d see the virtue of living in Antarctica.

God hates pandas Wrote:

Tell me, are the gay penguins gay, or merely bi

According to the news articles (excerpted on Brayton’s blog), the penguins (some of them anyway) have no interest in females. I guess that makes them gay.

Something else I’m surprised no one else has jumped on… Anti-evolutionists disparage evolution for influencing the next generation to take animal behavior as a norm. But then they use “March of the Penguins” as an example for moral behavior?

darwinfinch hit the nail on the head, earlier. Abstracted tales of inspiration that confirm a particular ideal are fine, by themselves. “Look to the ant you sluggard, see how it toils” (Proverbs, I think), etc…

But there’s another repsonse that needs to be given to this kind of argument, “But, I thought you were against teaching our kids to act like animals!” I mean surely if teaching evolution is a factor in the moral decay in our society because it affirms using animal behavior as an example, then using the Bible’s own examples of the same can only be hypocrisy.

Wherever you believe our ability to make moral judgements on a broad scale came from (evolved or divinely gifted), we have a responsibility to make the most well reasoned decisions we can, regardless of how the rest of nature might decide to act.

My response, which should be printed this weekend, points out the obvious: that penguins do live in the tropics, but don’t live north of the Arctic Circle, and wondered at people who don’t know even basic biology but presume to tell me how to teach it.

Um, I assume you mean they don’t live south of the Arctic circle? South Africa and the Galapagos are for sure north of the Arctic circle.

But yes, this is right up there with creationists who argue that evolution is disproved by the fact that fish don’t have lungs. Like our buddy Mr. Birdnow.

I’m sorry, scratch this. I had a senior moment and confused the words ‘Arctic’ and ‘Antarctic’. Whoops.

I think we should wait for a creationist to talk about polar bears eating penguins. We know it’ll happen. Timothy? Creationist Troll? Want to take a shot at it?

Wrote:

Um, I assume you mean they don’t live south of the Arctic circle? South Africa and the Galapagos are for sure north of the Arctic circle.

No, the Galapagos are south of the Arctic circle, and north of the Antarctic circle. Be careful not to mix them up.

The whole point is, even though they’d be well-adapted to living in the arctic, Emperor penguins don’t live up there. The reason being they evolved in the antarctic, and are not well-suited for migrating across the tropics. The same is true of polar bears, except with the poles reversed.

Um, yes, I know. Arctic versus Antarctic. *bangs head on desk*

On this subject, this reminds me, the name ‘penguin’ originated as a name (from Welsh, apparently) for the now-extinct Great Auk, an amazingly penguinlike bird that existed entirely in the Northern Hemisphere, mostly in the subarctic. Once the Great Auk went extinct (hunted to death by humans), the word ‘penguin’ came to only designate the Antarctic birds.

Anyway, the Great Auk is a marvelous example of convergent evolution. Sadly, it seems to have gone extinct before researchers were able to ascertain the extent of homosexuality within the species.

If IDers/Creationists are using March of the Penguins (great flick, BTW) as an example of Design they must think God…sorry, the Non-Denominational Creator (NDC)…is pretty incompetent. I mean, the best way the NDC can come up with to transfer the egg is through a combination of beak and feet (with a bit of an assist from the roll of belly fat)? How about hands? And rather than giving the penguins pouches or some other internal egg storage mechanism, the NDC decides that his little creations have to balance their potential progeny on their feet for months at a time in the worst weather on the planet? The NGC must be something of a buffoon…or a sadist. Either way, if one of my engineers turned in this kind of crappy design, I’d fire them.

Creationist Troll said: The father has a special storage area for food which he then regurgitates to the young chick at the right time if the chick is hungry and starving. So did the baby penguins end up starving to death for millions of years while the storage pouch was evolving? If so then how did the penguins survive?

In addition to what has been said previously about regurgitation and crops, I’d also like to point out that esophageal duplications and specialized secretory and digestive epithelium in the esophagus are well-known congenital variants in humans. They don’t provide any particular advantage in humans, so they wouldn’t have been selected for, however, such features could have been selected in penguin ancestors. Millions of years would not be required.

I bet the specifications for the penguin was written by a comittee of Non-Demonitional Creators.

‘Non-denominational creator’. Hmmm. The NDC for short?

Hey, isn’t that kinda what deism is?

Sorry. I stand corrected.

Well, I’d like to think that, having now learned your lesson, you will from now on make an effort to actually look into and investigate things ***BEFORE*** you arrogantly and smugly shoot your mouth off about them without knowing anything about them.

Alas, I have my doubts, having seen this very same performance from creationist after creationist for 20-odd years now. But I’d certainly like to be proven wrong.

Fortunately for you, Troll, ignorance is a correctable condition. UN-fortunately for you, though, correcting it requires some effort on your part.

It will also require reading science from science books, not from ID/creationist religious tracts, which are (as you just discovered) full of it.

It will also require reading science from science books, not from ID/creationist religious tracts, which are (as you just discovered) full of it.

Tracts. Hey, maybe us ‘evolutionists’ oughta start making ‘tracts’. You know, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jack Chick do. Little pamphlets laying out what evolution and REAL science are all about, complete with cartoons, or maybe little pastel drawings of nice families looking earnest. I volunteer to go around leaving them on bus benches.

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Fairy penguins split

NEW YORK: THE animal kingdom’s most famous gay couple has split up. Silo and Roy, the cohabiting penguins of Central Park Zoo, are no longer an item. …

Fairy penguins split

Perhaps one of them figured out that the baby wasn’t his …

NEW YORK: THE animal kingdom’s most famous gay couple has split up. Silo and Roy, the cohabiting penguins of Central Park Zoo, are no longer an item.…

This actually makes me strangely sad. ;-)

Evidently Silo swings both ways. A female ‘converted’ him. The fundies should be heartened.

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This page contains a single entry by Steve Reuland published on September 15, 2005 4:46 PM.

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