Phalangium opilio

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Harvestman
Phalangium opilio – harvestman. The legs are several times the body length. The substrate is a window screen with a pitch of approximaely 1.5 mm.

On Bullshit

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I have read 1984 twice already and also saw the movie, though I admit quite some time ago. I decided to forgo reading it a third time and instead picked up On Bullshit, by Harry Frankfurt, for the second time. On Bullshit is only 67 pages long, and the pages are about 10 by 15 cm, with (shall we say) ample margins. It is a magazine article disguised as a book, which, I suppose, is better than a magazine article expanded to fill a book.

On Bullshit is either (a) tedious and poorly written, (b) a parody of philosophical writing, or perhaps (c) both. It is a long time before the author gets to the point but eventually he distinguishes among lying, bluffing, and bullshitting: A liar knows the truth but overtly tries to make you believe the opposite; a bluffer knows the truth but tries without lying to make you believe the opposite; and a bullshitter tries to make you believe something without the slightest concern as to whether it is true or not. Unless you are interested in Wittgenstein’s statement that you do not know what a dog feels like and the attendant discussion of whether a simile is a lie, I think I have just summarized almost the entire book.

Speaking of bullshit, and as if the Ark Park is not bad enough, I notice that someone is making a movie out of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. (Confession. Some time ago, I read The Case for the Creator, probably the student edition, but not The Case for Christ. I was, to say the least, not impressed.)

On second thought, instead of rereading 1984, maybe I will just rewatch The Manchurian Candidate.

Dan Phelps wins Friend of Darwin award

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The National Center for Science Education has awarded its Friend of Darwin Award to Dan Phelps, an occasional contributor to The Panda’s Thumb and a frequent source of news about the Ark Park. In announcing the award, which was also given to Edward Larson and Richard Lenski, NCSE’s Executive Director Ann Reid commented,

The legal history of the creationism/evolution controversy is important to NCSE, and nobody has studied it more thoroughly and insightfully than Ed Larson, while it would be hard to think of anybody who has done as much to show that evolution is among the experimental sciences than Rich Lenski. As for Dan Phelps, he’s the sort of activist who is a walking argument for human cloning: we could use a dozen of him!

Mr. Phelps recently provided us with a myriad of pictures of the Ark Park on Opening Day and will be featured in the film We believe in dinosaurs, along with PT contributor David MacMillan.

Edward Larson is a historian who has written a number of books about evolution, creation, and the Scopes trial; Richard Lenski is the originator of the famous long-term evolution experiment involving the bacteria E. coli.

NCSE also presented a Friend of the Planet award to the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network; Peter Sinclair, the producer of a video series; and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Book Review - God's Word or Human Reason?

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For all its flaws, young-earth creationism gave me my first exposure to science, and it’s because of my interest in finding evidence for my beliefs that I originally fell in love with science. Because I was forced to deny or explain away so many elements of science across so many disciplines, I ended up with a fairly broad familiarity with many different areas of science and natural history. This familiarity was, of course, extremely shallow and replete with critical misinformation, but it covered a lot of ground.

Equipped with a broad range of simplistic arguments touching virtually every branch of science, creationists can be frustratingly efficient at churning out Gish Gallops that would take a whole panel of PhDs to effectively counter. Creationism has consistently succeeded at identifying gaps in the public perception of science and filling each of those gaps with simple-sounding, “easy” answers.

However, there’s a silver lining. Though creationists are well-equipped to confuse, obfuscate, and mislead about a broad range of science, former creationists are even more prepared to explain and illustrate real science in a clear and convincing way. This advantage is demonstrated in splendid fashion by God’s Word or Human Reason?: An Inside Perspective on Creationism, a book written by five former creationists and published by Inkwater Press.