Animated Extinctions

I saw this animation posted to Imgur by user Waffurur, showing the five biggest mass extinction events in Earth’s history (as far as we know, really):

View post on

Most people are familiar with the Cretacious-Tertiary mass extinction about 65 million years ago, which killed off the last of the dinosaurs. Well, except for birds, which are totally still dinosaurs.

Some people know about the Permian mass extinction, which left only about four percent of species alive. That’s also the one that finished off the trilobites, which is a bummer because they seem pretty cool.

"Kainops invius lateral and ventral" by Moussa Direct Ltd. (Moussa Direct Ltd. image archive) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, it also brought an end to the eurypterids—a/k/a sea scorpions that reached eight feet or more in length (but were generally harmless)… Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 8, 2015

Bafflingly hyperbolic, PZ Myers, Pharyngula, January 4, 2015

As for the claim that creationists will be terrified by this discovery…excuse me, but I have to go off somewhere and laugh for ten minutes or so.

Creationists don’t understand thermodynamics. Heck, they don’t understand basic logic. You think an obscure bit of theory by some brilliant wonk, written up in journals they’ll never read? My dog, man, I’ve still got creationists asking me, “If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” and you think they’re going to be stunned into silence by a technical paper in a physics journal on entropy, heat dissipation, and molecular self-organization? Look at England’s paper — it’s got math in it. The only thing that’s going to terrify the religious right is the prospect of reading the thing.

I Am Trying Not to Hate and Fear Men, Laura Bogart, AlterNet, January 1, 2015 Continue reading


Behold the Crocoduck

Remember the crocoduck? Its non-existence is the supposedly definitive proof against evolution presented by aging teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron. Well, it turns out that such an animal, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, actually existed:

This is “the first water-adapted non-avian dinosaur on record,” said University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno in a press conference yesterday. Sereno is part of a team of researchers that was finally able to reconstruct Spinosaurus in full using newly discovered fossils and information gathered from the dinosaur’s initial discoverer, a German paleontologist named Ernst Stromer. According to their reconstruction, published today in Science, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus was a gigantic fish-eating, water-paddling marvel; one that, in Sereno’s words, was “a chimera — half duck, half crocodile.”

[Emphasis added.]

By Insomnis (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

And Spinosaurus wasn’t the only one to fit the arbitrary “crocoduck” description: Continue reading


How Creationists Are Like Wooderson

A Facebook post demonstrating one person’s misunderstanding of how science works got me thinking about how people who favor religious faith over scientific evidence differ from the rest of us.

I admit its a matter of faith in God for me. evidence just seems so slippery and of no significance, because of interpretations and lack of knowledge of what actually happened in the beginning.

I realized that this sort of religious viewpoint channels Wooderson to a remarkable degree. That would be the character made iconic by Matthew McConaughey in Richard Linklater’s 1993 film Dazed and Confused, responsible for such pearls of wisdom as “You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N.” And of course, “All right, all right, all right.” His most famous quote, of course, is this one: Continue reading


Ignorance vs. Stupidity

I prefer to think that most people who espouse creationist ideas are just lacking in a solid understanding of science, and continue to receive misinformation—as opposed to lacking in actual intelligence. In other words, I prefer the word “ignorant,” which while pejorative, still has its valid uses, to “stupid,” which is little more than an insult.

It’s getting harder and harder to tell which is which these days, though.


Editing Cosmos for Comfort

The new Cosmos miniseries, hosted by the heir to Carl Sagan’s science-communicator skills, Neil deGrasse Tyson, premiered last Sunday. The series is off to a great start, I think, but others seem to have their doubts about the show’s overt bias towards science. In fact, a Fox affiliate in Oklahoma allegedly edited out the fifteen seconds of the hour-long episode that discussed devil-spawning evolution, in favor of an evening news promo.

The following weeks are going to be an interesting time for that station if they’re going to stick to their guns on this. I hope the editor gets paid overtime. I’m sure I’m not the only person to think of posting this, but there’s really only one appropriate response to the station’s editing decision, and it is this:

My sincerest apologies to all Oklahomans who aren’t into this sort of thing. Believe me, you have kindred spirits down here in Texas.


Many Ways to Answer Creationists’ Questions

By Pelf at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yup. All the way down.

You may or may not have heard about the debate last week between Bill Nye (a/k/a the Science Guy) and Ken Ham (a/k/a [bleep]) regarding evolution and creationism. Well, it was sort of a debate and it was sort of on that topic. From what I’ve read, Nye took the opportunity to make an impassioned and eloquent plea for science education, while Ham tried to focus on how evolution can’t prove how life began (no one ever said it could.) I don’t know if anyone had their minds changed, but I do appreciate that Bill Nye is out there fighting the good fight. Ham was going to claim this as a win no matter what happened.

An interesting thing happened after the debate, though. A BuzzFeed staffer asked creationists in the audience to write down questions, comments, etc., which he published as a listicle entitled “22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution.”

I admit that the questions/comments mostly just annoyed me, because it’s the same thing again and again, e.g. “Are you scared of a Divine Creator?” Luckily, it’s not even remotely up to me to respond to these questions. The responses people have written have ranged from the derisive to the snarky to the earnestly helpful. I’ll start with that last category.

Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy fame, took the time to answer all 22 questions on Slate, treating the questions, and the questioners, with respect and dignity: Continue reading


The Right Wing Has Its Chick-Fil-A Moment

After the big Chick-Fil-A debacle of this summer, in which right wingers around the country stood firmly in support of a large restaurant chain’s First Amendment right to support the execution of gay people in Uganda. Now, the tables have turned, and a different corporation has done something equally vile and despicable, something that strikes at the very moral fiber of the American soul.



I’m kidding, of course. Dr. Pepper made reference to evolution in a recent ad, and some people on the right have lost their shit.

Dr. Pepper isn’t exactly my favorite soft drink on the market right now, anyway. Well, technically, it is my favorite soft drink, taste-wise, but its douchetastic Dr. Pepper 10 marketing scheme is still stuck in my craw. How fragile is the whole concept of masculinity if a separate drink is required for dudes, with a mere ten calories that have to be separately categorized as “manly”? I can drink Diet Dr. Pepper and Coke Zero without it affecting my gender identity.

Back to the evolution ad, “Evolution of Flavor.” It’s not even a very good ad. Also, I don’t think the backlash is quite as profound as that faced by Chick-Fil-A (and deservedly so.) As Robert T. Gonzalez puts it at io9:

There’s an important distinction separating Dr Pepper from Kraft and Chick-Fil-A: the soda company’s tongue is planted so firmly in its cheek here that it’s practically poking through the other side. This is not about Dr Pepper pronouncing its pro-evolutionary stance, it’s about selling soda with some high-concept ad-design. This shit’s not even scientifically accurate, for crying out loud; conflating this ad with a pro-evolutionary agenda is insulting to actual concepts surrounding human evolution.

If that analysis seems obvious to you, congratulations. You are capable of dissecting the subtleties of an ad campaign (which, let’s face it, really aren’t that subtle) that has thrown a considerable segment of the internet into one of the dumbest shouting matches in recent memory.

I’m going to skip the actual shouting match, because it’s pretty one-sided and entirely stupid.

Besides, everyone knows that evolution played out like this:

Homer evolution 1

Homer evolution 2

Homer evolution 3