Please forgive the mess

I’m trying to do a little customization to the code on my blog (just trying to widen the content area) but the stuff isn’t really cooperating so things might look a bit ugly for a while.

My apologies and suggestion are welcome.


Update: OK, so I’ve implemented some (most?) of the changes I was planning…how does it look? Comments? Criticisms?

And the award for this years biggest douche goes to…

…the former (abysmal) Governor of California Arnold-don’t bore me with the death of your son-Schwarzenegger:

I’m ashamed for having voted for him in his first run.

The amazing Australian Peacock spider

Isn’t he gorgeous? He’s an Australian peacock spider (Maratus volans) and the photo is by Jürgen Otto. He has a whole gallery of even better photos of this spectacular little arachnid that you’ll want to check out.  However what you really have to see is his video of the dance the males perform to attract the females (you might want to watch it on YouTube for the slightly larger format):

Absolutely wonderful images that demonstrate how apt the common name for these little spiders is. Thank you Jürgen for sharing them.

[Hat tip to Jerry Coyne.]

If humans descended from apes, why are there still apes?

Asks the most recent Jesus and Mo:

And then they flew off to their respective flocks to claim victory…

[Hat tip to Wonderful Life.]

Wait, what?

Intelligent Design creationist Denyse O’Leary, in the midst of rationalizing (over at Uncommon Descent) why ID creationists spend all their time attacking science rather than doing science, has provided yet another example of how antievolutionists are pretty much pathologically unable to portray evolutionary theory (or its supporting evidence) accurately:

O’Leary: To me, Darwinism is like bad money. It becomes an intellectual vice. People are always looking for natural selection to generate random mutation, the way they are always trying to pass on the likely-bogus G-bill (when they are not out looking for the lucky strike). [Emphasis mine]

Yeah, right Denyse, it’s scientists engaging in an “intellectual vice” not creationists like yourself who spend all their time confidently bashing something they clearly don’t understand.

Newsflash: natural selection does not “generate” mutation; mutation is an independently occurring  source of variation from which natural selection “selects” after the fact.

For heaven’s sake, Google it Denyse! Here, I’ll do it for you; the top two hits for “natural selection” are:

Wikipedia - Natural Selection

U.C. Berkley - Natural Selection

That took mere seconds and after mere minutes of reading you won’t find anything on either of those two pages about natural selection “generating” mutations, random or otherwise. Here’s a bonus one on genetic variation from Wikipedia.

Is it really so much to ask for them to have a basic understanding of the science they put so much energy into repudiating?

[Hat tip to Larry Moran over at Sandwalk. Larry took the time to address O’Leary’s aforementioned rationalizations, have a look-see.]

Does being the “fittest” mean eliminating the less fit?

Creationists often portray natural selection —usually citing Herbert Spencer’s expression, “survival of the fittest”— as being a matter of the strong subjugating or eliminating the weak, usually tying it to eugenics, racism and ultimately (of course) to Adolf Hitler.

Here is a fun cartoon by Jay Hosler (author of Drawing Flies) that amusingly illustrates that this is at best an extreme oversimplification of the how natural selection actually works (click on the image for a larger version).

So if you really want to ‘win’ the evolutionary race, the way to do it is to “make love, not war”.

Of course it does sometimes happen in nature that organisms attempt to directly eliminate competition for resources—lions killing hyenas (between species), older larger bird chicks pushing younger siblings out of the nest (within a species)— but it is usually through the more indirect method of simply leaving more offspring and thus eventually dominating the environment. That way the competition fizzles out and goes extinct on its own rather than being directly attacked in any way.

Also such “might makes right” caricatures of natural selection ignore the fact that cooperative behavior within species can also lead to increased “fitness” as is seen in social species like ourselves as well as between different species as is the case with mutualistic relationships; the Yucca plant and some species of Yucca Moths for example.

Then there is the problem that creationists are trying to project the is-ought fallacy onto evolution. The idea being that though the process of natural selection sometimes leads to behavior that we would normally consider cruel or immoral, since it is natural, it is therefore good and we should encourage it.

However the mere fact that we observe something to happen in nature in one context does not mean that it is something upon which we would want to model our own behavior. In fact our success as a species in largely due to the fact that we don’t model our behavior on what we see in nature, or allowing nature to take its course.

See:

Index to Creationist Claims – Claim CA002 and Claim CA002.1

Evolution and Philosophy – Does evolution make might right? by John S. Wilkins

[Hat tip to NCSE on Facebook for the cartoon]