Apes of Wrath: evolution and human origins

Wallace’s Line

Alfred Russell Wallace noticed this line of demarcation between biogeographical regions. It separates Asian from Australasian fauna and flora.


According to Wikipedia, “At times when sea levels were lower, what are now islands were exposed and joined as continuous land masses, but the deep water between these two large shelf areas was — for a period in excess of 50 million years — a barrier that kept the flora and fauna of Australia largely separate from that of Asia.” I have also read that it represents land-masses on different tectonic plates. In either case, it shows the results of evolution occurring separately in the two regions for millions of years.

You’ll note that the island of Flores, ancestral home of Homo floresiensis, in in Australasia.

Taking the Bible seriously

I’d heard this joke before, but I didn’t realize that it was incorporated into The West Wing (Season 2): President Bartlet questions a “Dr. Laura” figure on biblical laws:

President Josiah Bartlet: I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.

Dr. Jenna Jacobs: I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.

Bartlet: Yes it does. Leviticus.

Jacobs: 18:22.

Bartlet: Chapter and verse.

I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here.

I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another?

My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?

Here’s one that’s really important because we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?

Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?



Leviticus 20, 9: For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

Leviticus 20, 10: And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20, 15: And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.

Leviticus 20, 18: And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness [menstrual period], and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

Leviticus 23, 18: And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD.

Leviticus 3:

[1] And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD.
[2] And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.
[3] And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,
[4] And the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them
, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away.
[5] And Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is upon the wood that is on the fire: it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
[6] And if his offering for a sacrifice of peace offering unto the LORD be of the flock; male or female, he shall offer it without blemish.
[7] If he offer a lamb for his offering, then shall he offer it before the LORD.
[8] And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle the blood thereof round about upon the altar.
[9] And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat thereof, and the whole rump, it shall he take off hard by the backbone; and the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,
[10] And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away.
[11] And the priest shall burn it upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire unto the LORD.

[12] And if his offering be a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD.
[13] And he shall lay his hand upon the head of it, and kill it before the tabernacle of the congregation: and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle the blood thereof upon the altar round about.
[14] And he shall offer thereof his offering, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,
[15] And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away.
[16] And the priest shall burn them upon the altar
: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the LORD’s.
[17] It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.

I think that certain fundamentalist “Let’s bring back God’s law against gays” Christians are a bit behind on their sacrifices. And I think they’re way behind on their campaign to re-instate the death penalty for adultery.

Scientific literacy in Canada

Canada’s students are doing all right. In scientific literacy, they came 5th out of 41 countries, after Finland, Japan, China, and Korea. But adults — fewer than 20% of Canadian adults up to the age of 65 are considered to be scientifically literate. I view some of those statistics with a jaundiced eye. Both of my parents were intelligent, voracious readers. Our home had books about evolution, books about the Aztecs and the Maya, the Encyclopedia Britannica, physics and radio and carpentry books, and an ever-changing assortment of books from the library. Yet my mother — who had to drop out of school after Grade 8 to go to work — was counted in alarmist literacy statistics as functionally illiterate because of her low level of formal schooling. The fact that she was an A+ student– well, never mind. My father, a high-school dropout, taught me Ohm’s Law and how to read circuit diagrams when I was eight.

If “functional” means anything it ought to mean something about the level at which someone functions and not be a formality. Some of those “scientific functional illiterates” can take anything apart and put it back together working; analyze the stock market enough to do pretty well, thank you; explore a mine; invent ergonomic gadgets that would be the envy of an industrial engineer; plan a farm’s crop production; run a department store; and join in lively dinnertime conversation about scientific discoveries. They aren’t ignorant. That being said, here’s a link to the article about the state of science learning in Canada, published in April, 2007.

Hurricane season starts a month early

The hurricane season is getting underway about a month early. Gee, didn’t this just happen with the southern hemisphere’s cyclone season six months ago?

We know that tropical storms and seasons are averages and subject to cycles (El Nino-La Nina). After a whopping hurricane season two years ago, we got a respite last year. But there’s a trend. Higher temperatures will generate stronger storms and, logically enough, whip smaller disturbances into larger ones.

%d bloggers like this: