Category Archives: Evolution

I wasn’t kidding about being too clean

In my August 2nd Not Eudora column I joked that the real reason for our health maladies was not vaccinations but too much hygiene or cleanliness……..only I wasn’t really joking.

Take a listen to this NPR report on the microbes that make us more of an ecosystem than a stand alone critter. If you’ve heard people are suffering from more allergies and obesity this could be the explanation. And don’t even get me started on hookworms.

80% European

I recently read a fascinating article about Neanderthals in my Discovery Magazine. Recent genetic breakthroughs have answered an old question. Did they interbreed with our ancestors? The answer is yes except for the sub Saharan Africans who never mingled with Europeans and Asians both of which carry from 2 to 4 percent Neanderthal DNA.

I’ve always found this possibility humorous because of the prejudice we have for the poor supposedly dimwitted and extinct homo sapien species. It would imply that we “superior” white Europeans are the descendants of the ancient cavemen while Africans carry none of those troglodyte genes. Maybe blacks should have adopted the “one drop” rule to keep their race from being corrupted with our European genes.

Of course its too late to save American blacks from this dire descent into genetic backwardness. White called the shots and, despite rhetoric opposing it, crossbred like crazy with blacks and even kept the offspring as slaves. So blacks were pretty well screwed in more ways than one.

This may not be all that awful however for those blacks who have some choice in sexual partners. Neanderthals may not have been all that backward. In fact the genes that slipped through the human population over the last 10,000 years since the last purebred Neanderthals likely left some survival value to the Cro Magnons carrying them. What’s more the attribution of the hauntingly beautiful cave paintings of France and Spain to Cro Magnons may be incorrect. Recent evidence points to this creative work having been done by Neanderthals. If so, then both black and white Americans can be pleased with this sliver of genetic inheritance. Especially if, as the first Discovery article posits: “…African Americans today may have up to 80 percent European DNA.”

White racism really does go just skin deep. It makes me wonder how many of today’s white southern descendants could pass the one drop rule. They should probably have their DNA tested to find out how much of Africa it contains. We already know they’ve got Neanderthal blood in them.

Death in the modern world

I spent a long time looking at this graph. Its seems to suggest that war has become a less likely cause of death in today’s world. If so it might be the result of the world’s citizens getting more education or becoming more invested in a middle class way of life.

I found it on Sully.

I’d like to think so. I finished reading The Book Thief a week ago when I first started this post. Its a thoughtful and engrossing muse by Death on the state of humanity as he saw in Germany during World War II.

At the same time a story appeared in the news of bodies being found in a Syrian Drainage Canal dumped their by their murderers but exposed as the canal ran dry. Death’s work is not yet finished.

He was also busy in the early years of the settlement of the English settlement of the North American colonies according to the history in The Barbarous Years.

I’m sure that death will never get a break. Perhaps after war finally crawls back behind the ploughshare Death will start picking up our spirits following the outbreak of a some pandemic spawned by the stockyards of the world which seem to be engineering killer bacteria that are immune to our dwindling supply of new antibiotics.

One aspect of Creationism has actually enhanced our scientific understanding…

…of geology.


You have this great phrase, you say that creationists are “one of the most recently evolved species” of Christian. What do you mean by this?


Well the creationists have chosen to go back to a literal interpretation of the flood story, using arguments that were recognized and rejected in the 1780s. Throughout that time, there was a whole other tradition of faith in the world around us, a belief that God didn’t create an incomprehensible universe. And they’ve just walked away from that. It’s bad theology dressed as science.

Don’t read this post’s link unless you have a strong stomach and…

…a scientifically curious mind.

Here’s a hint on what’s at the other end of this link. A number of years ago I was grossed out by a chimpanzee at a zoo. This chimp casually stuck his/her finger into another Chimp’s nose and sucked the retrieved prize off his/her finger afterwards. Could there be a biological advantage for having done this? That’s what the link discusses.

In a related hint. When I was a kid I used to watch a sort of early reality program called Bold Journeys. It was comprised of expensive home movies taken by mostly American world travelers as they ventured into regions then far removed from the “civilized” world. In one movie a circle of Amazonian women were sitting around a large earthenware pot as they chewed leaves. Every so often they took turns spitting into the pot. The narrator explained that much like setting sour dough bread out in the air to catch wild yeast to enable it to rise these women were creating a juice which would use their saliva to ferment the jar’s contents thereby creating an alcoholic beverage which the entire village could enjoy.

Fifty years later I’m still recovering from that information.

Sidetracked by evolution

I can’t let this image slide by before reembarking on my book:

Just as the Israel Government is held hostage by a growing minority of religious enthusiasts (who in Israel’s case owe nothing to the economic enterprise that is the state since they are welfare recipients religiously exempted from work or paying taxes) the modern GOP must bow down to religious enthusiasts who impose their understanding of the Bible. That requires the obscuring in public education of the modern scientific understanding of the universe. Life in the GOP’s unwritten code is only about 5000 years old becuz the world was created in seven days.

The GOP tells us that man arrived seven days after the Earth was created so we’re both about 5,000 years old. Although we’ve seen plenty of evidence of evolution guided by humans in dogs, cats, cattle, chickens etc. and built billion dollar industries in grain and livestock hybridization none of this can be traced back to evolution since Darwin contradicts the Bible.

Following in the shadows of all this Biblical correctness we must also nuke Iran because it wants to build a bomb like a half a dozen other less than reliable nations for not to do so would undermine the Yeshiva studying Hebrews who control the Israeli Government.

Yes! Yes! Yes! They will all perish, of course, because the Rapture will leave them behind in their smoldering Yeshivas but life and religious salvation can be messy. Haven’t you read the Old Testament for crying out loud?

Oh and we can’t have a Mormon as President. Well, yeah, he (Romney) would be a million times better than the funnily named Obama, but still Mormons aren’t really Christians. They aren’t planning on all those Yeshiva studying Jews to burn during the Rapture. What kind of Christian is that?

Ye Gods! I’ve got to get back to some really sensible foolishness and write more in my book.

JCI could sell them air conditioners

I’m nearly done reading my fifth or sixth book on the lands “Down Under.” This one is a very nice accompaniment to In Tasmania and the two books I’ve just finished reading one on the flora and fauna of New Zealand and the other on the same topic about Australia. Its called Carniverous Nights. Its about a couple arm chair naturalists who got the yen to search for the recently extinct Tasmanian Tiger. There may have been a couple still alive when I was born in the 1950’s. Had the Tasmanian legislature not voted to put a 1 pound bounty on them in 1890 the last known one would not have died in a zoo in 1933.

I just finished reading a chapter on the River Styx a stream where the worlds tallest trees are being logged for paper pulp. The tallest trees no longer exist. One was measured at 470 feet tall which would be higher than the tallest red woods. Other smaller Eucalyptus Regnans exist but they are being mowed down to be replaced by tree farms. I may try to take a side trip to get a look at them when I’m there in a month’s time.

Immediately after finishing the chapter I hurried up to my computer and found this in my favorite blog. Its a three minute promo worth every second. Its about the Amazon. We could have cheaper hamburgers if we’re allowed to chop it down too. No doubt JCI could sell air conditioners to the ranchers.

The art and science of seduction

I read about a discovery recently concerning water striders those bugs who skate above water. It seems males will make vibrations on the water that attract predators whenever the female striders they mount resist them. Females either submit to the male or face being devoured from below.

Internet services offer some less lethal opportunities for sexual aggrandizement.

“Anyway, last weekend I was talking to an acquaintance about his use of such services. He has his assistant seducing women for him. His assistant, who is female and lives in India, logs onto his account on a popular dating site, browses profiles and (pretending to be him) makes connections with women on the site. She has e-mail conversations and arranges first dates. Then her employer reads the e-mail conversation and goes to the date.”

In the beginning

This is the universe that the shepherd priests who took dictation from the Almighty didn’t know about.

Within the last year I read a very convincing article in my Discover magazine in which an astronomer lamented the absence of Earth Sized objects in the Universe. His lamentations were evidently premature.

Life, no matter how tortuous its definition, may very soon to be regarded throughout the cooling universe as being as common and tenacious as weeds. Of course, it took four billion years on Earth for life to start talking so we may not be borrowing any cups of sugar from an extraterrestrial any time soon.

Teach your children well

Almost all textbooks in the US are teaching children that evolution is a big maybe because text book publishers bow to the standards required of them by the state of Texas. For a couple decades Christian fundamentalists have called the shots on what can be printed in text books. Most recently they determined that the US Constitution is an “enduring document” not a “living document.” You might have guessed that this is GOP speak for we don’t want any damn “librul” activists judges messing with our Constitution. Conservative activists they’re not so concerned about because to be a conservative (and not one of those damned fool RINOs) is to understand that America’s founding fathers were all good inerrant Christians who wanted to found the new Zion.

Pay no attention to that global warming stuff or evolution. You can’t trust those scientists anyway. This isn’t evolution at play.Tain’t no sech thing. Its just God’s wrath:

Oh by the way, this story is about how the entire world’s wheat harvest could be killed off in the next couple years. What might that mean? a billion starving people? Earthquakes and tsunamis and contraception pale by comparison.

Indeed, 90 percent of the world’s wheat has little or no protection against the Ug99 race of P. graminis. If nothing is done to slow the pathogen, famines could soon become the norm – from the Red Sea to the Mongolian steppe – as Ug99 annihilates a crop that provides a third of our calories. China and India, the world’s biggest wheat consumers, will once again face the threat of mass starvation, especially among their rural poor. The situation will be particularly grim in Pakistan and Afghanistan, two nations that rely heavily on wheat for sustenance and are in no position to bear added woe. Their fragile governments may not be able to survive the onslaught of Ug99 and its attendant turmoil.

When I was running for the legislature a decade ago I wanted to introduce a law that forbade Minnesota School districts from using any books authorized by the state of Texas.


After fundamentalists took over the Republican Party they began redefining old Republicans out of it by derisively calling them Rino’s: “Republicans in name only.” In other words, what had once been perfectly respectable Republicanism was treated as heretical including such time tested libertarian ideals as keeping the government out of its citizen’s personal lives and shunning deficit spending and a reluctance to go to war where we had no business being.

As a past Rino I take heart in seeing other Republicans turn their backs, on the party or better yet, turn their horns toward the party.

When a Mule Foals (an ancient Roman saying)

This story caught my attention recently. It is about a hunter sweating out genetic tests on the bear he’d killed. Had he killed a grizzly he’d have been in trouble. He was happy to hear that he’d shot a half grizzly – half polar bear mix.

Evolution has had a billion years for such instances to occur and apparently we humans did a little mixing ourselves with Chimpanzees for a million or so years after we began diverging from them genetically. That’s what the analysis of our species DNA suggests

The first time I can remember hearing about this was in grade school when my family visited a zoo with ligers in it. Ligers are half lions half tigers. Mules too are well known hybrids of horses and donkeys. I read an article a few years ago about the world of animal husbandry being rocked by the discovery of a mule that was fertile. Apparently one common casualty of different species successfully interbreeding is their offspring’s fertility. Just a minute let me do a google followup on that story …….Oh here, very interesting.

I read an interesting book ten years ago Wonderful Life by Stephen Gould. It was all about the “explosion” of life in the precambrian era when animals seem to have gotten past our 800 million-year long, single cell, stage of life. Gould said scientists theorized that during this time there was in effect a massive experimentation as different types of critters had the ability to mix with each other leading to all sorts of odd beasts. Natural selection helped sculpt the best fit and began the familiar branches of the tree of life.

According to an old theory we all have bits of another lifeform in our cells called mitochondria. These are called the power plants of cells. It has been suggested that they a separate animal hundreds of millions of years ago that somehow got caught up in a symbiotic relationship (think lichens) with another one celled animal becoming an energy source for such things as locomotion. Today they are part of most animal cells and not a separate animal at all.

So, are we a monkey’s uncle? Of course not. Chimpanzee’s aren’t monkeys!