April 2nd, 2007


Why I rant about evolution and ID

sed (no LJ handle?) has been challenging me in comments on one of my recent political posts as to why I'm so judgmental about the millions of Americans who reject evolution. A portion of his point was the decision as to what to believe on evolution was essentially a private matter, like the choice of one's faith. Here's part of my response, which I felt worth promoting to a post of its own. (Lightly edited from the original comment -- thread here if you want to track the discussion between the two of us.)

The refusal to accept evolution has significant consequences for public policy. First of all, it validates choices-of-faith over choices-of-fact, which opens the door for wilful ignorance on other science-driven topics ranging from effectiveness of condoms in fighting STDs to global warming. (Admittedly the causality may be slightly reversed here, but the logic remains the same even if denial of sexual research precedes evolution denial.)

Once those kinds of choices come to seem right, with all the attendant warm feeling of righteousness that accompanies a sense of doing God's work (yes, I was raised for a time in a church and I'm familiar with this -- that's not snark), they become entrenched in our nation's electoral politics.

Once they become entrenched in our nation's electoral politics, we have problems ranging from local school boards adopting ID to an entire national energy policy which actively denies the presence, effects or risks of global warming.

We are deliberately electing a generation of leaders and educating a generation of children whose decision making faculties have been consciously crippled by the blinders of faith. That didn't matter much in the Middle Ages, when the effects of human agency on the world were largely limited to local pollution and long-term deforestation, but it matters immensely in a world of industrial emissions and nuclear policy.

You get to choose your faith, but you don't get to choose your facts.


ETA: Hah! stillnotbored reports I was taken in by an April Fool's post. Heh. Nice to know I'm still gullible as ever...

There's a rumor going around that 6 Apart, which owns LJ, is completing the shift to a full advertising supported model and eliminating the permanent accounts as well as generally changing the way LJ behaves. (I recognize that this change has been in process for a while.)

If that happens, and I don't like the outcome, I may move this blog to a dedicated, freestanding blog platform which I can control. If LJ is at risk of becoming a MySpace clone, I don't really feel enthused about sticking around.

Poll #958882 Should I shift my blog off LJ?

Would you follow this blog if it moved off of LiveJournal?

Sure. You're a funny guy.
Sure. You piss me off, and I like that morning adrenaline rush.
Nah, I need my friendslist. I'd still read you in an lj feed, though.
Bend the rainbow, baby.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wit and wisdom of the_child

Recently I was speaking to the_child about something, and she told me I was very weird. I said I wasn't that weird. the_child gave me a fishy stare, and said, "Daddy, you throw toast at the audience."

So much for the dignity of my parental office.

Meanwhile, Mother of the Child reports overhearing the_child on the phone with a friend from her third grade class last night. MoC reports the_child was interpreting a dream for her friend, projecting confidence and authority.

My daughter is interpreting dreams?


I don't really have any formal comment policies on this blog, other than a requirement that trollishness be signed. (You'd be surprised how often that's a problem...) For what it's worth, I don't feel the need to institute any formal policies -- this is my blog, I'm not a public entity, and all decisions of the judges are both arbitrary and final.

That being said, to a common sense degree, abusive behavior is in the eye of the beholder. ("Common sense" in this case being defined as "jaylake's common sense".) With rare exceptions, I do not foresee the substance of an argument being abusive, but the form of an argument can be. Feel free to pick on me all you want, I'll deal, but please be thoughtful about picking on each other in comments. Some people (myself included) go at it for sport. Some do not.

Like I said, be thoughtful.

That is all. You may shop as usual. No need to return to your homes.

Weekend Reacharound


Evolution takes another round on the guitar

ericjamesstone (who puts up with me because he is a better man than I, I suspect) has a thoughtful response to my recent comments on evolution on his blog. While I don't agree with all his premises (for one, his comments on randomness don't ring true for me), I largely agree with his conclusion, to wit:

What’s my personal view on evolution? That there’s a good deal of evidence for it, but there are some things for which it is currently an unsatisfactory explanation. In any case, I do not believe evolution to be incompatible with my religious beliefs.

Here's what I posted in response in his comments section:

Insofar as I know, evolutionary theory is silent on the question of God. That falls under First Causes, which is a whole nother branch of science usually included in cosmology. Even though I am a raging secularist, I don't find it odd that some can see the miraculous hand of God in, say, the Krebs cycle, or the multidimensional interweaving of genetic sequences.

For what it's worth, I think evolutionary biology has been politicized to the degree it has largely as a reaction to the push from the Right. Historically, evolutionary theory wasn't seen at odds with Christian belief so much as an explanation of the mechanisms of Creation. It's the current incarnation of literal absolutism1 that has created this "choosing sides" aspect, the insistence on the part of millions that some words in a book trump a universe full of clearly observable evidence, a large portion of which someone equipped with even modest education and equipment can validate for themselves.

I agree that evolution is (or should be) no more incompatible with your religious beliefs, any more than your religious beliefs are incompatible with my views on evolution.

Which leads to a question I've never been able to get a straight answer on from those who follow Biblical inerrancy. Why would God construct an entire marvelous observable universe, only to expect us to deny the evidence of our senses in favor of the written word, which by its very nature of generations of transmission and reinterpretation is unreliable? Is it your belief that He is tricking us?

ETA: 1. Yes, I'm well aware of the Scopes monkey trial. What I'm talking about is the original line of scientific inquiry, and indeed many biologists today, was not inherently anti-Christian or aggressively secular.

Momo update

the_child and her friend J worked with me today in the vast and copiously equipped test kitchens here at Rancho Lake to make a new batch of momos. (Recipe here, in case you missed it.) These are tasty Tibetan treats, American style, which I believe were described at the Rainforest retreat as the "no mo' slo-mo promo po-mo faux mo momo". Basically, yeast dough with spiced meat folded in, then pan fried and served warm with a dip mixed from soy sauce and vinegar.

Being as how lisamantchev and I had recently been IM'ing possible variants to the preparation, I took the opportunity to launch several alternate methods of cookery. I did not photograph the results, as I was managing two burners, a hot oven and two nine year old children, but I can describe them.

Méthode traditionnelle

The raw momos are laid into the oil and fried, flipping once as with pancakes. This is as documented in the recipe. Crunchy and tasty, with oily goodness.

La première variation

Raw momos were lowered into boiling water (in a colander, double boiler style). One was left in for about four minutes, the other for about six. No significant difference between the two, except the six-minute version was even chewier. Expected result was something like hum bao (steamed pork buns) or gyoza (pot stickers). I liked them, but no one else involved did. (On the other hand, I like hum bao.) Not a likely crowd pleaser, but perfectly decent. I suspect with this preparation they could only be eaten fresh from the pot. Once cold, they are probably quite nasty. Could be steamed instead of boiled, but I don't know that would improve things much.

La deuxième variation

Raw momos were laid on baking parchment on a cookie sheet and baked at 425 until they looked sort of brown. I was aiming for the color of the visible rim of pizza crust. I think this was about 10-12 minutes, but I didn't time it because I was otherwise engaged. After cooling, they were cut apart and eaten. The kids liked them quite a bit this way, though as expected the breadiness was emphasized, in lieu of the crunchy fried-ness of the ordinary preparation. Almost certainly much healthier than the original recipe, nearly as tasty, and they probably would keep as well or better, except we ate both of the test momos so I can't check that until the next time I cook them.

La troisième variation

Raw momos were lowered into boiling water for about thirty seconds, then laid on baking parchment on a cookie sheet and baked at 425 until golden brown. (Absent an oven with misters, this is how you make bagels at home, by briefly boiling the dough.) I think this was about 12-15 minutes, but I didn't time it, either. This was the winner, having a tasty golden crust somewhat reminiscent of an egg wash. A bit chewier than the straight baked product, while still lacking the oil of the original recipe. Also the largest hassle to make of the variants, though not to an annoying degree.

En conclusion

Someone with more kitchen sense than I is welcome to comment on these variations, or suggest others. Steaming, as mentioned above, might be worth trying once. Deep frying might be interesting, though that certainly won't make them any healthier. An actual egg wash might be nice too, though it's yet another step in the process -- still, dabbing that on and sprinkling sesame seeds before they go into the oven could be quite festive and tasty.

Story sold

Short story "After Bonestell" accepted by Eric Reynolds for Visual Journeys, where it will run alongside Tobias Buckell, Michael A. Burstein, Paul E. Martens, Will McDermott, Mike Resnick, Lawrence M. Schoen and others. It literates a Bob Eggleton painting of the same name.