Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ evolution

July 2, 2014 • 4:54 am

I’m chuffed that the Jesus and Mo artist has a strip on evolution today.  I’d suggest my own book as inspiration, but this strip was first published in 2007:


As Richard Feynman said in his report on the space shuttle Challenger disaster, “Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled.”

h/t: Linda Grilli (with two new black kittens, making a total of six black cats)

18 thoughts on “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ evolution

  1. Just for clarity, the original quote is (my emphasis):

    For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled.”

    Feynman was not talking about religion’s place in society, nor even making a broad comment about why science is good. He was making a very specific and pointed comment about building modern equipment (like space shuttle booster rockets).

    1. True, but I don’t think he’d object to the appropriation of the phrase to its broader meaning. Especially since it’s the exact same dynamic at play of wishful thinking leading to destructive policy decisions.

      And, even if he would object…tough shit: he’s dead.


      1. That last is a really bad argument. So it’s okay when creationists appropriate Gould quotes, because he’s dead?

        I have no idea what Feynman would say about it and I’m not even going to guess, but we should not use people’s quotes out of context, regardless of whether they’re dead or alive. (But for the record, I’m not accusing Jerry of doing that; it didn’t look to me like he intentionally left off the first bit. The truncated version is in pretty common circulation and often used by lots of people, which is why I started my comment “just for clarity.”)

        1. Perfectly all right to use them, AS LONG as we don’t then try to attribute them to the originator.

          Then the statement can stand (or fall) on its own merits.

          I like that Feynman quote. Long before he made it, I came up with a similar version which was ‘the water will do what it wants to, whether your equations say so or not’. Could have been more fluently put, but it related to young engineers who came up with answers to three places of decimals based on approximate coefficients and hidden assumptions.

      1. My variant on the theme, trotted out several times a month with each new flush of trainees, is that “a microgramme of measurement outweighs a megagramme of speculation”. (The specific context is usually of complex and highly uncertain drilling engineering calculations involving turbulent flow which we have replaced by just measuring the damned parameter and pulsing it up – at a glorious 1.5 bits per second.)

        1. Reminds me of the (possibly apocryphal) story of two mathematicians who were invited to Edison’s lab to see his new light bulb. They wondered about how much volume the bulb enclosed (probably to see if the bulb could withstand the air pressure) and set about trying to solve complex equations to determine it. Edison quickly got fed up, and took an open bulb that was sitting on the bench, filled it with water, and then poured the water into a graduated cylinder to measure the volume. 🙂

        2. Even if your theory is perfect, if you omitted to include one minor little detail in your calculations, you’re not going to get the right answer. That’s the great thing about reality: it does all the calculations for you; you just have to do the measurements.

          Theory is still vital, of course…but, in any battle between theory and observation, observation will always win.

          I’ve been battling that, myself, in attempts to build a spectrograph suited to the purposes I need. But, with luck, I’ve observed enough, and will finish today or tomorrow…I hope…but I won’t know until the next round of observation….


          1. Unless the observations are wrong. The relationship between theory and data is not direct and requires indicator hypotheses, etc. At the time of Edison one could do what physical chemist Keith Laidler calls “empirical inventions” but he’s argued that those are basically dead.

            1. Absolutely true — but it’s also the case that damned few of us are capable of reliably making the kinds of measurements necessary for theory to be sufficient. Much easier, generally, to just throw shit on the wall and see what sticks. Or, in more practical terms, cut a bit long and shave until it fits. Wherever possible, give yourself room for adjustment.


          2. “Theory is still vital, of course…but, in any battle between theory and observation, observation will always win.”

            Except that, in order to make any sense out of what we’re seeing, we do frequently have to have some idea of what we’re looking for. Admittedly there is a risk that we may consequently interpret the results exactly backwards, but without some conceptual framework to fit the observations into, they’re often just a confusing mass of data.

    2. “When not speaking of technology and its success, however, and notwithstanding that Mother Nature cannot be fooled, public relations may sometimes take precedence over reality.”

      That sounds like something Feynman would have said… right?!?

  2. I wonder if this was drawn in reaction to a specific event, or just to general observation.

  3. @4 reasonshark:

    J&M’s website says that this is a rerun of a cartoon drawn in 2007, so if there was a specific event it’s some time in the past.

    By the way, if you want a regular dose of J&M, you can subscribe to the weekly feed at

  4. And if you give a donation, the artist will send you a clerihew. Here’s mine. I was chuffed. (Thanks Dr. Coyne for your excellent vocabulary…I learn new words from you all the time. “Chuffed” made me chuffed.)

    “Hi Mark Here’s your clerihew:

    Mark Richardson
    Is no friend to witch or nun
    Being of a rational bent,
    He gave up religion for Lent

    (This was a tough one!) Thanks again! D”

  5. Does a “deeply held” religious belief stay in proportion to one’s size? Is the most deeply held belief one which is held at a maximum distance from any point where skin meets air? If you’re a petite person (or a child), is body size one factor in determining that deeply held beliefs pale in comparison to the deeply held religious beliefs of men in the Southern United States, where girth runs well ahead of the rest of the world? The world deserves answers.

Leave a Reply