Today’s batch of photos come from Costa Rica, and were taken by Fred Dyer. His notes and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:
Some Photos from Costa Rica 10-20 July 2022
I recently traveled around Costa Rica with my family for about 10 days prior to a conference. Our itinerary included a day in the capital city of San Jose, a couple of days in the mountainous/volcanic region northwest of San Jose, and then several days along the central Pacific coast. Costa Rica is an amazing place, geologically, biologically, and culturally. Almost everything you see is beautiful. These photographs are a grab bag that don’t have much in common except that they were the ones that came out looking pretty good.
First, a few photos from near the town of La Fortuna and the Arenal volcano, including from a guided walk through a private rainforest reserve. On the walk we saw toucans, howler monkeys, army ants, leaf cutter ants and morpho butterflies, plus these (I welcome corrections on the species identifications):
Eyelash pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii), which gets its common name from the hairlike scales protruding over each eye. It is a small snake, but one of the most dangerous in Costa Rica.
Stingless bees (Apidae : Apinae : Meloponini: Perhaps Tetragonisca sp?) guarding their nest entrance tube. There are something like 60 species of stingless bees in Costa Rica. These guard bees were 4-5 mm in length. The colony is enclosed in a cavity so its size is hard to know, but some species have several thousand workers in each colony.
View of the Arenal Volcano from the north. This volcano began erupting violently in 1968 and continued until 2010. Vapors still issue from the peak, although this picture shows only clouds:
From La Fortuna/Arenal we drove toward the Pacific coast, and stopped at a wildlife rescue center (Santuario Las Palmas) near the town of Cañas in Guanacaste province. The enclosures held rescued jaguars, pumas, ocelots, monkeys and several species of parrots. We also spotted some wildlife outside the enclosures:
Automeris metzlicaterpillar (larva of a Saturniid moth—in the same genus as the North American Io moth). This beauty was about 10 cm long
Same caterpillar after it moved onto a twig. The urticating spines supposedly produce a nasty venom. Here is what an adult Automeris metzli looks like. Whereas the larva relies upon aposematic signals and spines to deter potential predators from attacking, the adult is cryptic in the resting position, and exposes eyespots as a startle cue.
You can read more on Automerishere.
Black Ctenosaur (Ctenosaura similis), also known as the black spiny-tailed iguana, grazing at Las Palmas. These large lizards are extremely common along the Pacific slope:
In Manuel Antonio National Park, stingless bees (species unknown) on a Heliconia sp.:
Also in the park, Panamanian white-faced capuchins (Capuchin imitator) engaged in a groomfest, while baby looks on. These were part of a larger group of a dozen or so monkeys in a grove of trees about 3 meters above the ground:
Same monkeys, still grooming.
Back in town, a Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris) with some insect yumminess for its nestling(s). These are large birds (a bit bigger than a grackle) in the cuckoo family. They often nest communally but this seemed to be a single mated pair. The nest was in a tree across the street from our rental house in Manuel Antonio. Pictures of the nestling(s) and the other parent didn’t come out so great.
Playa Hermosa, a black-sand beach about an hour north of Manuel Antonio. This is a destination for expert surfers, and the surf was really intense the day we were there.
American Crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) basking next to the Tárcoles River below the “Crocodile Bridge.” This is a tourist attraction on the main coastal highway (Route 34). The travel guidebook said that there is a population of 2000 or more crocs in this river and the nearby Carara National Park. Crocodiles often rest with their mouths open to dissipate heat.
Welcome to Hump Day (or “Roja Hump” in Kurdish): August 10, 2020: National S’Mores Day. Already popular with campers and scouts in the 1920, the name “S’Mores” didn’t appear until 1938. I do love them, though they’re not exactly gourmet food: a melted marshmallow and squares of chocolate (Hershey’s is most popular) sandwiched between two graham crackers. Here’s one prepared in the microwave, though I like my marshmallows slightly over from a campfire.
After the Sun, Sirius is the brightest star you can see from Earth. Here is Sirus and the fainter Sirius B (the companion deduced by Bessel), which orbit each other at a distance about the same as between the Sun and Uranus.
*Two bad pieces of news from The Man We All Love to Hate. As I reported this morning, the FBI has searched Trump’s Florida home at Mar-a-Lago, including cracking one of his safes. They are looking for confidential documents that Trump removed from the White House, and it was done without the knowledge of Biden or his aides. Although Trump was reported to be in New York at the time, the NYT says that he was there for at least part of the search, along with one of his lawyers.
These are not the documents that Trump already turned over to the National Archives:
Those materials contained many pages of classified documents, according to a person familiar with their contents. By law, presidential materials must be preserved and sent to the National Archives when a president leaves office. It remained unclear what specific materials agents might have been seeking on Monday or why the Justice Department and the F.B.I. decided to go ahead with the search now.
Mr. Trump had delayed returning 15 boxes of material requested by officials with the National Archives for many months, doing so only in January, when the threat of action to retrieve them grew. The case was referred to the Justice Department by the archives early this year.
. . . Despite the historic and politically incendiary nature of the search, neither the F.B.I. nor the Justice Department has publicly commented or explained the basis for its action, in line with their policies of not discussing active investigations.
Oh, goody: my dream is that we’ll wake up some fine day, not too long from now, and read the headline: “Trump Indicted.”
*But the “crime” here is minor unless there’s some smoking gun relating to his promotion of an insurrection, he may just be guilty of mishandling classified materials. According to the WaPo, though, that can carry a penalty that would cheer all of us:
Any mishandling could be in violation of a law requiring Trump to preserve his records and phone calls of his official duties as president. If he were to be charged and found guilty of willfully hiding or destroying confidential and classified materials — a big if — some legal experts say he could be barred from being president again. Other experts disagree.
That, of course, would ultimately find its way to the Supreme Court, also known as The Black Hole of the Enlightenment (no light gets out).
Every president has violated the Presidential Records Act in some way, such as by using personal phones for texts or emails, for example, presidential historian Robert David Johnson said. But Trump might be the most egregious violator of the law in its 44 years of existence, Johnson said: “Since [Richard] Nixon, there is no example of a president just pretending the law doesn’t exist.”
Trump’s actions have been on a whole other level. According to Post reporting, he tore up hundreds of documents — perhaps more — indiscriminately. His aides used burn bags to destroy documents rather than hand them over for preservation. The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reports he flushed documents down the toilet. There is a gap of more than seven hours on in his phone logs on one of the most crucial days of his presidency, the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
This is all after White House lawyers explicitly told Trump about the law requiring that he preserve documents.
His own Supreme Court may eventually pave his way to the Presidency. Trump is good at gaming the system, moron though he may seem to be. But I echo the cry of Muhammad Ali, “Show me justice!”
In a 28-page ruling, a panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that a federal law gives a House committee chairman broad authority to request them despite Mr. Trump’s status as a former president.
The Treasury Department refused to turn over the records during his administration. But after President Biden took office last year, the department determined that a renewed request from the House Ways and Means Committee, which said that it was studying a program that audits presidents, was valid.
The appeals court’s ruling does not necessarily mean that Congress will obtain the records. Mr. Trump’s legal team has vowed to fight the congressional effort “tooth and nail,” and he is virtually certain to appeal to the Supreme Court. If at least four justices on the court vote to take any such appeal, that would effectively shield Mr. Trump from a final judgment until next year. If in the meantime Republicans retake the House in the midterm elections, the Ways and Means Committee would be led by a Republican and would most likely drop the request.
While the Presidential Records Act does not specify an enforcement mechanism, taking presidential records from the White House could open Trump up to charges of conspiring to impede the proper functioning of the National Archives, said Jeffrey Cohen, an associate professor at Boston College Law School and former federal prosecutor.
He could also be charged under a law, known by its code number 2071, making it a crime to conceal or destroy U.S. public documents, or laws making it illegal to steal or damage government property.
Even if the search warrant pertains to Trump’s handling of official documents, he could end up facing charges for different crimes, said Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor. Trump faces other possible legal entanglements, including a probe into his supporters’ Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. read more
“Once the government starts looking at documents that are seized, they do not need to shut their eyes to evidence of other crimes that they come across,” Epner said.
*I’m full of quotes today, and this one is “Do you believe in miracles?”. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember that announcer Al Michaels shouted that while broadcasting the U.S. victory over Russia in ice hockey in the 1980 Olympics. To me, it’s almost miraculous that Ukraine is still sticking it to Russia, though I still think they’re going to come out of this war at least losing a substantial chunk of the country.
But the plucky Ukrainians seemed to have scored another coup: they are likely responsible for shelling a Russian air base in Crimea, previously stolen by Russia and not really in contention in the latest Russian attack. The Russians deny that Ukraine did it, but I don’t believe them:
A series of explosions at a Russian air force base on the strategically pivotal peninsula of Crimea triggered an evacuation, Russian officials said, fraying nerves as Ukraine presses on with a counteroffensive aimed at liberating the south of the country from Russian control.
The blasts were caused by exploding air-force ammunition but there was no shelling of any kind aimed at the base, the Russian Ministry of Defense said. Aircraft stationed there were undamaged and there had been no injuries, the ministry said.
The explosions bring the nearly six-month war closer to home for Russians who have largely experienced the war as an intervention on Ukrainian territory. An overwhelming majority of Russians supported the country’s seizure of the peninsula in 2014, and it became a popular tourist destination.
Ukrainians greeted the explosions, regardless of their cause, as a sign that Crimea, which Kyiv wants back, was in play after eight years in which they could do little about its loss.
*If you listened to Motown music in the Sixties and Seventies—some of the best pop music of our time—you’ll have seen the names “Holland-Dosier-Holland” as the composers of many great songs. Sadly, Lamont Dozier died yesterday at 81. He and two co-writers, had a ton of hits. The NYT counts them:
In collaboration with the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, Mr. Dozier wrote songs for dozens of musical acts, but the trio worked most often with Martha and the Vandellas (“Jimmy Mack”), the Four Tops (“Bernadette”) and especially the Supremes (“You Can’t Hurry Love”). Between 1963 and 1972, the Holland-Dozier-Holland team was responsible for more than 80 singles that hit the Top 40 of the pop or R&B charts, including 15 songs that reached No. 1. “It was as if we were playing the lottery and winning every time,” Mr. Dozier wrote in his autobiography, “How Sweet It Is” (2019, written with Scott B. Bomar).
Look at the list of their hits on Wikipedia; there are many not listed below that are great. Here’s a list of their top ten Billboard songs, with my notation by my favorites (“This Ol Heart of Mine” was first done by the Isley Brothers, and better than Rod Stewart”). Have a listen below
From Barry. This is a pinned tweet from the Western Wellness Center, whose motto on Twitter is “tweeting white positivity.” Oy! There’s some pretty funny responses in the thread, though. As one person pointed out, if these women had the best genes, why are they dyeing their hair blonde?
What's at stake for Whites? The loss of our precious DNA through the genetic swamping of multiracialism. pic.twitter.com/T1nVERQ22x
A bizarre tweet from Simon. The CPI is a socialist organization. I don’t agree about the near-identity of both ends of the horseshoe, but the extreme Left does have some strong authoritarian tendencies.
There really is almost no difference between the extreme left & extreme right. I see much of the same symbology at @CPAC . The major difference is that the far left, including the Social Democratic Party, remains fringe, whereas the Republican Party has made extremism mainstream. https://t.co/HVKHV5xbL8
Didion surely wrote this after the death of her husband. It’s profound but also profoundly depressing. Matthew sent it to me this morning, not knowing I was pondering mortality:
We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away… When we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.
I knew before looking up this tweet, sent by a reader, that Sailer was a conservative. And sure enough, he works for the National Association of Scholars, which Wikipedia describes as “an American non-profit politically conservative advocacy organization, with a particular interest in education.” You can stop reading now, if you wish, but Saller simply lays out UC Berkeley’s rubric for what DEI requirements must be met for new hires. What he presents comes directly UC Berkeley’s own website, so these “guidelines” (read “requirements”) are genuine.
I’ve enlarged them below the tweet.
Thread: Universities increasingly require DEI statements for not only hiring but also promotion and tenure (see below).
In many cases, the rubrics for evaluating those statements test for whether candidates display the right "values."
Please click the three boxes below to enlarge for reading. As Berkeley’s Office for Faculty Equity and Welfare notes, there is a requirement that all scholars, whatever their fields, must as part of their job applications answer three groups of questions about how they feel about DEI initiatives and how they’d advance them:
Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are responsibilities of all Berkeley faculty through their research, teaching, and/or service. As a public institution we expect all new hires to meet our equity and inclusion standards for excellence. These responsibilities are codified in both the UC Berkeley Principles of Community(link is external), and The University of California Regents Policy 4400(link is external). Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging also supports our campus goals for diversifying the faculty and creating an inclusive campus climate for all individuals. The purpose of this webpage is to provide candidates for faculty positions and faculty search committees information about how to consider and evaluate contributions to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging throughout the faculty search process.
So if you want a job at Berkeley, you’d better read what’s below, and tweak your statements and interviews so you give the search committee what it wants. I urge you to read all three boxes.
Berkeley evaluates all candidates applying for jobs in three areas of DEI: how much they know about it, what has been their track record in the past of advancing it, and what are their plans for advancing it at Berkeley if they’re hired? As the UCB website notes:
The sample rubric, below, is a template for search committees to use for assessing candidate contributions to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). It is a guide, and can be adapted to specific searches as appropriate given departmental or disciplinary expertise.
Each area is scored from 1-5; the minimum score is 3 and the maximum is 15. I’ve heard that there are cutoffs below which faculty applications are simply not evaluated for scholarship, but simply thrown in the bin. I’m not sure whether that’s true, and, if so, whether a numerical cutoff is limited to some searches or all searches. But you better believe that you’ll be evaluated on how high your joint score is.
Here’s what you must know, must have done, and must plan to do about DEI. In this first area, you must be somewhat of a student of DEI to get the maximum points. No nerds who just study math need apply, no matter how good their scholarship!
It’s clear from the above that they’re looking for certain answers, and if you say the wrong thing, you lose points (and a chance at a job).
Below: To get the most points, you must have a deep and long-lasting record in advancing equity.
And of course you must have plans—specific plans, not just vague statements. If you’re in chemistry, for example, you have to show up with a bunch of new ideas about how to advance equity (not equality) and inclusion at in Berkeley’s Department of Chemistry.
Sailer gives similar statements from other good universities in the thread below his tweet, including Emery, Cornell, The University of Virginia, and The University of Michigan. They’ve all followed suit, Little Brothers following Big Brothers.
When I read these things, I feel I’m being thrown into a different world of academia—one in which advancing knowledge is subsidiary to advancing a very specific ideological program: the kind of antiracism espoused by Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. The purpose of a University now is not to produce and disseminate truth and wisdom, but to change society in certain directions. This change is to be effected by professors imposing their DEI philosophy on their students.
Of course, as a liberal I don’t object to students finding their way to liberalism and the philosophy of promoting equal opportunity in America. But they must arrive at this philosophy on their own, after exposure to a diversity of ideas. And they must do it on their own; their job at college is to learn, and, as Stanley Fish wrote, Save the World on Your Own Time. The same holds for faculty. They should not have to engage in activities deemed desirable by the progressive Left. Their job is to create knowledge and impart it (and the methods for evaluating knowledge and arguments) to their students. Their job is not to disseminate Leftist ideology, and I say this as someone on the Left.
And of all the diversity that is promulgated above, what is notably missing is a diversity of viewpoints. Anybody making statements like “I support freedom of speech and free discussion as a way of furthering the truth” as responses to the rubrics above will lose their chance for a job.
Can you imagine the degree of lying, misrepresentation, and dissimulation these kinds of requirements will foster among applicants for jobs?
My only consolation is that I now these kinds of requirements could never fly at The University of Chicago—at least for the time being.
FiveThirtyEight has posted its latest prognostications, which show that, in its simulations, Democrats take the Senate a little more often, but Republicans take the House a lot more often. Remember, these simulations have presumably factored in Biden’s latest legislative victory as well as the overturning of Roe and the widespread disapproval of that decision. Remember, we have 3 months to go before round #1, and 27 months before round #2, so we’re just having fun here. My question to readers is below:
Here’s the question. It looks like either both houses of Congress will be Republican after the 2024 elections, or the Senate will be Democratic and the House Republican. The chances that both will be Democratic seems to me almost zero.
Two hypothetical questions:
If the Senate and House are dominated by different parties, which house of Congress would you prefer be Democratic, and which Republican?
Does your answer change if the President is a Democrat or a Republican?
Let’s assume that the President (knock on wood) is a Democrat. If the Senate were highly Democratic (60% or more), then Republicans voting as a group couldn’t filibuster to prohibit Democratic legislation from passing the Senate. But 60% Democrats is out of the question. But even if only half the Senate were Democratic, as it is now, ties on reconciliation bills could be broken by the VP’s vote.
The problem, of course, is that the question hypothesizes a Republican House, which wouldn’t vote for any bill approved by a Democratic Senate (I’m assuming near-unanimity of party votes here, which seems likely). The ultimate result is that unless substantial bipartisanship arises, we’re screwed. And because of the President’s veto power, no Republican-initiated legislation could overcome that veto. (It takes a 2/3 vote of both houses to override a veto.)
Now let’s assume that the President is a Republican. A Republican Senate would be the same as the Democratic Senate is now: it could pass reconciliation bills but unless there are more than 60 Republicans, which seems unlikely, they couldn’t prevent a Democratic filibuster and bring “normal” bills to a vote. And since this hypothetical includes a Democratic House, no Republican bills would be passed there anyway.
If the House were Republican but the Senate Democratic, legislation is again stymied. There is no chance of a Democratic VP breaking a tie, and even if reconciliation bills are passed by a simple majority in the Democratic Senate, they’d be voted down by the House.
In fact, under a Republican President, a split congress could never pass any Democrat-approved legislation because the President would simply veto it.
The way things look now, if the Congress is split, Democrats could never get their agenda passed, and that doesn’t depend on the party of the President. But the same goes for Republicans. This is because legislation must be approved by both houses of Congress, and neither party is in the mood for bipartisanship. Only the most innocuous bills could be passed.
A split Congress is a recipe for disaster, particularly if a Republican President begins issuing executive orders.
I’m so tired that I have a feeling I made a mistake, but I can’t find one.
The search was unannounced, and apparently involved looking for classified documents that may have been removed from the White House. The FBI even broke into a safe, a sign that it’s dead serious. As the NYT notes:
The F.B.I. would have needed to convince a judge that it had probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that agents might find evidence at Mar-a-Lago, to get a search warrant. Proceeding with a search on a former president’s home would almost surely have required sign-off from top officials at the bureau and the Justice Department.
The search, however, does not mean prosecutors have determined that Mr. Trump committed a crime.
An F.B.I. representative declined to comment, as did Justice Department officials. The F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, was appointed by Mr. Trump.
. . . Aides to President Biden said they were stunned by the development and learned of it from Twitter.
I wonder what crime they’re investigating.
The Republicans are furious; look at this petulant threat, worthy of a five year old:
Mr. Trump has long cast the F.B.I. as a tool of Democrats who have been out to get him, and the search set off a furious reaction among his supporters in the Republican Party and on the far right of American politics. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader in the House, suggested that he intended to investigate Attorney General Merrick B. Garland if Republicans took control of the House in November.
The Orange Man is inching ever closer to donning an orange suit.
Once again I should remind readers to try to limit the emails they send me, as the volume is getting unmanageable, and I am both missing some emails and failing to acknowledge others.
Therefore, I’d ask readers to send me AT MOST one email per day with tips about interesting material, or perhaps one every two days. If readers accumulate multiple “tips”, better to combine them in a file and then send them to me at once than to send each link as they find it.
This of course does not apply to errors I make in my posts; corrections are welcome at any time.
Today we have mollusk and cnidarian photos from Taryn Overton. Her captions and narrative are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. First, the introduction:
These are a few sea creature photos from South Florida. My hand is in the majority of these photos, as one can wait rather a long wait for conchs to venture out of their shells of their own accord. All were briefly photographed and returned to the surf. The camera used was an iPhone 11. Locations were various but include Sanibel Island, Marco Island, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park (near Naples, FL), Lauderdale-by-the-Sea (near Fort Lauderdale, FL), and Dr. Von D. Mizel-Eula Johnson State Park (near Hollywood, FL).
Strombus alatus (Fighting Conch). These conchs (along with numerous others in the Strombidae family) have remarkable eyes! The eyes are located on the ends of peduncle structures called ommatophores and are of the camera-type (simple) variety. That is, a single lens collects and focuses light onto the retina. Research of gastropods in the Strombidae family has shown that the eyes have a complex architecture, with tightly packed photoreceptors and at least six different cell types. Similar to cephalopods, their lenses also reduce spherical aberrations through graded refractive indexes. These anatomical findings, taken together with recent behavioral studies, show that they have both high contrast sensitivity and high visual acuity.
If the eye is injured or amputated, the ommatophore tip experiences a migration of cells that reassemble in correct topographic orientation. At first the regenerating eye is small, but eventually it grows to the size of the original and is once again functional. A Master’s thesis* where Strombus alatus eyes were amputated demonstrated restoration of rhodopsin and Gq proteins (necessary for phototransduction) within 4 weeks, suggesting return of visual function by that period. I find it fascinating – the ability of these gastropods to regenerate an entire eye from cells that then reintegrate with the central nervous system to function!
The conch photographed here has been recently injured. Something took part of the foot, the corneous/sickle-shaped operculum (see other photos of conchs with intact feet/opercula), and the right eye. The eye is in the process of regenerating. I’ve found a few other conchs over the years that have been missing their operculum and part of the foot but were healed from the previous trauma. Based on those observation alone, it does not appear that the operculum or foot regenerate in any significant capacity – but I’m not sure.
Also of note – they have a sensory tentacle that hangs from the ommatophore and functions in scent detection (food, predators, etc). These are more readily seen in the Aliger gigas (Queen Conch) photographs.
*Figures 1.2 and 3.1 below are from the following source: Clark, J.M (2018). Restoration of visual performance and opsin expression within the retina during eye regeneration in the Florida fighting conch (Strombus alatus). (Master’s thesis).
Strombus alatus (Fighting Conch). I often find that Fighting Conch have numerous shell pieces adhered by a mucous substance to their foot. Over the years I’ve wondered if it was some sort of defense mechanism, as I often can’t see the organism behind the shells. Whether or not this is deliberate on the part of the conch, a secondary effect of biology/mucus produced on the foot, or a combination of both, I’m not sure. When the ‘My Octopus Teacher’ film came out in 2020, the behavior of the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) covering herself with shells/debris as an apparent defense mechanism reminded me of this.
Strombus alatus (Fighting Conch) at sunset.
A juvenile Strombus alatus (Fighting Conch) peeking out of its home at sunrise
Aliger gigas (Queen Conch). The discussion regarding eyes of Strombus alatus can be applied in a similar manner to this species.
Sinistrofulgur perversum (perversum lightning whelk). ‘Perversum’ – derived from the Latin word perversus, meaning “turned the wrong way”. ‘Sinistro’ – Latin for left. Their left-handed (sinistral) aperture separates them from the majority of other marine gastropods. Being ‘lefties’ helps to protect them against typically right-dominant predators like stone crabs. Right-handed (dextral) lightning whelks have been documented but are rare. I mostly find small, uninhabited shells but have run across a few larger, living specimens.
Sinistrofulgur perversum (perversum lightning whelk) egg casing that washed up in the surf. These casings are colloquially known as ‘mermaid’s necklaces’. They spawn from March-April, and the casings can be 27-83 cm long. Each strand has up to ~200 disc-shaped capsules containing up to ~100 eggs (numbers vary based on the source). If you pick them up, you can hear the rattle of the tiny whelks (protoconchs) within the capsules. Juveniles begin to hatch in May.
Velella velella (velella). The marine life so nice they named it twice. Also known as ’purple sail, ’little sail’, and ‘by-the-wind sailor’. Classification and exact nature are disputed, and I don’t have specialized taxonomy knowledge to distinguish which classification is correct. They are not jellyfish and may be either a single large hydroid polyp, or a colony of hydroid creatures. The organism(s) also harbor symbiotic zooxanthellae (single celled dinoflagellates) that help with sustenance.
Physalia physalis (Portuguese man o’war). This is a siphonophore, and is a colonial organism composed of smaller units called zooids. I often walk the beaches at dawn and dusk, and occasionally there are periods where hundreds will wash ashore. For those that find themselves in similar positions, I recommend shoes on the beach. These guys have long tentacles bearing nematocysts (specialized stinging cells). Even if you’re confident you’ll manage to avoid all the tentacles, you won’t!
Welcome to the Cruelest Day, with no weekend in sight: Tuesday, August 9, 2022. It’s National Rice Pudding Day, but actually I put that down for yesterday’s Food Day. That was a mistake, for August 8 is actually National Frozen Custard Day. (All the other dates yesterday are correct.) But that’s okay: here’s no harm in having two Rice Pudding Days in a row, as it’s one of my favorite desserts. Go here to see the best rice pudding in all the world at the top of the page.
1945 – World War II: Nagasaki is devastated when an atomic bomb, Fat Man, is dropped by the United States B-29Bockscar. Thirty-five thousand people are killed outright, including 23,200–28,200 Japanese war workers, 2,000 Korean forced workers, and 150 Japanese soldiers.
Here’s a short BBC documentary on the Nagasaki bombing:
*Sadly, Olivia Newton-John died yesterday at her home in Southern California. She was only 73, and had fought a long battle with breast cancer. I thought she’d beaten it, but apparently not; it returned several decades later, metastasized to her spine. Here’s the announcement on her Facebook page.
. . . and a memorial tweet from her co-star in “Grease”:
*You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the Taliban will be the Taliban. That is, they’re not going to keep any promises they made to the West when they took over Afghanistan. Astonishingly, some fools believed them! Well, they should read this article in the new NYT “The Taliban’s dangerous collision course with the West.” Author Matthieu Atkins visits Afghanistan for the first time since the U.S. left:
The new government stirred outrage last fall when it allowed only boys to return to Grades 7 and up, but the Taliban insisted this was only a temporary measure. In January their top spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said it “was a question of capacity,” and said he hoped that girls’ high schools would reopen at the beginning of the Afghan school year, on March 23. “We are not against education,” he told journalists.
But on the first day of classes, the education ministry suddenly announced that the girls’ schools would not reopen after all. With such late notice, many went ahead unaware, only to have to kick their students out later that day. Other girls showed up to find the doors of their school locked. These scenes were captured by the foreign press, who turned up to cover what was supposed to be a hopeful day for the country; instead, they broadcast images of crying teenage girls. If the Taliban wanted to sabotage relations with the West, they couldn’t have planned things better.
‘Quite honestly, we had all been counting the days toward March 23 and had been seeing it as, you know, that fork in the road,” Rina Amiri, who was appointed in December to the newly created position of U.S. envoy for women, girls and human rights in Afghanistan, told me. “We had really concrete and detailed discussions with the Taliban and had received reassurances from everyone that we had spoken to that they would actually deliver on this.”
But wait! There’s more!
. . . . After the ban on girls’ high schools was upheld on March 23, Virtue and Vice stirred further outrage by announcing a decree on hijab, or Islamic veiling, which stated that women who were “neither too young or old” should cover their faces in the presence of unrelated men, and wear a full-body cloak, or burqa. The best hijab of all, the decree noted, was staying at home; male guardians, not women, would be punished for violations. While in many of Afghanistan’s rural communities and conservative households, face-veiling was the norm, for others, especially urban professionals, it was an attack on their own beliefs and dignity, one that sought to erase women’s faces from public life. Some critics called it gender apartheid.
The problem is that Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian disaster, depending heavily on foreign aid. And the more moderate members of the government know that that aid is endangered if Afghanistan does not empower women. But, as the long article notes, any reform has been stymied by the hard-line Isalmic clerics whose approval is required to change any of the country’s misogyny. It’s sharia law, Jake.
*The sentences have been handed down to the three men already convicted for murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a man shot down because he was jogging while black. All three men, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, as well as their neighbor, William Bryan, Jr., had already been given life sentences for a state crime—felony murder. These new sentences are federal charges: “interference with rights — a hate crime — along with attempted kidnapping and weapon use charges.” The new sentences: life in prison for father and son, and 35 years for Bryan.
They only getting out of jail in a box. All asked to remain in federal custody (presumably they were there because of the impending federal trial), but the judge denied the requests, so they’ll enter the Georgia state prison system. God help them.
But that wasn’t good enough for her Republican supporters, who want her to help overturn the election—two years after it took place!
At a campaign stop here last week, one voter, Donette Erdmann, pressed Ms. Kleefisch on her endorsement from former Vice President Mike Pence, whom many of Mr. Trump’s most devoted supporters blame for not blocking the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. “I was wondering if you’re going to resort to a RINO agenda or an awesome agenda,” Ms. Erdmann said, using a right-wing pejorative for disloyal Republicans.
Ms. Kleefisch’s startled answer — “don’t make your mind up based on what somebody else is doing,” she warned, defending her “awesome agenda” — was not enough.
“I’m going to go with Tim Ramthun,” Ms. Erdmann said afterward. [Ramthun is running against Kleefisch in the GOP primary.]
Ms. Kleefisch’s predicament illustrates how Mr. Trump’s supporters have turned fury over his 2020 election loss and the misguided belief that its results can be nullified into central campaign issues in the Republican primary for governor in Wisconsin, a battleground state won by razor-thin margins in the last two presidential elections. G.O.P. candidates have been left choosing whether to tell voters they are wrong or to engage in the fiction that something can be done to reverse Mr. Trump’s defeat.
Dozens of Republican voters and activists interviewed across the state in the last week said they wanted to see lawmakers decertify the state’s election results and claw back its 10 electoral votes, something that cannot legally be done. Nearly all of them pointed to a July decision from the conservative-leaning Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ruled that drop boxes used to collect ballots during the pandemic were illegal under state law, as evidence that hundreds of thousands of 2020 votes should be thro
“Everybody that I’ve talked to voted for Trump,” said Cyndy Deeg, a food industry worker from Larsen, Wis. “He should be reinstated and resume the position, because he never surrendered it.”
These people are bull-goose LOONIES. Reinstated? What world are they living in?
*The Washington Post has an article about the fallout of the Dobbs case and series of maps showing where abortion is still legal and will remain so, where it is banned, where it will be banned, and where it’s endangered. Here’s the map, and it’s depressing (click to enlarge). The purple states are likely to keep abortion legal, and the gray ones, too, but only for now. Look at the red and crimson South! And the Midwest is nothing to be proud of, either.
From the article:
Access to abortion in roughly half the country has changed swiftly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Providers, patients, lawyers and state officials are scrambling to interpret a cascade of confusing and often conflicting antiabortion legislation, some of it written a century ago.
Thirteen states had “trigger bans” designed to take effect shortly after Roe was struck down. At least eight states banned the procedure the day the ruling was released. Several others with antiabortion laws blocked by the courts are expected to act, with lawmakers moving to activate dormant legislation. A handful of states also have pre-Roe abortion bans that could be reactivated, and others moved immediately to introduce new legislation. Judges have temporarily blocked some state bans.
*Protip: When you google “cat”, you get this result, with a paw icon on the right. Tap it. You can tap repeatedly, too, all over the page after you’ve tapped once. (There is no equivalent for “dog”.)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is worried about Israel:
Hili: I’m wondering about the case of Jerusalem.
A: And that means?
Hili: I don’t understand why Western liberals desire so much to give it to Islam.
Hili: Zastanawiam się nad sprawą Jerozolimy.
Ja: To znaczy?
Hili: Nie rozumiem dlaczego zachodni liberałowie tak bardzo chcą oddać ją dla islamu.
And a photo of Szaron:
The last in our Infinite Regress Series: Jango looking at a picture of Jango looking at a picture of Jango looking at a picture of Jango looking at a picture of Jango looking at a picture of Jango on this website:
From John van Wyhe. It shows Darwin holding his son William in 1842. I believe this is the only existing picture of Darwin with one of his offspring. For more pictures of Darwin, go here on the the Darwin Correspondence Project site. The photo of Darwin in a top hat riding a horse is a keeper!
Tweets from Matthew. I believe I’ve written about Kiddo before. Yes, indeed I have.
Meet Kiddo the cat. In 1910, he had an eventful flight as a stowaway on airship America. (Leading to one of the first radio communications from an aircraft in flight: “Roy, come and get this —damn cat.”)
What apparently had happened is that somebody at a news service (see below) googled “crab spider” instead of “spider crab”, and concluded that spider crabs were venomous. Then the Guardian simply cut and pasted the false assertions about the spider crab—no crabs are venomous though some are toxic to eat—to create a clickbait story.
Pity, pity, because since the crabs aren’t venomous, the story loses a lot of its click-y allure. A number of people pointed out to the Guardian that this story wasn’t exactly true (the swarming part was). Matthew also informed one of his friends who works at the Guardian (see below). Regardless, the complaints worked, and now there’s a new story sans venomous crabs. Click below to see the latest story, lacking the word “venomous”.
And kudos to the Guardian for noting that they changed the story. At the bottom of the new page you can read this:
This article was amended on 8 August 2022. An earlier version incorrectly stated in the headline and text that the spider crabs massing at Cornish beaches were “venomous”; no species of crab is venomous. Also, their Latin species name is Maja brachydactyla, not “Hyas araneus” as we said.
Someone else must have corrected the species name. I took the paper at its word, for Hyas araneus is the “great spider crab”. Now we learn that these un-venomous crabs are actually Maja brachydactyla, in a completely different family. Now how did they screw that one up? By copying from another source?
Well, all’s well that ends well, except, perhaps, for the would-be bathers who avoided the waters off Cornwall.
Virtually all of these stories – including that in the Guardian – claimed the crabs ‘have a venomous bite that is poisonous to their prey but harmless to humans’.
This is not true. No crab is venomous. Indeed, out of over 7.000 species of crustacean, only one is known to be venomous, and it is not a crab.
This error – which the Guardian has still not uncorrected, despite repeated alerts on social media – appears to have originated in some journalist googling ‘spider crab’ and not noticing that the pages they got back referred to ‘crab spider’. It was then simply copied by other journalists, including your own.
It is hard to know which is more disheartening: the original error, or your thoughtless repeating of it. This example does not particularly matter, but confidence in the press is a fragile thing.
The Guardian responded by saying that the false claims about venom and species name were provided by a news agency based in south-west England, and noted that they’d changed the text and added a footnote.
I used to write a lot about the BioLogos organizqtion, particularly after Francis Collins and Karl Giberson founded it with the help of Templeton funds. Its mission was to persuade evangelical Christians that their faith was not at odds with science, particularly evolution. Since one of my avocations is studying how people reconcile faith and science, I paid close attention to BioLogos for a while.
Well, Collins resigned when he became director of the NIH, and Giberson left as well (he’s now “a faculty member at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, where he presently serves as Scholar-in-Residence in science and religion.”) Giberson also writes stuff for Templeton.
The new President of BioLogos is Deborah Haarsma, who was an astronomer but now apparently writes on the compatibility of science and faith.
I lost interest in BioLogos when, as part of its mission to harmonize faith and science, it got heavily involved in arguments about whether Adam and Eve were literal people: the ancestors of all of us. This is a touchstone of Christianity, as that belief is the very source of original sin, and were BioLogos to claim that they were only metaphorical people promulgating a metaphorical sin, it would drive away their audience. Therefore, despite ample evidence from population genetics that two contemporaneous people were NOT ancestors of all of us (indeed, that there were never just two specimens of H. sapiens on the planet), BioLogos twisted itself into knots trying to figure out how Adam and Eve could be real. (After all, some claims of Christianity aren’t negotiable.)
I gave up at that point, realizing that the science-y people at BioLogos had surrendered to the goddy ones—and to erroneous claims of Christianity. This shows my contention that every Abrahamic faith, and many others (e.g. cargo cults, Scientology) do depend on factual statements, and when science disproves them, this creates a conflict. You do have to choose: a literal Adam and Eve or the data from population genetics.
This morning I went back to BioLogos just to see what was up, and I see they’re involved in the same mishigass, not having made much of a dent in causing evangelical Christians to accept evolution and the rest of science. (That was always a fool’s errand.) Here are just two examples
First, a two-minute movie that conveys the tired old message. It’s just down from the top on the main BioLogos Page, so I can’t give you a direct link. But click on either screenshot below and look for the header:
The message is old: science answers the empirical questions, while faith (i.e., Christianity) answers the Big Questions. Here are some of the Big Questions that science can’t answer:
What matters most?
Is the purpose of the human soul mapped in their DNA?
What is the atomic number for joy?
Presumably Christianity can answer them (well, maybe except for the third). The answer to all the Big Questions is always the same: “because that’s the way God wants it, and our job is to serve God and Jesus.” Here’s the last sentence of the video:
Science can tell us how the world works, but only in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus do we see what it all means.
They don’t deal with Judaism, Islam, or other faiths because the audience of BioLogos is evangelical Christians. But one would think that thoughtful Christians would ask themselves two questions:
a.) Well, are those other people who believe other things (and not in Jesus as God/son of God) simply wrong? After all, their belief is as strong as mine!
b.) How do we know that the “answers” that Christianity gives us are true? Science, after all, has independent ways of checking what is true, while the “answers” given by faith are all contained in a single self-contradictory book written millennia ago. And books from other faiths say different things.
But perhaps the terms “thoughtful evangelical Christian” is an oxymoron.
The other piece you can read (click on screenshot below), is a soothing paean to the harmony between science and religion by Deborah Haarsma, BioLogos’s President:
First, Haarsma coughs up some statistics I’ve mentioned before—statistics that show the increasing secularization of America. One reason for the waning of religion in America is that it truth claims of religion seem increasingly irrational and insupportable.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way! Christian beliefs can actually support the investigation of God’s creation, and discoveries in the natural world can build up one’s faith. The problem is that most young people aren’t hearing this message.
Nope, they’re not hearing it, despite BioLogos spending a lot of money to get that message across. And the rest of her piece explains how Christian beliefs (including the Resurrection, original sin, and presumably the End Times) can be made compatible with science and the disaffected young folk indoctrinated in this view.
By the way, Haarsma didn’t come by her Christianity through empirical investigation or study of other faiths: she was brought up that way—indoctrinated.
In the 1970s and 80s, I grew up in a wonderful church in the suburbs of Minneapolis. This was a white evangelical church, back when “evangelical” meant an emphasis on evangelism, not politics. This community grounded me in the faith, giving me a bedrock conviction that God exists and loves me. My Sunday school teachers and the Bible quiz team fostered in me a deep knowledge and love of the Bible. When it came to science, people at church encouraged me in school, and the parents of my church friends included an engineer and a math professor.)
But she did have an epiphany at her Christian college when she encountered John Calvin’s phrase, “All truth is God’s truth,” which of course presupposes a Christian God in the first place. And so she had the Big Revelation that the Bible should be read as an extended metaphor, not as a textbook of science. (What she means here, of course, is that “parts of the Bible aren’t really true, but I know which parts are true”.):
. . . For the first time I heard about the culture of the ancient Near East. The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians believed that many gods were involved in creation, and they pictured a flat earth with a solid dome sky with water above it (a “firmament”).
I realized that in Genesis chapter 1, on the second day of creation, God takes credit for making this firmament. That means God didn’t try to correct their misconceptions about the natural world; it would have distracted them from the larger message. God had other goals in mind.
I concluded that if God didn’t put modern science into Genesis, I shouldn’t be trying to get modern science out of Genesis. Instead I should focus on God’s primary message: that there is one sovereign Creator (not a pantheon of gods), that creation is good, and that humans are made in God’s image.
Note how they slyly call the factual claims of the Bible “science”, so that they can evade them by saying “the Bible isn’t a textbook of science.”
It’s curious how these people know what God’s primary message is, and it’s not in the least literalistic. But where in the Bible does it say, “This book is largely metaphorical. The message it intends to convey is this ______________.” After all, the message Haarsma says is God’s primary message could easily have been conveyed to people two millennia ago. It doesn’t need to be tricked out with stories about creation, Floods, exoduses, crucifixions, and resurrections.
And so she tells us how to get people to accept her message, a tactic she learned from Elaine Ecklund at Rice University, who’s made a career twisting the facts to show that science and religion are compatible:
Thus, I came to understand how I could accept the scientific evidence without leaving God behind. This is a key point for many people. Research by Elaine Howard Ecklund in 2018 (Religion vs. Science, see p.139) found that, across multiple science issues, people of faith are open to science as long as they hear two important points: 1) that there is an active role for God in the world and 2) that humans as God’s image bearers hold a special place in creation. No matter the issue, believers need to know that learning scientific findings won’t remove God from the picture or make humans insignificant.
But how are you going to convince people of a theistic deity who cares about you, as well as about the uniqueness of humans made in God’s image? You can do this only by appealing to their confirmation biases (“I want this to be true”) or by propaganda. There is no independent evidence for them.
And this is why I say that in one sense, at least, people must choose between being a pious religionist or accepting science (naturalism, really). Either you have good reasons for what you believe or you don’t. That’s why my book on this topic is called Faith Versus Fact. Sure, you don’t have to choose if you see nature as god, or embrace a watery deism that makes no factual claims. But that’s not the message BioLogos is pushing.
At the end, Haarsma says that the key to getting believers to accept science is to show them scientists who are believers, and ignore those nasty atheists who mix godlessness with science. But what you cannot do is tell the questioning young people that Christianity must be wrong. Let them question, by all means, but also “hold to the core of our faith”:
This was in the 1990s; in the decades following, the militant atheist movement made it even harder for Christians to trust what a popular scientist had to say, because authors like Dawkins, Hitchens, Coyne, and others were regularly saying that science rules out God and smart people aren’t religious. But in Portraits of Creation, I found chapters by Christian geologists and Christian astronomers, who explained the scientific evidence for the age of the earth and how they reconciled it with their faith. I came to see the Big Bang not as an atheistic alternative to God, but as a scientific model describing God’s work in creating the universe. Learning about science from Christian voices I trusted made all the difference.
Well, science does rule out some aspects of Christianity, like the Great Flood or the existence of a couple, Adam and Eve, who were ancestors of us all, but my main message that science absolutely rules out Christianity, but that it gives is no evidence for Christianity (or any such faith), and why should you believe—without good evidencee—something so important to your life (and afterlife) as Christianity?
Just hold onto your faith when you talk to the young people. Don’t let them bother you with questions like, “What evidence is there that Jesus was resurrected besides the contradictory stories in the Bible?”
We can all help the next generation. Let’s come alongside young people in their questions, rather than giving simple answers. We can wrestle with them on the secondary issues, while showing ways to hold to the core of our faith. Let’s point to believing scientists as trusted voices who can explain where the scientific evidence is rigorous, show which pieces are scientific speculation or atheist add-ons, and tell their own stories of following Jesus Christ. And whatever the issue, let’s tell the larger story.
Explaining the scientific evidence is not enough. We can show how God has an active role and how humans have a special place in God’s creation. We can come alongside the next generation as they reconstruct a strong, Christ-centered faith, and become gracious, faithful, and informed leaders on the difficult questions of today and tomorrow.
If you want the full version of this argument (if it be an argument), Haarsma makes some of these points in a 50-minute talk at the 2022 BioLogos conference. You can see the talk here.