At times Nature can be cruel, but there is a raw beauty in the struggle for survival. Consider the alligators, one of the oldest predator species. The alligator is an apex predator, but can still fall victim to team work. A dog pack’s tightly knit social structure and survival-of-the-pack mentality enables it to defeat even such a fearsome predator as the alligator, as seen in this graphic photo from Florida.

For the protection of the squeamish, after the cut.


…or why we need to teach people more field biology.

Found cat

Image from Grrlscientist, and thanks to Noni Mausa for the link.

I’m reminded of a time when I was a callow youth when my mother and I accidentally trapped what we thought was some sort of cute little marsupial. Thinking it could have been an endangered beastie, we did the socially responsible thing and called the local park ranger to come identify it.

She took one look at it and pronounced “It’s a rat.”

Oh the irony… this is all over teh Interwebs now, so who am I to avoid jumping on the bandwagon?

PZ Myers was expelled from a screening of the Creationist propaganda movie Expelled. Some background: some time ago, Myers, Richard Dawkins and a number of other high-profile scientists were interviewed for a movie due to be called Crossroads. The movie, so it was claimed, was supposed to explain some of the principles of evolutionary biology. Alas, it seems to have been a ruse, because Crossroads turned into an anti-evolution polemic. Hardly the first time that Creationists have misrepresented themselves when filming scientists.

After Myers booked tickets for the screening — under his own name, via their web interface, just like all the other viewers — he was threatened with arrest and tossed out. And this is despite Myers being thanked profusely in the movie credits for his assistance!

Amusingly, the film-makers didn’t notice Richard Dawkins, who has written more about the incident and the movie itself:

Now, to the Good Friday Fiasco itself, Mathis’ extraordinary and costly lapse of judgment. Just think about it. His entire film is devoted to the notion that American scientists are being hounded and expelled from their jobs because of opinions that they hold. The film works hard at pressing (no, belabouring with a sledgehammer) all the favourite hot buttons of free speech, freedom of thought, the right of dissent, the right to be heard, the right to discuss issues rather than suppress argument. These are the topics that the film sets out to raise, with particular reference to evolution and ‘intelligent design’ (wittily described by someone as creationism in a cheap tuxedo). In the course of this film, Mathis tricked a number of scientists, including PZ Myers and me, into taking prominent parts in the film, and both of us are handsomely thanked in the closing credits.

Seemingly oblivious to the irony, Mathis instructed some uniformed goon to evict Myers while he was standing in line with his family to enter the theatre, and threaten him with arrest if he didn’t immediately leave the premises. […]

More sinister than the artless Lord Privy Seals, and the self-indulgent and wholly illicit playing of the Nazi trump card, the film goes shamelessly for cheap laughs at the expense of scientists and scholars who are making honest attempts to explain difficult points. Cheap laughs that could only be raised in an audience of scientific ignoramuses (and here Mathis’ propaganda instincts cannot be faulted: he certainly knows his target audience). One example is the treatment of the philosopher Michael Ruse[…]

Asked to explain the origin of life, Ruse acknowledged that it was a difficult question, one that modern science has barely scratched the surface of, but suggested that a possible candidate might be something like the theory of Graham Cairns-Smith that modern organic life bootstrapped itself from replicating crystals on the surface of inorganic clays. Even if Cairns-Smith’s theory is wrong in detail — and it would be amazing if it were not — it demonstrates the critical properties of any successful theory for the origin of life: it must show how complex, complicated organic molecules can evolve from simple, robust, common inorganic molecules.

Dawkins continues:

Stein just loved it. Mud! MUD! The sarcasm in his grating, nasal voice was palpable. Maybe this was when Ruse realised that he had been had. Certainly it was at this point that he started to show signs of exasperation, although he may still have thought that Stein was merely stupid, rather than pursuing a malevolent and clandestine agenda.

Curiously, the mostly Christian Fundamentalist audience who finds nothing strange about the idea that God created mankind from clay and dust and ashes, finds it laughable that organic life might have its origin in… clay and dust and ashes. Go figure.

PZ Myers has more about the dishonesty of the Creationists involved, but the funniest comment comes from the jokers at the Landover Baptist Church:

Shocking information has reached us that PZ Myers trophy wife (paid for by the tax payers of state of Minnesota) was taking names of the movie goers to, and I quote her words, “be put first in line for the gas chambers once we overthrow the Constitution”. That is correct, this state funded mistress was making a list of local Christians for eventual extermination.

to which Myers simply replied:

All that money invested in her ninja training, wasted.