The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sam Brownback eats his cake

Writing in the New York Times today, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) attempts to distance himself from natural selection theory without looking like a complete dullard. He fails, predictably, largely through setting up false or misleading dichtomies:

The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

Either you believe God created Man or you don't; how is that complementary? Either you believe in a separation of body and spirit or you don't. There really is no middle ground, and Brownback has planted himself squarely on the God side.

If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

The problem is, at some point if you go back through your ancestry far enough, you run into something that isn't the same species. Natural selection is natural selection; "microevolution" isn't some alternative view of it, it's a red herring.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today.

I don't know whether this is a lie, or merely ignorance, but there really is only one theory of natural selection. "Punctuated equilibrium" isn't really any different from "classical Darwinism" when you dig into it far enough, unless by "punctuated equilibrium" you mean "punctuated by a supernatural being who shall remain nameless but who gave the Jews a bunch of rules on clay tablets a while back."

I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation—and indeed life today—is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

First, let's dispense with the fallacious arguments to authority ("many scientists...") and to the people ("many...people of faith"). I learned to distinguish these arguments from actual logic in high school, and presumably so did many scientists and people of faith.

Second, questioning the presuppositions isn't on its face anti-science or anti-reason, but coming to the conclusion that there's a purpose behind the theory is. The "philosophical presuppositions" of natural selection theory can be stated very simply: selection happens. Maybe that's oversimplification, but not by much. The simple fact is, natural selection theory explains life in all its forms without resorting to a supernatural being interfering with it. It's not that we reject the possibility; it's that we don't find any evidence to support conscious design.

Biologists will have their debates about man's origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table.

Absolutely, and we encourage it. All you have to bring to the table is a testable hypothesis and evidence to back it up.


Hello...? We're waiting. Testable hypothesis...? Evidence...? Hmmm....

For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed.

Sam, I agree: so quit trying to seek a monopoly on the question.

I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man's essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos.

Ah, here we go. If this were 1640, he'd be outraged that the Earth goes around the Sun. Read that sentence over to fully grasp the presuppositions within it. In order to have an "essential dignity" or "a unique and intended place," something would have to confer dignity and place upon us. We can do it ourselves, and many of us do; but that doesn't mean a supernatural entity does.

Today's Daily Parker

Nothing like a happy puppy running across a field at 6:30 in the morning...

No ParkerCam until next Thursday, and possibly no Daily Parkers until then, either. Sorry. Rest assured that Parker will be having as much fun as his fuzzy butt can handle at Day Camp during his absence from the Internet.

And come to think of it, with The Daily Parker around, on the Internet everyone does know you're a dog...

Ode to the little birdie

I found myself thinking about this lilting ditty around 5 this morning:

I woke early one morning,
The earth lay cool and still
When suddenly a tiny bird
Perched on my window sill,

He sang a song so lovely
So carefree and so gay,
That slowly all my troubles
Began to slip away.

He sang of far off places
Of laughter and of fun,
It seemed his very trilling,
brought up the morning sun.

I stirred beneath the covers
Crept slowly out of bed,
Then gently shut the window
And crushed his f@&$!!g head.

Judy Lynn Moe

Long-time readers of The Daily Parker know that I don't usually discuss my personal life. Sometimes, however, I have an experience that doesn't involve Parker (except for putting him in his crate on a rainy weekend day), that moves me to break that rule.

On Saturday, I and about 100 other alumni of Glenbrook North High School wished our choir director, Judy Moe, a happy retirement. She and David Walter (the music department chair while I was there) taught me more about music than anyone since. Their training made it possible for me to have experiences that few people ever have, like singing at Lincoln Center at the Mostly Mozart festivals in 1998 and 1999. And together they gave me an understanding of music and a place in the world that—no exaggeration—helped me survive high school.

Judy (I can call her that now, she insists) watched me grow up, patiently guiding me through what was, for everyone around me, a particularly annoying phase (Mom: remember Sophomore year? Yeah, I was afraid of that). She also had the foresight and practicality to give me a job as her assistant for my last two years of high school, even, somehow, convincing me to inventory the entire Glenbrook North music library. This latter project involved comandeering a computer (this was 1986, so the computer was an Apple //e) and giving me the key to the music library. If I recall, there were over 700 titles to inventory, so this kept me off the streets for about a month.

During the concert I stood next to a soprano who graduated only last year. She never knew Dave Walter, being only six years old when he retired in 1994. But this soprano had gone through four years of Judy Moe's teaching, had learned the same songs everyone at GBN has ever learned, and had all the hallmarks of a Glenbrook North-trained singer. She found herself better trained than many of the college seniors she sang with, which is a surprisingly common experience with Judy's students. As we finished the dress rehearsal she absently suggested we'd see each other at the next alumni choir (there have been five since I graduated), but I realized when she said it that for we who graduated in the 1980s, Judy's was the last one.

I didn't hear about David's retirement until much later. I'm glad I got to see Judy's. After 19 years, the two of them still mean more to me than they'll ever know.


Dog walking service crash

No one (and no dogs) got hurt the other day when, according to my dog-walking service, someone mistook the accelerator for the brake pedal and plowed through their storefront in Evanston. Said the owner: "fortunately [our greyhound] Jupiter was staying home that day. He likely would have been doggy mush if he had been stationed in his usual place...!"

And the driver? "Oh, she's fine. And her car had hardly a scratch."

No word on when they expect their storefront to be repaired. All of the windows were destroyed; it's now a bunch of boards. Parker, totally unconcerned about this, will still have his usual walk today.

Today's Daily Parker

Yes, it's a holiday, but when you own a small business sometimes you work seven days a week. Yesterday, for example, Parker came in to help with my filing:

I don't think I'll staff the job out to him just yet, however, given his propensity to eat the files.

I'm still looking for cicadas, though none seems to have emerged near me. Yesterday riding my bike I heard one in Highland Park and one in Winnetka, but so far I haven't heard any, nor seen any nymphs or shells in Evanston. If Parker only knew they were coming, he'd be pretty excited.