There are so many things that I love about being a scientist and writing about science. It’s creative, challenging, and incredibly interesting. I mean, where else but in science can it be your job to think about why human males have nipples, or what the heck this weird protrusion on this particular vertebrae in this particular species of whale does? (Yep. That’s what I spent a couple of years thinking about—and I loved it.) But there is one thing I really really don’t like about science: Science can’t prove anything. Now, to be clear, I don’t mind that science can’t prove anything (and actually, I think it’s super cool, as I’ll explain in a minute)—what I mind is that non-scientists think that this means that we scientists don’t know anything, that we are completely unsure and wishy-washy about all of our ideas and conclusions. Not true!
Misconception: Science proves ideas.
Last week, I unveiled a fossil jaw from the Eocene, that sure looked like a tapir, but was most definitely not! It actually came from the genus, Hyrachyus.
From the Encyclopedia of Life:
How much do you know about antibiotic resistance? You might want to take the Pew Charitable Trust’s online quiz to find out. I’m embarrassed to say that I scored only 60%, despite my many years hanging around microbiologists. I got the biology questions right, but I didn’t know how many more days Americans spend in the hospital because of antibiotic resistant infections, nor how much antibiotic resistant infections cost our health care system.
This week’s Fossil Friday comes to you straight from the middle Eocene. This is a photo of a lower jaw found in what is now Sweetwater County, Wyoming. This fellow’s family has been mistaken for the tapir’s family, and though it does share an early ancestor, I can assure you it is different.
This will be a true test of your tooth-knowledge. How much can you tell from just this lower jaw? Can you guess what this fossil is?
"I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere."
—Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars II: Attack of the
There’s a big, sandy problem with Noah’s Flood.
I’m working my way, slowly, toward talking about a particularly strange argument that appears in David Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779), which bears on the age of the world. In part 1, I explained that the argument occurs in the course of a response in part VI of the Dialogues by the character Cleanthes (whose argument from design rests on the analogy between the world and a machine) to his critic Philo’s objection that the world is as much like an animal as it is like a machine.
The Jehovah's Witnesses visit me once a year. They politely try to convert me; I politely turn down the offer. They leave me a colorful pamphlet which I never read and that's that.
Recently, a creationist blog attributed a particular argument against design to David Hume, so I took a copy of his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) from the shelf to check. Surprise, surprise: it wasn’t there. But I’m not going to bother to debunk the misattribution; it’s not really interesting. Instead, as long as I have the Dialogues before me, I thought that I would say a word about a particularly strange argument that appears in it, which bears on the age of the world.