Copyright 2016, Dennis Mitton
My Selfish Gene started 2016 with a nice little pop. We had almost 1,200 pages viewed by almost 700 different people. Visitors and members hailed from 59 different countries and ‘Zika Pinheads’, a sad pejorative if there ever was one, was the top search term that brought folk to the site. I know that 700 visitors is a slow single day for a lot of blogs and websites but I am happy that this many people get some kind of joy out of what I appear driven by my molecular make-up to do.
Top post for the month was my Kreationist Korner post titled “How To Do Science Right – Neil Shubin and Tiktaalik”. I love this story. I put it under the header of Kreationist Korner because so many misguided folk argue that one cannot do experiments about evolution and if you can’t do an experiment then whatever you are doing cannot be science. Shubin turns this whole goofy idea on its head by showcasing the predictive power of the scientific method. Over the course of about ten years he and his team kept drilling down with if this is true then this must be true and found the most exciting transitional fossil known to us at this time – the wonderful Tiktaalik. See the post here and, for the full treatment, read Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish, here on Amazon.
My Kreationists Korner posts don’t interest me as much as others but they are consistently popular with readers. Just to let you know, the next installment of Evolution in Sixty Posts (cf here) is on creationism. No, it’s not evolution but you can’t speak to American audiences about evolution without broaching the boring and brain-numbing topic of creationism. So tune in next Friday, Feb 12, for the post.
The second most popular post is another consistent winner and I am completely flummoxed by its popularity. It’s part of my Knausgaard series (cf here) titled “Duty or Privilege – Caring for your family”. In it I explore the last chapters of My Struggle where Karl Ove writes with anguished transparency about his physical revulsion at taking care of his grandmother after his Father dies. I actually found the chapters hard to read and can only commend him for his ability to tell the truth. I juxtapose this against the great privilege I felt in caring for my Father when he was dying. I don’t know where the different feelings come from and I don’ think either is necessarily right or wrong but I am happy that my experience with my Father was as wonderful as it was.
My favorite post for the month was on the Zika Virus that is coursing through South and Latin America and making it’s way to the US (cf here). It is not particularly dangerous for adults but can cause a deformity in babies known as microcephaly where the head fails to develop as a child grows. There are a host of developmental issues that evince along with the disease. Last year in Brazil over 100,000 Zika infections were reported with about 4,000 known cases of microcephaly. Compare this to 53 cases of microcephaly in 2014 and 4 in 2013 and you can see the concern. The virus is carried by a common mosquito and several countries – entire countries! – have asked women to postpone pregnancy for up to two years. I don’t know if this has ever been done before and I don’t know what changes to expect in two years. But this call pits the populations against the Roman Catholic Church who has a pervasive and pernicious presence in most South American countries. The RCC prohibits the use of contraception which the UN has advised in response to Zika. It’s unlikely in my mind that anything will change. The putative dangers of cultural pressure, the Pope, Jesus and Mary, and an eternity in hell are pretty persuasive for believers. I expect that instead, good Catholics will continue to have sex, continue to have babies, and most sadly, continue to have their prayers go unanswered for their children born with this preventable infection. I can’t add enough modifiers to say how sad this is.
On a more happy note thanks to all for a great January. I am steadily moving forward with the Evolution series and will be coming back to Knausgaard in a couple of months. I’ve started a project that I call Southern Comfort that looks at the South through my Seattleite eyes, and have sent a couple of papers out for publication. And we’ll soon be collecting bugs here in South Carolina! Sweet.
Other Cool stuff
I have a lot of readers interested in evolution. Let me introduce you to the Society for the Study of Evolution and their journal Evolution. Regular membership is fifty bucks! Fifty bucks! Back in the eighties I think I used to pay about $500 for membership in the Art Historian Society and another couple hundred to have Science delivered to my door. This membership is far and away the best value that I know of anywhere for real, live front of the line reporting on Evolution.
I continue to enjoy the Stuff you Missed in History Class podcast. I have to do something on my forty minute drive to and from work so I podcast in the morning and do vocabulary at night if it’s light enough to see. Un jour je pourrais apprendre le Français!
One day I might get around to doing some indie marketing but I have published my Fathers and Sons series on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It was great fun for me to write and I’ve had a great response to the stories.
Last night Donald J. Trump, candidate for president, graced the good folks of my town with his presence. We drug the kids along with their requisite moans about how boring it would be but I think it’s important to learn how the world works and politics – for good or for bad – is a big part of the that picture. The most striking thing to me about Trump is his sense of unswerving, unshakable, and fully centered confidence. You can see it in how he walks and it resonates from every move he makes and from every word he speaks. He has complete ownership of where he his and what he is doing. You can see how he reviles what he perceives as weakness. It’s the antithesis to his outlook.
He hit all the main points of his ‘platform’ and garnered the expected shrieks and cheers. He is going to kill ISIS. He is going to build a wall and Mexico will pay for it. He swore like a, well, tame sailor with almost every phrase peppered with damns and hells and the crowd cheered just the same. He is going to rebuild the military and will start making new deals to make America great again! What do we get out of protecting Germany, Europe, France, and South Korea? Why shouldn’t we get something in return from Japan for promising to protect them from invaders. I haven’t checked a single fact but he said that in good times Saudi Arabia profits a billion dollars a day from oil and relies one hundred percent on the US for military protection. The crowd booed like high-schoolers when he said that we gave Iran 150 billion dollars that they spent buying non-US goods: 150 jets from Airbus and not Boeing. Military supplies from Russia. Machinery from Germany and France.
The whole evening was more tame than I was expecting but still entertaining. I think Trump actually believes what he says. I feel the same about Bernie Sanders and John Kasich. For every other candidate I buy wholly into the truth that when their lips move they lie. I hope other candidates come through town. I would like to see Hillary and Sanders and maybe Rubio. I would probably skip on Cruze unless I buy plenty of tomato juice first – I hear that’s the only way to get that smell off you.
We did have a teaching moment with one of the girls. Madi looked around and asked why there weren’t many ‘brown’ people there. (At school they’ve decided that everyone is the same -people are just different shades from light to dark) We talked about how some groups of people feel that some presidents or leaders understand them more than others. I don’t know if she understood what I was saying but in the parking lot she said that if Obama isn’t president anymore she would rather have a lady. We’ll see if she gets her wish.
There you have it – another month in the bag. Thanks again!
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