Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

My favourite evolution-in-schools story this week: Apparently Michigan has at least some sense.

The State Board of Education on Tuesday approved public school curriculum guidelines that support the teaching of evolution in science classes — but not intelligent design.

“The intent of the board needs to be very clear,” said board member John Austin, an Ann Arbor Democrat. “Evolution is not under stress. It is not untested science.”

The rest of the article has lots of stuff to piss me off, but at least I can cling to that bit.

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My favourite R’lyeh news story: Yes, they found an ancient underwater city. Really. It’s huge–like 10 square miles. Oh, and it’s so old that: “There’s a huge chronological problem in this discovery. It means that the whole model of the origins of civilisation with which archaeologists have been working will have to be remade from scratch”. I love it.

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My favourite bit of movie news that comes with a gut punch: They are making a movie of Don Winslow‘s fun book The Death And Life of Bobby Z. This is a book that was written to be a movie–it’s quick, sharp, funny, and action-packed. A good airplane book. Now the gut-punch: it’s going to star blonde Keanu. Sigh. It could have been a good movie.

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My favourite editorial from last month: From the Nation, “Challenging the Culture of Obedience“. A snippet:

Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism.

A patriot does not tell people who are intensely concerned about their country to just sit down and be quiet; to refrain from speaking out in the name of politeness or for the sake of being a good host; to show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating President.

That is not a patriot. Rather, that person is a sycophant. That person is a member of a frightening culture of obedience–a culture where falling in line with authority is more important than choosing what is right, even if it is not easy, safe, or popular. And, I suspect, that person is afraid–afraid we are right, afraid of the truth (even to the point of denying it), afraid he or she has put in with an oppressive, inhumane regime that does not respect the laws and traditions of our country, and that history will rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure.

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My favourite mental image so far this week: Jeb Bush hiding in a closet from steelworkers and anti-war protestors. Followed closely by the 4-year old terrorist.

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My favourite bit of obsessive-compulsive behaviour: Do you know the Elder Scrolls games? I lost well over 100 hours to Morrowind, and I suspect that if I ever get time to play video games again that the same thing could easily happen in Oblivion. If you’ve ever played these games, you know that thre are many, many different books in the game, but only a limited number of book models. Someone whose insanities probably line up with many of mine has take the time to create an addon to the game that assign different appearances to each book in Oblivion. And not just simple changes, but lovely book designs. Apparently she had also done this previously for Morrowind. Wow. Madness, but my kind of madness.

Book1Book2Books 3 and 4

10 Responses to “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens”

  1. Ted says:

    Regarding the underwater city, I noticed that the article you link to is from 2002. Wikipedia has some more material here.

  2. Mr. McLaren says:

    Wow, that’s some great stuff, Ted.

    You’d think four years and several research efforts would have been enough to settle the question with some authority.

  3. Ted says:

    I think the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” stance means that we should discount the claim of an underwater city. There’s nothing that can’t be explained more simply. And note that the guy you quoted in your post (Graham Hancock) has no archeological training.

  4. Mr. McLaren says:

    Yes, that would be the rational stance.

    Of course that one doesn’t let me drop Lovecraft references.

    Sigh. Reason is just fundamentally opposed to the Great Old Ones.

  5. Ted says:

    Nah; reason just asks for good solid evidence of the Great Old Ones.

  6. Mr. McLaren says:

    You know, setting the comedy aside for a second, it’s actually kind of interesting that a properly rational view does kind of shatter the existential horror in the Lovecraft stories.

    I mean isn’t it true that the essential horror of these stories (at the time they were written) arose from the notion that the universe wasn’t a caring place designed for the comfort of Man, but rather that it was an old, cold, hungry place filled with beings that could (and would) destroy all humans more-or-less by mistake? We are to Cthulhu as ants are to us, etc. That horror only works if you have a worldview where people matter, and Man as a species matters.

    A modern rationalist, on the other hand, has already accepted the fact that the universe doesn’t care about him, or his species, or his planet, solary system, galaxy, etc… and the universe will trundle along on its cold and uncaring way with or without them. They will miss this horror viscerally, and will probably only recognize it when someone points out the social context in which the stories originally occurred. (Fortunately the glorious purpleness of the prose is preserved through many worldviews. Heh.)

    If Cthulhu were to rise, it would just be another data point for the rationalist, not an existential and philosophical crisis. He would need to toss out some hypotheses that Cthulhu’s existence invalidated and come up with some new ones–assuming he wasn’t eaten, or force to breed with frog-creatures, etc., but his worldview could adapt.

  7. Ted says:

    I confess I haven’t read Lovecraft — I found the purpleness of the prose to be an obstacle the last time I tried;maybe I should try again — but my impression is that at least part of the horror was the notion that certain elements of the universe were so utterly incompatible with human sensibilities that contemplating them would induce insanity.

    I agree that most modern rationalists accept that the universe doesn’t care about us, but I think most modern scientists believe that the universe is potentially comprehensible. It would probably be dismaying to many to learn that the universe was not accessible to reason.

    (If I have the wrong impression of Lovecraft, please correct me.)

  8. Mr. McLaren says:

    Well, the prose does tend to state that some of the things are so fundamentally alien to human sensibilities as to shatter the mind, but that’s something that Lovecraft tells you. It’s not what is supposed to scare you–at least I don’t think so. I think the scary bit isn’t meant to be the idea that things can be so foreign to our experience, but rather the more menacing (to certain worldviews) concept of a vast, uncaring universe in which mankind played little or no role. That all the accomplishments and efforts of our entire species are irrelevant on the “real” scale at which the universe operates.

    I just Googled “lovecraft uncaring” and pulled up these bits:

    This is because that Lovecraft’s horror is subtle, evoking from the page and curling around like a miasma in the mind. His universe is one of inhuman, uncaring gods and a sense of ultimate futility, incurring the sense of dread and fright in the reader

    and

    You want to know the real terror in the Cthulhu Mythos stories? It’s not just that godlike monsters want our world, not only that secret cults are carrying out conspiracies forged eons ago that will inevitably destroy the human race. It’s that nobody up there cares. This is, like, the natural order of things. We gradually realize that Cthulhu and his bunch aren’t even evil, because “good” and “evil” are human concepts that mean nothing to the uncaring universe. Now that’s scary.

    Of course, to a rationalist it’s not. Really in the same way that a rationalist, while he can understand what Kierkegaard is on about, doesn’t really feel the dread or “Fear and Trembling” that Kierkegaard is writes about at length–they’re predicated on a reaction to something counter to a comforting worldview.

  9. Kira says:

    some of the things are so fundamentally alien to human sensibilities as to shatter the mind

    I think that’s really supposed to be more evidence that the universe doesn’t care, which is – as you pointed out – the horror of the thing.

    The other horror he exposes us to is inbreeding/crossbreeding, with the idea that everything we’ve built up as pure and meaningful is really just an artifact of arbitrary lines in the sand.

  10. [...] Russell’s early idea of a what a free man can believe lines up pretty much identically with what Lovecraft uses as the basis for the existential horror underlying his work. Both men look at a stark, uncaring universe, that doesn’t give a shit about them, and [...]

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