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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Charles Darwin: Birthday Guy

"The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID [intelligent design] is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory." ~ from Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Case No. 04cv2688


Doubtless the blogosphere will be full of Darwin-related posts today, so rather than recreate the wheel, I'll tell you a little story... from whence the Science Dweeb evolved.

When I was very young, up until the age of three, I wore leg braces to correct a congenital hip defect, and was unable to walk very much. My mom, in her young and infinite wisdom, used to take me often in my stroller to the Smithsonian Institution, to see the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.

The museum was free (which was ideal for our tiny family's meager budget) and I happened to love dinosaurs, even as a very little girl. I didn't go to preschool. I went to the museums with my mother. I knew my Monets from my Manets, too.

Apparently, I could identify most of the dinosaurs and animals in the main exhibits, and could pronounce their convoluted names with perfect clarity (not that I could repeat such a feat now-- the ravages of aging on the memory apply here) . The most oft-repeated story is about a class of older children, maybe sixth graders, who were visiting the museum with their teacher on a field trip.

My mother and I were in amongst the crowd, but I was totally concealed, being much shorter than everyone else (seated in my low-rider stroller). The teacher, taking her class past every dinosaur, would ask them: Now what is the name of this dinosaur? To which the entire class would not answer, but I did. I kept offering up the names to the questions, unseen by all, in my biggest little girl voice.

Finally, the teacher, wondering where the tiny voice was emanating from that kept saying things like "Brontosaurus!" "Triceratops!" and "Stegosaurus!", discovered me, hidden in the forest of taller children's legs, sitting in my stroller. The teacher asked my mother if I was a midget. I guess that was the only thing she could come up with, as to how a two-year-old could possibly know her dinosaurs so well.

Thanks, Mommy, for starting me out right in a lifetime of wanting to know stuff. I don't think I'll ever stop.



Now when I'm outside and see a blue jay hopping about, being so fierce and territorial in his little birdlike way, I look at him and smile and remember that some of the dinosaurs I loved so much are still around. They're just a lot smaller than they used to be.


Today is Charles Darwin's 200th birthday. I don't have the energy or patience to discuss why Ben Stein and his moronic documentary is garnering any attention at all, and why Intelligent Design is even an issue that is still getting discussed, and why sometimes it seems like we haven't gotten very far at all since the Scopes Trial. I'm just going to wish Mr. Darwin a very happy birthday and celebrate that his discovery is still a candle burning brightly against the darkness of misguided and wishful thinking. (Note: I'm unapologetically not posting any pro-ID/anti-evolution comments here, so don't send them.)

An article that gives a nice overview to Darwin and his legacy is here. You can read more about International Darwin Day here. And for every single Darwin-related event in the SF Bay Area, check out evolve2009.org. And last, but not least, the young, bright legal mind at Thaumaturgic Ramblings was smart enough yesterday to post his Darwin Day Eve post, so catch his thoughts here. Survival of the fastest.

One particular event that caught my eye: there's going to be a very interesting lecture at the California Academy of Sciences, given by Dr. Kevin Padian, Professor at the Dept. of Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley, on March 24. Dr. Padian will be discussing his experience as an expert witness in the 2005 Pennsylvania trial, Kitzmiller vs. Dover, that ruled against the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. You can find out more about this event here. I've got my ticket.

And watch out for dinosaurs around you. They didn't really all become extinct... some of them evolved. Ain't that a kick in the head? I love it.


Mari February 12, 2009 at 8:11 AM  

What a fantastic thing, going to the Smithsonian so much! It was such a magical place when I was a child. I totally loved Night at the Museum, even though it was so silly. I love that museums are having sleepovers for kids now. How exciting! How scary!

My youngest daughter had all dinosaurs memorized at 3, it was really great.

tangobaby February 12, 2009 at 8:43 AM  

Hey Mari,

I'm so excited for your little dinosaur girl, too. You live in dinosaur country! Has she ever gone on a dig?


I think sleepovers at museums sound WAY cool.

the default attorney February 12, 2009 at 9:05 AM  

Love it. Survival of the thorough:) That does sound like an interesting lecture. First Bud Cort and now this. How do you find out about all of these wonderful things!?

Gabby February 12, 2009 at 9:29 AM  

Ben Stein had me at "Bueller", but since has devolved into a freaking dinosaur.

You rock as always.....My fave growing up was the tricerotops, but as time goes by, I'm more partial to pterosaurs. I mean, winged lizards??? Who would hear of such a thing. Quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan of some 36 feet. I mean, you could saddle it and zip above the treetops. Let's go

~K February 12, 2009 at 10:54 AM  

My son Sam Loves Dinosaurs. I bought him a great book for Christmas and we read it together when I am up there. Did you they recently discovered a 43 foot prehistoric snake? http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/02/05/giant.snake.colombia/index.html

I will have to post my pictures from the Museum of Natural History I took two years ago. They are pretty nice and I am sure you will appreciate them.

funny enough your post has me thinking about the Land of the Lost movie coming up with Will Ferrell.

Char February 12, 2009 at 11:33 AM  

I listened to The Loft (on satellite) today driving and heard about Darwin Day. They were playing evolutionary music as a theme devoted to Charlie....the selection was Devo that came up while I was in the car. I love that you associated the Jay with the dinos. Me - space has always been my fascination.

paris parfait February 12, 2009 at 12:47 PM  

That sounds like you - speaking up from a very young age! And like you, I wore leg braces as a young child. xoxox

msHedgehog February 12, 2009 at 1:13 PM  

I wish I could go to the lecture, he did a nice job in the lawsuit. I think I read his testimony, and the judgement - judgements are often great reads. I liked "breathtaking inanity".

I love your pastel portrait of Darwin!

julochka February 12, 2009 at 1:42 PM  

this is one of the many reasons why i adore you...

happy darwin's birthday! let's hope we are part of the next evolution...