Archive for Darwin

a journal of the plaid [shirt] year [#2]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2022 by xi'an

Read Kawabata’s Sound of the Mountain, which I also found in a Montréal bookstore. At first, I thought it was connected to the masterpiece House of Sleeping Beauties,  which I read eons ago, as dreams are also central to that (mostly) domestic and familial story, but this was quite another, more personal, and poignant reflection on aging and the irreversibility of time. As well as an unsuspected window into immediate post-war Japan. (With the realisation that abortion was completely acceptable then.) Also spotted Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Children in my Canadian cabin, which I started and finished later with a Kindle version. As I was unaware of a sequel to the fabulous Darwin’s Radio. Overall, I was almost as enthusiastic about it as I was with the first book, but obviously suffering from an academic bias as the author engages into speculative population genetics, which may prove too much for non-academics… (Imho, the end is wasted, though.) And (binge) read January Fifteenth on the flight back (leaving too early to sleep!), which is a short novel whose only speculative aspect is the move (by the US Government) to a universal basic income (UBI) for all individuals, and the consequences on several women’s live. This was indeed a very quick read, presumably due to the high proportion of dialogues, with (variably) interesting characters that avoid a direct take on the concept, but somewhat charicaturesque nonetheless. The implementation of the scheme is rather vaguely described: January 15 is the calendar day people pick their yearly UBI and they have to do it in person to avoid been coerced or scammed into transferring it to someone else. As someone rather interested in this societal propsal, this book did not modify my views on the concept or on its practical aspects, but shed light on some potential consequences of (one version of) it.

Had a great time in a Lac-Saint-Jean cabin, with direct access to the lake. Albeit requiring the emergency purchase of a neoprene swimming suit, as the temperature of the lake was rather low for extended swimming without it. But otherwise, having a swell time every morning, often running and swimming and biking. Before hiking. (The last week, farther south, next to a much smaller lake I could easily cross, did not require the suit!) Also appreciated very much the almost flat véliroute des Bleuets (blueberries) that run all around the lake (even though some sections are alas shared with cars). Has for instance an uninterrupted 15K connection to the nearest (genuine) bakery+cheese-mongery! Made an attempt at kouign amann, but using the wrong type of both flour and cassonade, plus an unknown oven and the poor substitute of baking soda for yeast predictably failed the experiment, even though the outcome was eatable (and eaten within a few days).

As usual (!), did not spot much wildlife, beyond groundhogs, pikas, squirrels, beavers and muskrats in our rental’s lake, moose tracks here and there, and a few Virginia deer in the Mauricie National Park. (Which made me realise that national and regional [Québec] parks co-existed in the area.) Had a few traditional hikes, reconnecting with Deet to keep mosquitoes and black flies at bay.

Watched nothing at all! In part due to my wife often borrowing my laptop for its Netflix connection, in part due to my early sleep caused by earlier rise, as light comes before 5am in this part of Québec we were staying, which made an ideal opportunity for very early run, swim, and… Biometrika editing!

Creationism on French public television

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 21, 2009 by xi'an

“If you take an entire DNA molecule, coding for all the proteins required for life, I think it’s about 1 followed by 40,000 zeros (which is really no chance) that such coded DNA can arise by chance.” André Eggen, Creation, sept. 1998.

Jean-Louis Foulley signaled to me an incoming show on the French public television (Chanel 5): a debate  paradoxically taking place in the beautiful Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, about creationism and its increasing intrusion in France. The presentation seems a priori critical of the creationist theses, and the show seems to rightly consider the relativist opening of schools to creationist theses as a danger for education, but one sentence in the script is appalling: “scientists from both tendencies will debate“. Considering that creationism is one among other scientific theories is the main argument for teaching it in schools! (The representant of creationism is was supposed to be André Eggen who is a researcher in Genetics at the French public research institute in agronomy, INRA, who contributed to the sequencing of the bovine genome, and also a very active advocate of creationism on the French scene. The above quote shows the abyssal level of his arguments in this area… [11/22: Eggen’s name has now been removed from the list of invitees])

Creationism in UK schools?!

Posted in Kids, Travel with tags , , , on October 28, 2009 by xi'an

“It was found that Britons were almost three times more likely than Egyptians to want creationism and intelligent design to be included in the teaching of evolution.” The Guardian, October 25, 2009

I was reading the Guardian on the flight to Madrid and there was this terrible statistics that 54% of the UK public wanted creationism to be “taught” in public schools. This is worse than in the US… Quite an appaling statistic for the Darwin year and Darwin’s country! Of course, this kind of result should be taken with a pinch of salt since the same Guardian reports that four Britons out of five repudiate creationism, along with a paraodical region-by-region map where each region has more than 25% of the people in favour of creationism or “intelligent” design! (The quote above is rather dumb as well! Why should Egyptians be more in favour of creationism?!) Here is a blog reporting more clearly on a similar study, conducted by Science, with France coming almost on top of Darwinian countries! Except that Britain is fairly close to the top as well. So this may end up being a catchy title making too much of a limited or poorly conducted survey. To conclude that “More than half of British adults think that intelligent design and creationism should be taught alongside evolution in schoolscience lessons” based on 973 Britons is extrapolation to the third power…

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