the official site of Michael Shermer

top navigation:

Tag Results

Contrasts and Craziness: Skeptics’ Geology Tour Ends at Creationist Museum

Mt. Palomar telescope

click to enlarge

Over the three-day weekend of January 15–17, the Skeptics Society sponsored a geology tour organized and hosted by the Occidental College and Caltech paleontologist and geologist Donald Prothero and his Whittier College professor wife Teresa LeVelle. Around 50 skeptics departed Pasadena on a bus bound for our first stop, the Mt. Palomar observatory, home of the famous 200-inch Hale telescope, once the largest in the world and from which numerous important observations about the universe were made, including the discovery of quasars. No less an astronomical giant than Edwin Hubble was given the honor of being the first astronomer to use the telescope. They don’t build ‘em like this any longer: big and beefy!

In this limited space I cannot republish Prothero’s 30-page geological guidebook. Suffice it to say that Prothero is a brilliant lecturer who in the course of days packed in a 14-week semester’s worth of geological science as we wended our way around Southern California with it’s countless faults, uplifts, basins, and ranges. I’ll let a few photographs do the talking here, but this is no substitute for joining us on a future trip with Don Prothero, whom I call Protheropedia for his encyclopedic knowledge of seemingly everything under and including the sun. Join us, for example, on our next big trip to see the glaciers of Alaska.

Our three main locations on this trip, represented in the photographs below, after visiting and getting an inside tour of the Mt. Palomar telescope, were the Anza-Borrego badlands and surrounding areas, the Salton Sea, and the Joshua Tree National Park. All were spectacular sites for science, some of the most dramatic scenery to be found anywhere on the planet.

Click any photo below to view the entire gallery in larger format, with captions.

photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo

With considerable irony we ended the trip with a final stop along Interstate 10 west of Palm Springs (near Cabazon and the cluster of factory outlet stores just off the freeway), where you can’t miss the two giant dinosaurs—a T-Rex and a Brontosaurus (now Apatosaurus)—originally built in the 1960s by Knott’s Berry Farm sculptor and portrait artist Claude K. Bell (1897–1988) to attract customers to his Wheel Inn Café. They have been a California driving fixture ever since, and few people (including me!) realized that after Bell died his estate sold the property to an Orange County creationist who converted the site into a Young Earth Creationism park, teaching children that the entire world was created in six days around 6,000 years ago, around the same time that the Egyptians invented wine. The pictures below speak for themselves.

photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
photo
Comments Off

Fossil Hunting Without Creationists

photo

click to enlarge photo

This past weekend, December 17–19, 2010, I joined paleontologists Donald Prothero from Occidental College and John Long from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County on a fossil hunting, rock hopping, geology viewing, petroglyph scanning excursion through the Mojave Desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Through the entire trip I kept thinking “I wish the creationists and Intelligent Design theorists would try their hand at some actual field work because then they would see (and hear and smell and especially touch) what nature is really like and what the history of life reveals in the rocks, instead of sitting in an air-conditioned or heated office in some think tank building or school of theology department, trolling through published papers by real scientists who do this field work, trying to find some little gap that must be filled by the creating designer.

At this site (see photograph above), for example—a trilobite bed east of Amboy near Cadiz smack dab in the middle of nowhere (see what I mean on Google Maps)—we sat for hours with our hammers and collecting bags sifting through thousands upon thousands of shale pieces looking for that fossil gem, and finding a few here and there. These are 550 million year old creatures who once roamed through shallow seas but are now swimming in stone (in the elegant phrase of John Long, whose book by this title is a magnificent testimony to the power and beauty of paleontology). There is simply no denying evolution when you see it raw in the rocks (see especially Don Prothero’s book on proving evolution through the fossil record.

We also visited the coolest slot canyon I’ve ever seen, north of Las Vegas, off of Highway 168 (between Highway 93 and Interstate 15), down this miles-long dirt road that required four-wheel drive. This is Arrow Canyon, and the slot cut exposes a kilometer-thick Carboniferous to lower Permian succession, the upper part of a much thicker Paleozoic section ranging back to the Cambrian. The outcrop is nearly 100% exposed due to the arid conditions and sparse desert vegetation, enabling documentation of facies cyclicity and allowing beds to be traced laterally for hundreds of meters. (If you like it when I talk dirty this way I’m afraid that the credit goes to Don Prothero, whom I am quoting in this last sentence from his field guide for this trip!)

Check out the photo of our expedition group in the slot canyon, along with the photo of the tilted geological beds. There is simply no way that this slot canyon could have been cut through this hard rock in a flash (Noahian) flood, nor could these beds be laid down from ancient seas, compacted under extreme pressure and heat into layered beds, and then uplifted by slow geological forces into what we see today, all in only a few years of biblical times.

In the slot canyon, by the way, there were petroglyphs. Sadly, as you will see, some pinheads managed to find the canyon and decided to leave their mark on or around these ancient pictograms, thereby ruining them forever:

photo

click the photo above to see both petroglyph images in this gallery

photo

I did find something for the creationists to crow about. Check out the photograph (below) of a very ancient rock formation on the hike into that slot canyon. Here, embedded solidly on that rock, is a clear and unmistakable footprint with a clear demarcated heal! (I estimate about a men’s size 13.)

photo

click to enlarge image

So there you go creationists, get in your four-wheel drive and head for Arrow Canyon, find that rock (it’s on the right side going into the canyon, about half way to the petroglyphs), photograph it, write up a paper about it, then submit it to the Journal of Young Earth Creationism. Alternatively, if Erich Von Daniken happens to be reading this, you can do the same thing but claim that it is evidence for alien visitation hundreds of millions of years ago. I think it was a Bruno Magli shoe. Adam (or Alien) had expensive taste.

If you are interested in geology tours, you won’t want to miss the Skeptics Society’s 7-day Alaskan Glacier Cruise. If you can’t make it to that tour, sign up to receive advance notification of future tours.

Comments Off

Darwinian Psychology Goes Mainstream

The friendly folks behind the registration counter were efficient in processing the badges for the 450+ attendees, plus selling you a t-shirt or two of primate Darwin, denoting that this year’s HBES conference celebrates the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of <em>The Origin of Species</em>.

The friendly folks behind the registration counter were efficient in processing the badges for the 450+ attendees, plus selling you a t-shirt or two of primate Darwin, denoting that this year’s HBES conference celebrates the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species.

On Friday May 29 I attended the 21st annual conference of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) — the official organization of evolutionary psychologists and champions of applying Darwinian thinking to human psychology. The last HBES meeting I attended was at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1995, which was sparsely attended compared to this year’s 450+ attendees packed into tiny conference rooms for the simultaneous sessions — always a frustrating choice architecture when you want to attend more than one talk being presented at the same time. I only had a day to attend the three-day conference, so this will be necessarily unrepresentative of the remarkable body of research now being churched out by hundreds of professional evolutionary psychologists from all over the world.

I should note at the top that on this, the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species, it is embarrassing that it is only now that the application of Darwinian principles are fully coming online in mainstream psychological research laboratories. In my book The Science of Good and Evil I include a history and explanation for the delay, but it still amazes me that only now has it become acceptable to include Darwin in discussions of human animal behavior. As one of the founders of the field, David Buss, likes to say (quoting, I think, Donald Symons), “evolutionary psychology” is a redundancy — given the fact that 99% of our history as a species has been spent as bipedal primates in an ancestral Paleolithic environment all psychology should be evolutionary. The fact that there is no such thing as “non-evolutionary psychology” speaks volumes, even though unofficially most psychology throughout the 20th century was just that — non-evolutionary. That problem is now coming to a close as we enter a new era of all psychology as evolutionary.

Two superstars of evolutionary psychology—David Buss from U.T. Austin and Martie Haselton from UCLA—both of whom study sexual attraction and relationships from an evolutionary perspective, confer on their latest data. In years to come Haselton will get to personally test her theories teasing apart nature and nurture on her own newly-born twins.

Two superstars of evolutionary psychology—David Buss from U.T. Austin and Martie Haselton from UCLA—both of whom study sexual attraction and relationships from an evolutionary perspective, confer on their latest data. In years to come Haselton will get to personally test her theories teasing apart nature and nurture on her own newly-born twins.

Incest is not Best

One of the most interesting talks of the day was by Elizabeth Pillsworth, a graduate student at UCLA in the lab of Martie Haselton, who studies sexual attraction, relationships, and how fertility cycles influence mate preferences and choices (e.g., women dress in a more sexually provocative manner during the high fertility phase of the month). In an interesting twist on this body of research, Pillsworth studied the effects of the fertility phase in women on the incest taboo — specifically, how often college-aged women phoned their dads (versus their moms) during the month. Wow. It never ceases to amaze me at how clever scientists can be in thinking up new research paradigms: who ever would have thought of correlating cell phone calls with estrus cycles? Pillsworth and Haselton (and their colleague Debra Lieberman) did! And the results were most revealing.

But first, some background. Kin affiliation in evolution is critical for predator avoidance, food procurement and sharing, protection from the elements, etc. I.e., being in a family group is extremely important for mammals. But there is an equally important downside: inbreeding. If you mate with people who are genetically similar to you, there are consequences: higher rates of infant mortality, deformed sperm, sterility, and genetic defects of all sorts — think hemophilia in the royal families of Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Research shows that the offspring of 1st cousins twice as likely to suffer congenital malformation and genetic disease and up to a 5% increase in mortality; the offspring of siblings show a 45% increased risk of mortality. Thus, mammals evolved numerous adaptations for inbreeding avoidance: dispersal from natal groups (usually sex-biased), kin recognition and avoidance, extra-pair/extra-group copulations rather than copulate within their group. Pillsworth cited a study on horses that found Mares only leave the group temporarily to other breeding groups. So there’s a conflict of wanting to be close to your kin and kind, but not too close.

Hypothesis on incest avoidance: near ovulation women are motivated to avoid affiliation with male kin (fathers) but not mothers, to avoid the potential costs of inbreeding. Predictions: relative to low-fertility days, on high-fertility days women will initiate fewer calls with fathers and engage in shorter conversation with fathers, compared to mothers. The researchers had 51 normally-ovulating women (mean age 19.1) who provided complete cell phone bills from one month, along with their menstrual cycle information and details about individuals on their phone bill. Results: the subjects called their fathers significantly less than their mothers during high fertility days, and when both mothers and fathers called them during high fertility days they spent less time on the phone with their dads than their moms. Conclusion: “this is the first evidence of adaptation in human females to avoid affiliation with male kin when fertility is at its highest.”

This study was of particular interest to me because I have a 17-year old daughter who will be going off to college in a little over a year, and like most parents I’m dreading the day she is gone and I’ll lose my daily contact with her and am hoping that she calls regularly. I guess now I have to make a mental note of her high fertility days and expect fewer calls from her, but being that I’m her dad, that won’t stop me from calling her and stalling on the phone just to mess with her evolved psychology!

Sexual Hypocrisy

U.T. Austin evolutionary psychologist David Buss examined “Sexual Double Standards: The Evolution of Moral Hypocrisy.” Buss began with the well-known double standard in society that “men are socially rewarded and women socially derogated for sexual activity.” Why? Most explanations are typically culturally-determined: local social constructions, gender role expectations, American males have been culturally conditioned, cultural illusions, social learning, sexual script theory. Buss wants to know if there are adaptations that might create a sexual double standard, for example:

  • Mate value assessment adaptations in men: render sexually open women less valuable as Long-Term mates, but not as Short-Term mates.
  • Mate value assessment adaptations in women: render sexually successful men higher in mate value.
  • Intrasexual competition adaptations in women to inflict costs on women who pursue a Short-Term mating strategy, for example, the derogation of competitors (“she’s loose” “she’s a slut”).

Are sexual double standards cross-cultural or only an artifact of modern Western society? Buss presented data from a cross-cultural study across 15 different cultures (n=2,471) that examined the impact of various acts on status and reputation. Results:

  • Being a virgin and effect on status and reputation: male’s reputation does down, female’s goes up.
  • Being sexually experienced on status and reputation: male’s goes up, female’s varies, but is less positive.
  • Reputation as an easily accessible sexual partner: negative for both males and females.
  • Having sex with a date on the first night: tends to be bad for both, but worse for females than males.
  • Having sex with two people in one night: negative impact of status and reputation for both sexes, but more for women than men; Women view other women more negatively than they view men who have had sex with two people in one night.
  • Being unfaithful to a Long-Term mate: decreases status for both sexes, but women more than men.
  • Having an unfaithful mate: loss of status for both sexes, but more status loss for men than for women.

In other words, sexual double standards exist and are robust across cultures, and the reputational consequences are ubiquitous but worse for women than for men.

Evolutionary psychologists Steven Gangestad and David Buss chat during one of the breaks between talks. Gangestad spoke on: “Men’s Facial Masculinity, but Not Their Intelligence, Predicts Changes in Their Female partners’ Sexual Interests Across the Ovulatory Cycle” (see summary in the text), while David Buss spoke on: “Sexual Double Standards: The Evolution of Moral Hypocrisy” (see summary in the text).

Evolutionary psychologists Steven Gangestad and David Buss chat during one of the breaks between talks. Gangestad spoke on: “Men’s Facial Masculinity, but Not Their Intelligence, Predicts Changes in Their Female partners’ Sexual Interests Across the Ovulatory Cycle” (see summary in the text), while David Buss spoke on: “Sexual Double Standards: The Evolution of Moral Hypocrisy” (see summary in the text).

Brains Alone Won’t Get you Laid

In a related talk Steven Gangstad examined: “Men’s Facial Masculinity, but Not Their Intelligence, Predicts Changes in Their Female partners’ Sexual Interests Across the Ovulatory Cycle”. If you get that title, guys, it means that being super smart will not make up for lacking a masculine face when women are in their most fertile phase of the month and in search of a sexual partner. Gangestad reviewed the literature on what fertile women find sexy in men: symmetrical face, masculine face, faces of men with high testosterone, masculine voices, social dominance, etc. When women are in estrus (their most fertile phase of the month), the patterns of attractions are a function of fertility status: during estrus women do not report being more attracted to their partners, but they do report greater attractions to extra-pair men. When women are paired with men who have less preferred partners they are more likely to stray during estrus. What about intelligence?

According to Geoffrey Miller, indicators of intelligence may have been indicators of good genes, and that perhaps big brains evolved through sexual selection because women are attracted to smart guys (this is the “brain-as-peacock-tail” theory). Unfortunately (for all the eggheads in the world!), previous studies found no correlation between intelligence and women’s sexual interest during estrus. Gangestad added facial attractiveness and facial masculinity to the equation. “Results revealed predicted effects of male partners’ facial masculinity and attractiveness, but no hint of any effect of partners’ intelligence.” Sorry all you smart cookies out there; you’ll just need to man up your face more rather than memorizing Wikipedia entries.

Selfish Heroes

Because of my interest in the evolution of morality, I first attended the session on Altruism, with an opening talk entitled “The Selfish Hero: A study of the individual benefits of self-sacrificial behavior by members of small groups” by Francis T. McAndrew. He began by explaining the evolution of altruism by “costly signaling theory,” which basically argues that people are occasionally super nice and self-sacrificial toward others (seemingly un-Darwinian) because they gain social status by so doing. That is, by doing something costly you signal to your fellow group members that you have plenty of resources and good genes, and therefore such altruistic acts may have been selected for in evolutionary history.

This, McAndrew argues, helps explain our fascination with heroes. Using 48 undergraduate subjects, 24 same-sex, three-person groups consisting of an experimental confederate and two naïve subjects participated in a ‘group decision making” study in which the success of the group depended upon the willingness of one of its members (the confederate) to endure pain and inconvenience. If the group successfully completed a series of tasks, it could divide $45 among its three members. The results confirmed that engaging in self-sacrificial costly behavior for the good of a group can be a profitable long-term strategy. The ordeal that individuals playing the role of the altruist had to endure was judged to be more difficult and costly than the experience of other group members, but in the end the altruists were rewarded with more money and higher status.

Cads and Dads

The next talk was by Julia Pradel, of the University of Cologne, entitled “Partner in Life or One-Night stand? How reproductive strategies might have shaped the evolution of altruism.” Pradel began by asking: “How could altruism — which by definition reduces an individual’s fitness — ever have evolved?” Like McAndrew, Pradel adopted costly signaling theory: “Only people high in genetic fitness can afford to help others.” Moral virtues, she said, have two signaling functions: 1. Good partnership and parenting characteristics; 2. Good genes. Thus, prosocial traits should be sexually attractive, and therefore sexual selection plus costly signaling theory explains altruism. If so, then why do people differ in altruistic tendencies? Pradel’s answer can be found in the theory of strategic pluralism: both sexes possess psychological adaptations for both short term relationships and long term relationships. Preferences for long-term as opposed to short-term relationships vary among individuals (e.g., women choose between “Cads” and “Dads”). Perhaps altruism was a means to compensate for weaknesses in genetic quality (e.g., lack of physical attractiveness). Mixed reproductive strategies suggest distinctive mate preferences depending on the length of sexual relationship (short-term v. long-term).

Hypothesis 1: Altruism serves as a signal of both good partnership/parenting and good genes, and thus it is perceived sexually attractive in both potential short-term and long-term. Hypothesis 2: Altruism will be a signal for long-term relationships only.

170 raters watched short video-clips of target persons with varying physical attractiveness and received additional information on the targets’ level of altruism. In a between-subjects-design, raters indicated their desire to win the targets as either (a) short-term mates or (b) long-term mates. While altruism was a significant predictor for long-term desire, it was irrelevant for rating short-term mates. The results suggest that although altruism is costly, at least for some individuals it might be a wretched necessity to obtain access to mates and to reproduce.

Smile, You’re On Candid Camera

Related to these findings, Mizuho Shinada and Toshio Yamagishi examined “Trust and Detection of Trustworthiness.” They began by noting that if altruists choose partners randomly, the average payoff to defectors will always exceed the average payoff to cooperators, therefore altruists cannot survive in evolutionary history. However, if altruists can distinguish altruists from non-altruists, altruists will choose altruists and build cooperative relationships, and thus altruists will get a higher payoff by cooperative interaction with altruists. Therefore, people should be able to distinguish altruists from non-altruists by facial expressions, such as the ability to tell the difference between a fake smile and a genuine smile (it has to do with the eyes: a genuine smile usually includes a slight squinting of the eyes whereas a fake smile does not). Thus, only altruists should have altruism-detection skills because altruists would be chosen as interaction partners if people can detect altruists from non-altruists, and non-altruists cannot be chosen by altruists even if they can detect altruists. To date, however, no study has reported that altruists are more accurate than non-altruists in detecting cheaters or altruists. Why?

One answer: the co-evolution of trust and altruism-detection. Altruists who don’t trust strangers don’t want to leave the current relationship and seek a new partner. Those who don’t trust strangers don’t have alternatives from which to choose — the ability to tell cooperators from defectors is of no use for them since they have no alternative to choose from. Those who trust strangers should have altruism-detection abilities. To these these hypotheses, Shinada and Yamagishi first had 47 males and 53 females (average age of 48) answer a questionnaire that included a trust scale consisting of five items, then showed them faces of genuine or fake smiles (20 faces total, 10 real and 10 fake smiles). Results: participant’s trust level positively correlated with the detection accuracy of genuine smile (r = 0.39, p<.0001), and high trusters are more accurate in distinguishing genuine smile from fake smiles when compared to low trusters.

Three six-foot tables were chockablock full of books on evolutionary psychology, indicate  just how far this science has grown in the past decade. Monographs, textbooks, and popular trade books provide something for everyone who wants to know more about why we behave as we do from a Darwinian perspective.

Three six-foot tables were chockablock full of books on evolutionary psychology, indicate just how far this science has grown in the past decade. Monographs, textbooks, and popular trade books provide something for everyone who wants to know more about why we behave as we do from a Darwinian perspective.

In a second study, Shinada and Yamagishi had participants (perceivers, n=99) watched 5-second video-clips. The videos were filmed while the other participants (targets, n=102) played a Trust Game. Before the experiment, they measured the perceiver’s trust level using a questionnaire. They found positive correlations between the perceiver’s trust level, “trustworthy bias” (i.e., the frequency that perceivers judged targets as trustworthy), and age: high-trusters and elderly perceivers tended to expect that most people were trustworthy. Furthermore, the perceivers trust level was positively correlated with the detection accuracy of trustworthiness when they controlled for the perceiver’s age: high-trusters were able to detect the trustworthiness of others with more accuracy than low-trusters.

Conclusions: adaptive advantages of altruism detection exists only when actors choose potential alternative partners, and high trusters who are willing to choose new partners were more accurate in detecting other’s trustworthiness via facial expressions than low-trusters were.

Comments Off

Atheists & Genesis Revisited Hits the Small Screen

For this week’s blog I’ll post two related video links, the first for an Australian television series called Compass, which interviewed me while I was in Sydney last summer, on “The Atheists.”

I think it is a well done show, fair and balanced, so to speak, but I do find the premise rather interesting in as much as they purport to be studying “us” like we’re some mysterious species recently discovered on a remote island. From the voice over: “What do they believe? And are they all the same?” Picture David Attenborough hanging from a cliff face, “and here, if you look closely, you’ll see amongst the vast forest of believers the rare spotted atheist, whose diet remains a mystery but whose mating habits produce far fewer offspring than believers, and so they nest precariously on face cliffs such as this one so as not to be devoured by their carnivorous neighbors…”

Here’s the show summary:

Compass talks to atheists of different stripes.Eminent philosopher John Gray; science writer and editor of Skeptic magazine Michael Shermer; historian and writer Inga Clendinnen and Australia’s best known atheist Phillip Adams, all explore the philosophical and practical consequences of being an atheist.

How does their atheism shape their attitudes to science and the big questions of our time such as war and global warming? Is conflict between atheists and believers inevitable and necessary? Or, is this debate generating more heat than light?

Genesis Revisited

I happened upon this delightful video based on the Coda entitled “Genesis Revisited,” from my book, Why Darwin Matters, which I explained in the book: “To convey the logical absurdity of trying to squeeze the round peg of science into the square hole of religion, I penned the following scientific revision of the Genesis creation story. It is not intended as a sacrilege of the poetic beauty of Genesis; rather, it is a mere extension of what the creationists have already done to Genesis in their insistence that it be read not as mythic saga but as scientific prose. If Genesis were written in the language of modern science, it would read something like this.”

The voice is in this video is a computer generated voice called “Daniel” from RealSpeak

Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story
by Michael Shermer

In the beginning — specifically on October 23, 4004 B.C., at noon — out of quantum foam fluctuation God created the Big Bang, followed by cosmological inflation and an expanding universe. And darkness was upon the face of the deep, so He commanded hydrogen atoms (which He created from Quarks) to fuse and become helium atoms and in the process release energy in the form of light. And the light maker he called the sun, and the process He called fusion. And He saw the light was good because now He could see what He was doing, so He created Earth. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be lots of fusion light makers in the sky. Some of these fusion makers He grouped into collections He called galaxies, and these appeared to be millions and even billions of light years from Earth, which would mean that they were created before the first creation in 4004 B.C. This was confusing, so God created tired light, and the creation story was preserved. And created He many wondrous splendors such as Red Giants, White Dwarfs, Quasars, Pulsars, Supernova, Worm Holes, and even Black Holes out of which nothing can escape. But since God cannot be constrained by nothing, He created Hawking radiation through which information can escape from Black Holes. This made God even more tired than tired light, and the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the continents drift apart by plate tectonics. He decreed sea floor spreading would create zones of emergence, and He caused subduction zones to build mountains and cause earthquakes. In weak points in the crust God created volcanic islands, where the next day He would place organisms that were similar to but different from their relatives on the continents, so that still later created creatures called humans would mistake them for evolved descendants created by adaptive radiation. And the evening and the morning were the third day. And God saw that the land was barren, so He created animals bearing their own kind, declaring Thou shalt not evolve into new species, and thy equilibrium shall not be punctuated. And God placed into the rocks, fossils that appeared older than 4004 B.C. that were similar to but different from living creatures. And the sequence resembled descent with modification. And the evening and morning were the fourth day.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life, the fishes. And God created great whales whose skeletal structure and physiology were homologous with the land mammals he would create later that day. God then brought forth abundantly all creatures, great and small, declaring that microevolution was permitted, but not macroevolution. And God said, “Natura non facit saltum” — Nature shall not make leaps. And the evening and morning were the fifth day.

And God created the pongidids and hominids with 98 percent genetic similarity, naming two of them Adam and Eve. In the book in which God explained how He did all this, in one chapter He said he created Adam and Eve together out of the dust at the same time, but in another chapter He said He created Adam first, then later created Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs. This caused confusion in the valley of the shadow of doubt, so God created theologians to sort it out.

And in the ground placed He in abundance teeth, jaws, skulls, and pelvises of transitional fossils from pre-Adamite creatures. One chosen as his special creation He named Lucy, who could walk upright like a human but had a small brain like an ape. And God realized this too was confusing, so he created paleoanthropologists to figure it out.

Just as He was finishing up the loose ends of the creation God realized that Adam’s immediate descendants would not understand inflationary cosmology, global general relativity, quantum mechanics, astrophysics, biochemistry, paleontology, and evolutionary biology, so he created creation myths. But there were so many creation stories throughout the world God realized this too was confusing, so created He anthropologists and mythologists.

By now the valley of the shadow of doubt was overrunneth with skepticism, so God became angry, so angry that God lost His temper and cursed the first humans, telling them to go forth and multiply themselves (but not in those words). But the humans took God literally and now there are six billion of them. And the evening and morning were the sixth day.

By now God was tired, so He proclaimed, “Thank me its Friday,” and He made the weekend.
It was a good idea.

Comments Off