Friday, May 22, 2009

Three cheers for Darwinius

Being still an amateur at this Blog Business, I went a couple of weeks without an entry, and consequently forgot my password. Aha, password recovery worked and here I am again. These past couple of weeks I've been recording spring wildflowers with my camera, as usual. Then I slipped on a slippery rock and broke my camera. Taking it in for a checkup tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I've been reading other peoples' blogs, especially one of my favorites, Pharyngula, run by biology professor P. Z. Myers. He has a knack for discovering idiocy. Some kinds of idiocy can be ignored, but he focuses on the kind that threatens to dumb down our society to a dangerous level - maybe it's already too late! Enter Darwinius. This exciting fossil has been around, unnoticed, for a couple of decades, but recently came to the attention of paleontologists. Then, before those of us with scientific curiosity could digest the news, it was discovered by creationists and reporters, the former ready to spew another round of ignorance and the latter willing to write most anything to increase sales.
Darwinius is the name given to a 47-million-year-old fossil of a critter that lived at an exciting juncture in the primate family tree. It is NOT a missing link. There is really no such thing. Ever since the Piltdown hoax nearly a century ago, the idea of a missing link has been used and abused in arguments between those who accept Darwin's theory of natural selection and those who don't. For some entertaining reading, check out Pharyngula on this topic.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos I took before my camera broke. The aptly-named farewell-to-spring is abundant this month in many places between 3'000 and 4,000 feet in the northern Sierra where I live. Around the same time, one of my favorite early summer weeds, variously known as yellow salsify or goatsbeard, Tragopogon, is blooming all around me and in my nature journal I am renaming it welcome-to-summer.