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April 23, 2009

Someone bring me the dunce cap

Dunce3 I was going to write about this post on the anniversary of Charles Darwin's death. And then I realized I had absolutely no idea what the author was talking about. Anyone want to translate?

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Steve (SBK)

Perhaps we could get the author this gift:

Steve (SBK)

I hope to use "complexifying" more often.


Ah, don't feel so bad, G: the author wrote "teaming" when he meant "teeming", and I'm sure that was the source of your confusion. ;-)

1. Darwin thought that living cells were just bags full of chemicals. The electron microscope showed he was wrong, and made it much less likely that life could just arise spontaneously.

2. Gregor Mendel's discoveries in genetics showed that rather than easily adapting in response to environmental changes, life tends to stay the same.

Clearly that writer needed the help of a good editor, but you must have been unavailable.

David Hyder

It's an editing problem. There are too many 50 cent words without a spell check. The author says, as most of us know, that the electron microscope and genetics killed classical Darwinism as surely as adventurers killed the Dodo.

Gina Dalfonzo

I don't really blame a guy with a scientific mind for using scientific language, though. He probably just thinks in those terms, and needs the language to make his point.

It's like when I used to work at FRC, and one of my tasks was to edit a newsletter put out by our legal policy department, for people in the legal community. I used to drive the writers mad by taking out all kinds of legal words and symbols that they would then have to put back in, because they needed to be in there for their readers to understand what they were saying. It wasn't their fault for using the language, it was mine for not knowing it (or at least not allowing that it might be perfectly legit)!

Ben W

Gah, my head hurts after that.

LQ, I'd like to point out that the development of the electron microscope has no effect whatsoever on the likelihood of abiogenesis :p.


The problem is not that he used scientific language, Gina - the problem is that he wrote very poorly. In fact, it took me a while to realize that his first point was not about life arising from non-living material (which is the usual argument about the complexity of the living cell), but rather about one type of living cell (a cell that's sensitive to light) being transformed into another type (a cell at the back of your eye that transmits the recognition of light to the nerves that then transmit it to the brain's vision center).

There are two trends among nonfiction writers: one is to write with extreme clarity so the reader understands, while the other is to write with extreme obfuscation so the reader thinks you're brilliant because he/she can't understand you. Richard Nadler must come from the latter camp. It's a pity, because he had good things to say.

Mr. Nadler's posting could be summarized like this: Darwin created his theory at a time when people thought that living cells were simple and therefore easily transformed for different purposes, and at a time when people thought that the characteristics of a parent, as changed by the environment, were passed directly to the children. This meant that evolution could occur rapidly and easily; the bone cells of a giraffe's neck could easily stretch, and the baby giraffes would be born with longer necks. But Darwin died before discoveries were made that show that evolution (if it occurs at all) is a long and difficult process. Sorry, Charlie.


I however, think the post brilliant -- if read as parody... Yes, yes, it takes forever to understand, but those who would think themselves wise (because they believe the gibberish which is Neo-D) would find themselves properly mocked by one who (a) understands and (b) utterly refutes their position

Richard Nadler

As I count the comments, there was exactly one reader in your forum who failed to understand what I was saying. Rarely have I sustained so many insults from folks who agree with me. But since you all write so brilliantly, I'm sure no snobbery was involved.
- Richard Nadler

Ben W

If it helps, Richard, I'd like to point out that I don't agree with you.

But don't mind us.. everyone's a critic.

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