Evolutionary psychology (or, as it used to be called, human sociobiology) is one of those fields within biology that approaches the fantastic. While you always have to be on guard against untested (or even untestable) speculation, it is an endless source of fascination.

On this July 4th, therefore, I submit the following for your consideration as I get ready to burn various kinds of sausages. Meredith Small (a Cornell anthropologist featured in PBS's 'Evolution' series) has a timely piece here on the possible antiquity of barbecue as a human social activity. Drawing upon the work of anthropologists Katharine Milton (UC Berkeley) and Richard Wrangham, (Harvard), she argues that the move to cooked meat may have facilitated the growth of the brain in ancestral human populations.

Well, I don't know about that. There are lots of reasons why cultures have come to prefer cooked meat over steak tartare, not the least of which is that it prevents disease. I kind of doubt that what I do today is going to promote any personal brain growth. * The best I can hope it doesn't grow the rest of me, either. But, ya know, it is a holiday and it's kind of charming to think that our rituals might go back farther than we think....

* Remember: Individuals don't evolve, populations do!



PZ has a nuanced, but rather assertive smackdown here on this book, which I have yet to read. The title throws me off right from the get-go, though: properly speaking, one does not have to 'believe' in evolution any more than 'believe' in gravity. Evolution is an empirically-determined fact about the natural world, an essential fact which participates in biology's most powerful (and successful) model for the diversity and distribution of life over time and space.

Still, keeping in mind that I may or may not concur with Giberson's views in part, I was struck by this throwaway line of PZ's:

We are not princes of the earth, we are the descendants of worms, and any nobility must be earned.

PZ, as you might expect, I demur. But my reasons might surprise you. 'Worms' are wonderful things. The Creation, with all of its mystery, complexity and savagery is wonderful---so when you say 'the magic word is beauty', that resonates wonderfully with me, but not in a way that requires me to jettison my personal experience.

Similarly, theology is an intellectual tradition that attempts to infer things from the datum available, but it does not require me to deny the evidence of my senses from the world of Nature. Theology is not, as once described, 'the queen of the sciences'. It is manifestly unscientific, but that does not make its practice inherently deceitful. It simply makes a different set of assumptions about the starting points for drawing inferences. If these assumptions are incorrect, they may still prove useful.

In response to some of PZ's criticisms.....Yes, we Christians are talking through our hat whenever we think we can pull evidence for our particular tradition or understanding out of Nature. Yes, the brief of evolution as 'materialist religion' is often oversold by believers who tend to view all intellectual constructs as belief systems.

But that doesn't make materialism a conclusion that must be either rejected or affirmed, does it? Nor does it require Christians to be exclusivist in the sense of what datum/evidence/cultural experience we must affirm, which seems to be something that part of your critique affirms. Sure, the Ashanti tradition might be as valid as the Septuagint from a certain point of view, and as worthy (or unworthy) of either reverence or respect. I don't have a problem with that, and neither, I suspect, does Giberson.

Finally, what is this 'reconciliation'? I don't think science can be reconciled with faith as it is experienced, and neither do YEC, if you think about it. After all, they are all about denying the datum which seems to contradict their literal understanding of the text, which is tied to their particular faith experience. They don't want reconciliation, they want conformation to their experience. That is where I sympathize with them, but also happily part company with them. I don't desire conformation, because it distorts science and (carried to its logical conclusion) destroys the scientific enterprise and in a way denies the possibility of real faith. Rather, I seek engagement.

To that end, Pharyngula is at times similarly wonderful.



The concert's PA audio was recorded onto CD and I plan on taking the CD, editing it, and making a limited number of copies available as a promotional item for the church's 'P.I.E.' ("Paying Indebtedness Early') project. In some cases, I'll align the PA audio with the preexisting tracks they were recorded with.

In the meantime, here are some images from the early portions of the concert which focused on country and gospel music, the kind I remember growing up:

This is me, slaughtering 'Folsom Prison Blues' (which is just about the first piece of music I remember as a kid, interestingly enough).

Wayne Golden and I turn Stuart Hamblin's 'It Is No Secret' into a duet.

Me and the church's 'Praise Team' are saying that, like songwriter Ira Stamphill, we've got a "Mansion Over The Hilltop."




Details and photos to follow.

Thanks to all the family and friends who supported me. It was a wonderful, but completely draining day.