Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's A Reptile! It's A Mammal! It's Super-Platypus!

The genome of the platypus,
We read today in Nature,
Befits a beast so odd it once
Defied our nomenclature;
A mammal, but it still lays eggs,
And you know what that means:
The platypus and lizards share
Some families of genes!
Although the tale is quite complex--
A long way off from solved--
The genome of the platypus
Shows how we all evolved!

Photo accompanies the New York TImes article.


Anonymous said...

The photo that accompanies your verse I must confess,
Shows off our friend the platypus at its gallumphing best.

Perhaps it spies with tiny eyes a platygirl or -boy.
But I'm transfixed; its genome fixed, it must gallumph for joy.

Unknown said...

Great poem, as usual.

As I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, I’ve become an admirer of your wit and perspicacity – and in verse, yet! I have a question for you, and it would be great to see how you would apply your own unique style in an answer. (I’d have sent this as an email, but I don’t see a way to do that, so here it is in your comments. Sorry about the length.)

Below is an email I received today. As a relatively new atheist, I’m not sure how I might rebut this admittedly humorous scenario. It isn’t just that most of Noah’s objections are bogus; somehow I think the answer should be more basic. Perhaps it should have something to do with the erroneous supposition that destroying pretty much everyone in the world would be a permanent cure for wickedness and over-population, given this strategy’s previous failure. Or is it that the pre-supposition of wickedness and over-population is false to begin with? Or is it that the pre-supposition of a God who could/should deal with such a pre-supposed problem is just plain stupid? Or is it that… I think you get my point. There is so much wrong with this scenario that I wouldn’t know how to prioritize my rebuttal.

So much of what the theist crowd proposes is nonsense, framed in a way that most people can relate to it, that it makes it difficult for a non-philosopher/scientist to answer them. This is just one more example; even if it is a farce, it’s typical of their usual rants.

In any case, I’d love to have a slam-dunk, smack-down response for this quintessential theistic narrative. I’d love to take your answer – and that of a few others, like Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Meyers, etc, and anthologize them. I’d put out in a sizzling best seller! Yee haaaa!

So here it is. How would you go about rebutting this?

In the year 2008, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in the United States, and said, “Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me. Build another Ark and save two of every living thing,
along with a few good humans.”

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying, “You have six
months to build the Ark before I will start the
unending rain for forty days and forty nights. “

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.

”Noah!” He roared, “I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?”

”Forgive me, Lord,” begged Noah, “but things have
changed. I needed a building permit. I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision. “

”Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark 's move to the sea . I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.”

”Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!”

”When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.”

”Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.”

”I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew.
Immigration and Naturalization is checking the
green-card status of most of the people who want to

”The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.”

”To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.”

”So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10
years for me to finish this Ark.”

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine,
and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, “You mean you're not going to destroy the world?”

”No,” said the Lord. “The government beat me to it.”

Thanks in advance for your answer.

Cuttlefish said...


I have started a verse percolating in response... (And I suppose I will have to find out how to put my email addy up here somewhere--thanks for that.)

Meanwhile, you might want to have the person who sent you the email turn on CNN, or BBC world news, or just about any news channel, and take a good look at what destroying the world with a flood looks like. Kinda takes a bit of the joke out of the email when government regulations are what stands between god and the horrible deaths of sinful babies, children, mothers and fathers. How horrible that the rules and regulations get in the way of a global version of Myanmar.

Then you can only hope that the person feels some vestigial remnants of what should be head-hanging shame, and decides to cut out the middle-church and send 10% of his/her income directly to disaster relief organizations. Or don't they believe in tithing?

Thanks for sharing that--I will have to work on a more measured response, but right now that person's [lack of] perspective frankly makes my blood boil.

Good luck with the responses!


Unknown said...

You’re right about the tragic comparison of this joke to Myanmar’s horrendous flood. Not a good time to be making mock. I’m sure she didn’t connect it – just as I didn’t. Talk about our tin ears. I am properly chastised. I feel much less enthusiasm now for a humorous riposte.

In the jokester’s defense, I know that she makes generous donations to all kinds of causes, even though she lives in semi-poverty herself. I can’t say she’s Christian, exactly. I believe she has her own bizarro New Age/Catholic/Skepti/Woo Woo belief system, but passed on the joke as means of poking a sharp stick into the eye of a worthless government.

In any case, thanks for your thoughtful response.

Christopher said...

Good Sir Cuttlefish, you opine
So clearly and so well I often wonder,
Were it not a philosophical blunder,
If you are in fact--divine!

Sorry...anyway thank you for providing us with both a wonderful picture and yet another brilliant poem, this time devoted to one of my favorite animals.

PoxyHowzes said...

Among the many contradictions in the Noah story is the following one, which most Noacheans haven't heard before, and therefore haven't an answer to:

It is known that each of us has about two pounds (a kilogram, if you prefer), of bacteria in our gut at any given time. How did Noah make sure that only two individuals of each "kind" of gut bacteria got on the Ark? How did the humans and other animals live without the rest of the gut bacteria?

Christopher said...

Obviously the Noacheans haven't read Mark Twain's Letters From The Earth in which he talks, among other things, about one of Noah's sons being full of hookworms. Also the Ark had to make a special return trip in the deluge to pick up a fly that was feeding on a corpse. The fly was carrying a disease (cholera, I think) which--horrors!--might have been wiped out had it not had its own special carrier.