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AT THE CONVERGENCE OF EVOLUTION AND GENETICS

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April 5th, 2007 07:28
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February 12th, 2006 12:42
Due to difficulties with blogger, I will no longer be posting at this URL. You can get all of your evolutionary genetics blogging at the new evolgen.
Tips for Purchasing a Llama
January 26th, 2006 10:20


The Science Creative Quarterly offers up some tips for purchasing a guard llama. Apparently, this is a legitimate concern, as the author cites five related articles (although I'm not sure if they are real publications, and I'm not ambitious enough to find out for myself). Among the concerns is overqualification (yes, llamas come with different skill sets):

There is nothing worse than an overqualified llama. For instance a llama, trained in the delicate arts of diplomacy, will become depressed and distant if it is only given the task of guarding your ’86 Chevy Cavalier from any would-be vandal. Consequently, it will probably let its guard down and you will be left with a llama with very low self-esteem and an antennae-less ’86 Chevy Cavalier with the words “Wash me” scrawled onto the dirt caked rear windshield.

There's the Onion and Sports Pickle; SCQ may be our equivalent source of science humor.

Republican Fear Factor
January 25th, 2006 06:20

In this week's cartoon, Tom Tomorrow introduces us to Fear Factor, neo-con style. Among the things Republicans are scared of:

  • They're terrified that their wives could get an abortion without their permission.
  • They're terrified that their religious beliefs might be undermined by secular society.
  • They're terrified that heterosexuality itself will be undermined by gay marriage.

It seems obvious to me that these are irrational fears, but it's not obvious to a large portion of this country. These fears manifest themselves in bigotry and oppression of others. Women are denied the right to any abortion regardless of the conditions. Certain religious beliefs (or religion in general) are endorsed by government, and in situations in which everyone is given fair treatment they claim oppression. A loving couple is denied the right to marry because they don't fit what a small minority has deemed the appropriate union (in my opinion, marriage as an institution should not receive government endorsement, but I'm a bit jaded).

A little background on where I stand on abortion: I think that any first trimester abortion should be allowed regardless of the conditions. There should be no restrictions, and they should be easily accessible. Anything after the first trimester should require the woman to show adverse health risks associated with pregnancy. She should not need to jump through loops to show she is at risk, and these abortions should also be easily accessible. I think I stand in the mainstream on this issue.

The last two Republican fears aren’t so easy to mock. One of them is the fear of terrorists. Terrorism is a legitimate concern, although the threat of terrorisms is often blown out of proportion and used to manipulate the general public. The comic isn’t mocking our fear of terrorism, but how the neo-cons use it for their own benefit. They take advantage of the average American's fear that terrorist will blow up their suburban neighborhood. They then use that fear to strip us of civil liberties in the name of anti-terrorism.

As opposed the first three examples (abortion, religion, and gays), it’s not so much the fear of terrorism that is the problem, but the response to that fear. It’s exaggerated and aimed in the wrong direction. We see the same thing in the final fear: “BIRD FLU”. As Tara so nicely pointed out, there may be a rational fear of a pandemic. The paradox is, if immunologists treat it properly (by vaccinating the public and preventing the virus from entering the country), then it appears that all of their work was for not because there was no epidemic. If they fail to act, then the disease may spread and they look like buffoons for not acting. Either way, they lose (there is the possibility that they do not respond and the disease does not spread, in which case they come out on top).

What concern me most are the rational fears to which the administration provides an inadequate response. Abortion, secularism, and gay marriage are important issues, but not nearly as significant as a bungled response to terrorism and pandemic. Of course, if we can’t adequately respond to regular old influence, what makes us think that the response to bird flu will be any better? Maybe it will be used as a scare tactic with no substantive strategy planned in response (see the government’s response to terrorism).