Prof. Steve Steve posted Entry 1163 on June 22, 2005 05:43 PM.
Trackback URL:

Hello, everybody! It's been a long time since I wrote to the Panda's Thumb about my adventures, but I've been extremely busy, and have only now had time to update my journal, after visits to Minnesota, Iowa, Alaska, and Georgia. There's much to catch up on! In my first stop, I visited a small liberal arts university on the western Minnesota prairies, which you'd think would be a quiet place, but appearances can be deceiving…especially when you are a small plush bear with an active fantasy life.

I arrived in Minnesota just in time to hear of a dreadful case of Darwin abuse by the unscrupulous forces of Unintelligent Design. How dare they torment stuffed figures like that! Only cowards practice torture on the helpless, and to do so with such an elderly and harmless man…


I leapt into action. Strangely, despite being thousands of miles from any ocean, Minnesota was experiencing an infestation of pirates. While creationists may daydream about being medieval torturers, we evolutionists are bold, romantic swashbucklers at heart, so it was child's play to fight my way clear and rescue the beleaguered scientist.


It also helps that, when fighting creationists, you are mostly wrestling with insubstantial and evasive targets. Puncture them, and you discover that they are mostly puffed up with stale air.

On our return, we got together with a few other 19th century philosophers vilified by the ID gang. Here's Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Charles Darwin, the one member of the trio whose scientific ideas have seen a greater flowering in modern times. He was very gratified to learn that his mistaken ideas about genetics have been superceded, and have led to an even greater strengthening of the core concepts of evolution. I was in very distinguished company.


As long as I was visiting a developmental biologist, I also had to pay a call on a few of his experimental animals. Here I am saying hello to a tank full of adult zebrafish. These are marvelous beasties, a new model system for studying vertebrate development and genetics.


Dr Myers' adult colony live happy lives, producing hundreds of babies every day. The embryos are the real experimental subjects here, so I thought I'd crawl into the incubator with them. They're tiny 1mm diameter dots living in the beakers; I'm the happy panda enjoying the tropical warmth.


Dr Myers also keeps a few Xenopus around. They're a classic system for studying development.


Before I left Morris, Charles (he lets me call him "Charles" now) and I posed with a few representatives of other phyla. Here we are with an echinoderm, a mollusc, and a chordate. Also, Charles was telling me all about barnacles, of the phylum Arthropoda, as we were getting our picture taken, so hooray for biological diversity!


Next stop: Iowa. The midwest is a surprising place, who knows what I'll find there!

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of See our full disclaimer.

Comment #36069

Posted by Nic George on June 23, 2005 9:37 AM (e)

Minnesota, Iowa, Alaska, and Georgia, hu. How much does a plane ticket cost for a 20 centimeter Panda? I imagine a luggage locker would almost be a private room. With no windows, granted.

Comment #36076

Posted by Steven Thomas Smith on June 23, 2005 10:12 AM (e)

Kudos to Errol Flynn for rescuing the fuzzy puppet from the inquisitionists!

But Marx and Freud—jeez! We’d all be better off if you had just done a hostage exchange with the Marx doll.

You may be interested to know that Marx was a major mathematical crank rivaled only by Intelligent Design theorists. For a good laugh at Marx’s mathematical “contributions”, see the book The Mathematical Manuscripts of Karl Marx (London: New Park Publications, 1983). Marx’s cheerleader Engels had this to say about Marx’s math:

Yesterday I found the courage to study your mathematical manuscripts even without reference books … The thing is as clear as daylight, so that we cannot wonder enough at the way mathematicians insist on mystifying it. But this comes from the one-sided way these gentlemen think. To put dy/dx = 0/0, firmly and point-blank, does not enter their skulls….

You need not fear that any mathematician has preceded you here….

The thing has taken such a hold of me that it not only goes round my head all day, but last week in a dream I gave a chap my shirt-buttons to differentiate, and he ran off with them.

These are the guys whose rantings we had to spend a good part of the twentieth century to defeat?

Comment #36836

Posted by geogeek on June 30, 2005 11:23 PM (e)

May I suggest “Here’s … Sigmund Freud … whose scientific ideas have seen a greater flowering in modern times. He was very gratified to learn that his mistaken ideas about [sexuality] have been superceded, and have led to an even greater strengthening of the core concepts of [psychology and the unconscious].” I used to think Freud was just the bad guy who figured out how to make European women seem insane for resisting their insane culture, but once I actually read some of his stuff I decided that he deserves credit for coming up with a new and important theory of mind. Less of Freud probably survives in modern psychology than Darwin in modern biology, but he was more than a crank.