03 January, 2010

Two Things You Shouldn't Miss on Laelaps

Brian Switek is brilliant.  I say this for many reasons, but I have two specific reasons in mind just now.

First, for those attempting authorhood, he's got a post up on going from blog-to-book that should take some of the mystery out of the process.  There's some excellent advice there, particularly this:
You also need to be capable of telling the story you wish to relate. Almost every day I learn about something that makes me say to myself "An interesting book could be written about that...", but in most cases I am not capable of writing that hypothetical book (if it has not already been written by someone else!). I might lack the passion or expertise to take on the project, and these two factors are very important to writing science books. If you lack passion for your subject you cannot generate interest among your prospective readers, and without at least some expertise they might not believe you, anyway. Given that it takes years to write a book, from the day of its conception to the day it hits the shelves, you have to feel a need to write a particular book or else it can easily become an unpleasant chore. Who wants to read something you don't really want to write?
Who indeed?  I've tried to write things like this, and believe me, when even you're sick of reading it, no one else is going to enjoy it either.

I have just one piece of advice to add to Brian's bits: if you want to be an author, and you must own a cat, either write on a desktop or acquire a non-lap cat.  Right now, I am writing to you with a feline stretched across both arms, occasionally stomping on my hands in an attempt to get more comfortable, and these conditions are not conducive to serious prose.

They also make it damned hard to copy-and-paste.  But it's worth the effort, because defenders of science will not want to miss Brian's "It's Not About Faith."  A lot of scientists and folks passionate about science have been attacked by evangelicals spouting the "Science is faith, too!" bullshit.  Brian's the first I've seen who's distilled the experience into a few concise paragraphs, and provided the answer we all sputter for:
I don't regard evolution as true because it is what I would like to be true or because I believe I have had a personal experience with a transcendent force. No, I am so fascinated by evolution because of the overwhelming evidence for it. There is solid proof, from prehistoric bones to the intricacies of genes, and these natural facts fuel our ongoing discussions of evolutionary theory.

He's pinned down the essential difference.  Those first two sentences are all I'll ever need when confronted by creationist cretins.  Brian's right: we don't want to believe. Evolution hasn't come down off the mountain in our darkest hour and provided us aid and comfort.  It's just the truth. 

Personally, I believe in evolution the way I believe in the chair I'm sitting in.  I've got plenty of evidence there's a chair here.  My butt's telling me it's in contact with a cushion.  My legs are propped up on the recliner bit.  I can see it.  And my cat is using it as a brace to ensure she's wedged in here just as tight as she can be.  The fact that my hands are trapped by a gently-vibrating, furry weight with wee paws that keep moving the cursor off the screen and off somewhere totally useless allow me to believe that there is, indeed, a chair upon which I am sitting, pinned down by a feline.  I believe in these things the way I believe my nose itches, and believe that if I move the cat to scratch it, I will end up with wounds.  And, my darling readers, you would believe them too, if you were here.  We'd either have to be sensationally stupid, too smitten with Eastern philosophy, or hopeless fans of The Matrix to say, "There is no chair."  Especially as I was gently bleeding after having moved the cat to scratch my nose.

I don't want to believe I'm sitting in a chair with a cat in my lap.  Those things are just true, indisputable facts about the world that can be confirmed by any rational observer.  So, too, evolution.  And believe me, if there were as much objective, plain evidence for God as there was for evolution, I'd believe in God, too.  Especially if the bastard were sitting in my lap gleefully pinning my arms down.  Alas for religion, no god has provided such tangible evidence to date.

But enough of my babbling.  Go read Brian.  And then, for desert, finish up with PalMD's delightful spanking of Rush Limbaugh.

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