The Creation of Life

I follow what creationists say on YouTube quite closely since I find it an endless source of amusement. One of their main themes is that no lab work has ever produced artificial life which they take as evidence that life cannot have arisen by natural means and therefore require magic (though they don't phrase it that way). Recently an organic chemist with tenure at a secular university boldly asserted this. I left a comment calling him out for bearing false witness. One of his minions responded that I was unfair for making this baseless claim. So I responded with a half dozen links from pubmed that highlighted exactly how much work has been done in this area (they've actually made a construct that fully functions as a cell). The professor’s video just ignored this. The response was silence.

However, I read an article the other day about how creationists have latched on to the gain of function research going on in Wuhan and elsewhere as the artificial creation of life (which it isn’t). The rhetorical line here is that blasphemous atheist scientists are trying to set themselves up as god by creating life.

This pure double-think. Scientists can't create life except when they do to mock god. It amazes me that people want to think like this, that they carefully guard themselves from wanting to find out the truth. Although 2+2=5 gets all the attention, O'Brien' exposition of pure IngSoc takes the form of young earth creationism (the Earth is no older than the Party and there were no dinosaurs). That was true prophecy.

(no subject)

I've been reading Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. There is a scene where Marlowe gets into a fight with some thug. Marlowe eventually gets a choke-hold around his neck and keeps it on until his opponent passes out. Then he lets go, since all he wants to do was subdue him. While he is unconcsious, Marlowe puts hand-cuffs on him since that way he would pretty much unable to put up any more resistance.

Now, suppose Marlowe had kept choking him after he passed out; kept doing it until he quit breathing? What would we call that?


I got a new tablet recently. I use it only to read PDF while I sit on the front porch smoking cigars (well--I did use it to follow the attempted fascist coup). Today Danny notice that the background is Knopff's Oedipus and the Sphinx and asked what it was. So I told him the story, ending it this way:

And the people so loved Oedipus for freeing them from the Sphinx that they made him king, giving him the wife of the old king Laius, Jocasta. And they all lived happily ever after.

I didn't want to spoil it when he first sees or reads the play.



I've read Cicero in Latin and Demosthenes in Greek, but I've never encountered rhetoric like Vice-President Pence used in the acceptance speech for his nomination: "We'll make America great again, again."


(no subject)

Unfortunately saw a moment of the Republican convention. Trump's offspring have an aunt who was a federal judge and a great uncle who was a physics professor. Can you imagine what it would be like if one of them had a brain like that?


(no subject)

The closure of the libraries has hit me very hard. Lately I've been reading the short stories of Hawthorne. This morning I read one set during the tyranny, as he described it, of James II. The governor of Massachusetts set in motion a parade of a company of soldiers. The street was lined with people who considered themselves oppressed. An old man walked out in the middle of the street and stopped the troops' advance. The governor threatened to trample him, but seeing what that would do to the crowd, instead turned his little army around and left instead. It turned out the old man was some kind of phantom of liberty sent from heaven. In contrast, the other day I saw a montage of film of the police attacking and knocking down old white men, including one who couldn't get out of the way fast enough because he walked with a cane, and, of course, the 75 year old Antifa agent who was attempting to bring down the whole of the police's communications network with his "scanner" which was cleverly disguised to look like an ordinary cell phone.


(no subject)

I was hoping to get away with: "Lancleot ought to have been able to jump the chasm like Aragorn in Moria." But I am sure the reviewers will like much better: "Lancelot ought to have been able to jump the chasm like Cú Chulainn with his salmon-leap."

Dirk Obbink

I see that Dirk Obbink has been arrested.

Despite his name, he comes from Nebraska. He is also the world's leading expert on Greek Papyri.

In the late 1890s an organization called The Egypt Exploration Society excavated the garbage dump in a town called Oxyrhhynchus in the Fayum in Egypt. Among other things, it contained all the book and papers that had been tossed there between about 300 BC and 300 AD. The lot was trundled off to Oxford, several 55 gallon drums full. It's been worked on by a staff of about 6 scholars continuously since then. Their publications amount to at least 150 volumes now, which is only a small fraction of what is there. Among other things found there were 4 poems of Sappho (Obbink edited one of them), a half dozen plays by Menander, Aristotle's The Constitution of Athens (his only real dialogue we have; what we call the text of Aristotle is really the classroom notes taken by his chief students), among other trifles. Obbink eventually became the director of all that, after a career that included publishing the Epicurean papyri salvaged from the Villa of the Pisones in Herculaneum buried by Vesuvius in 79 (the exact books Lucretius and Virgil read when they were studying there).

What Obbink did was sell a few old stolen fragments of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) to one of the most obnoxious American crackpot Bible-thumping millionaires (he's the one who who sued and got the right to exclude birth control pills from his worker's health insurance), who also bought a huge haul of stolen antiquities from Iraq. Somehow when the FBI comes to get this stuff from him, he just claims he didn't know it was stolen and, since he is a millionaire, they never arrest him.

Here is what Obbink bought with the money:

The Cottonland castle in Texas. He since had to sell it to pay his lawyers and it was bought by the producer of a home remodeling show.

I've read many of Obbink's articles, and once many years ago, when I was attending the Summer Seminar of the American Numismatic Society I went to a party at his aprtment. All he did was complain. He had to a take a year off to go back to Nebraska to have some kind of surgery. He was stuck teaching at Barnard College where he would never have any graduate students. I suppose he complained about how little he was paid at Oxford too--which would be true. There is no position in Classics that could pay him what his skill and epxpertise is wroth. But now he'll never be able to touch another piece of papyrus.

  • Current Music
    Jan Dismis Zelenka
  • Tags

Filmed Opera

After posting links to video of Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals (which in itself might be a sign of the end times), Med Cat posted links to various opera companies that have put some film records of their performances out beyond the paywalls.

These may be alright for listening, but hardly for watching.

When a film is based on an opera, made by a film director and edited in the usual manner of film, there can hardly be anything better. But I am aware of only four examples: Lousy's Don Giovanni, Bergman's, Zauberflotte, Branagh's Zauberflotte, and Rossini's La Cenorentola directed by Pierre Ponelle (he was an opera stage director who filmed his own productions--he made an earlier Orfeo which is not as successful).

Collapse )