An officer and a gentleman—and his squirrel (and an interim travel report)

Quick report: I think my talk went okay last night: the audience seemed to like it and there was an hour of questions. Since it was a humanist society, there wasn’t much opposition, but one person in the audience asked me repeatedly if I could explain how evolution could create molecular complexity. I mentioned gene duplication and the creation of hemoglobins, whereupon he responded, “But they’re still hemoglobins!” You’ll recognize this as the molecular equivalent of “sure, microevolution can make different species of cats, but they’re still all cats. Show me a cat evolving into a dog!” I gave him other examples, involving more drastic molecular transitions like lactic dehydrogenase forming crystalline proteins of the eye lens, and he went quiet.

At the end of my book signing, he came up to me and said, “I have just one question for you, Dr. Coyne: have you heard of Pascal’s Wager?”  Knowing what I was in for, I just said, “Of course,” and he walked away.  I’m sure I’ll have more pushback when I speak in South Carolina.

The lagniappe:  Al Stefanelli, a well-known atheist and writer whom many of you must know (or know of) came to my talk and we had a pleasant chat over drinks (his wife is bartender at a private club). A lovely man.

That’s the report, and now the squee:

This is too cute not to post, but I can’t vouch for its truthfulness, although the story is on msn now:

Soldiers are known for being tough as nails, but when this fellow in the Belarusian army found a sick squirrel under a tree, his inner softie came out. Warrant officer Pyotr Pankratau discovered the tiny creature unconscious and barely alive. Taking him back to the base, the officer fed him milk from a syringe every four hours. After two weeks, the little guy began to pep up and ended up staying on the base with Pankratau for the next two years. When they were released, the officer took his furry right-hand man, whom he’d named “Minsk,” with him and the two now drive a taxi cab together. Scroll through the gallery above to see photos of the adorable pair.

Image from imgur.com:

RhqFKjU

h/t: Gattina

33 Comments

  1. Posted February 3, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    The cat seems to be saying: “Just wait. The soldier is going to get called out on maneuvers sometime and then BAM, squirrel tartare.”

    • Lurker111
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      OMG. That was my first impression, too!

  2. Posted February 3, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I can’t vouch for the truthfulness of the whole story, but the squirrel appears to be Sciurus vulgaris, which would be the right species for Belarus.

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Cool story, and the look on the cat’s face is great! I had a pet flying squirrel (named Geronimo) once.

    • jesse
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Brilliant name.

  4. Jens Knudsen (Sili)
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    The lagniappe: Al Stefanelli, a well-known atheist and writer whom many of you must know (or know of) came to my talk and we had a pleasant chat over drinks (his wife is bartender at a private club). A lovely man.

    Cute.

  5. mordacious1
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I hope that chocolate doesn’t destroy his liver.

    • Michael Hart
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Nutella.

      • Pray Hard
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        Nutella has cocoa in it. I don’t know if it injures squirrels or not.

        There’s a primate food I used to feed my squirrels made by Zupreem, I think. It seemed to be a well balanced diet with nothing that would harm them.

  6. Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a good beginning for your talks!

    The chances that this guy knew what to do to take care of a juvenile squirrel are pretty low (maybe he went to a vet or did web research). It would have had to been rehydrated and then fed formula milk, not regular milk. And why does this guy just happen to be so good-looking and also bare-chested? Colour me mucho skeptico. But, still major squee.

    • onychomys
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      You’ve obviously not spent a ton of time around Army guys. When you’re 20 and in top-notch shape, you go around shirtless as often as possible.

    • Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Never mind the squirrel, Pyotr Pankratau is pretty damn cute. He can go shirtless whenever he likse.

      • Marella
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        And the world will be a better place. ;-)

        • Miss May
          Posted February 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

          And he drives a BMW!

  7. Hamish
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    why do his ears change appearance in successive photos? (the squirrel not the man)

    • Posted February 3, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      The squirrel is getting older. Adults are tassel-eared, but the babies have only a hint of this later hirsuteness. The pictures must have been taken over several months.

      • Filipe
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        It’s not an age thin, it’s seasonal. During winter squirrels have those incredibly ear tufts. They disappear during summer and then come back again.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 4, 2013 at 12:23 am | Permalink

          It’s in humans (males) that age brings ear tufts…

  8. spud2006
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Biophilia in action. E.O. Wilson was right about *some* things, at least, I’d say.

  9. Diane G.
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    . . . Dr. Coyne: have you heard of Pascal’s Wager?” Knowing what I was in for, I just said, “Of course,” and he walked away.

    Heh, heh, perfect.

  10. Marella
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Pix or it didn’t happen they say, well there are the pics, so I guess it must have happened.

  11. raven
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    “I have just one question for you, Dr. Coyne: have you heard of Pascal’s Wager?”

    Pascal’s Wager is very useful.

    Anyone bringing it up labels themselves an ignorant and a total idiot.

    It’s always nice when fundies tell the truth, even if it is entirely accidental.

    • raven
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      We all know how dumb Pascal’s Wager is.

      I used to tell xians that Brahma hates Pascal’s Wager and sends everyone who brings it up back at the end of this life to be reincarnated as a tape worm.

      These days it isn’t worth the effort.

      • Pray Hard
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        Like – cubed.

  12. Jim Thomerson
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I would like to have a pet squirrel. Pet to the point that it would not be afraid of people and would come sit on my knee in hopes of an occasionl peanut. I had a bunch of out of date shelled pecans. A female rock squirrel had babies (I think) under the house out at the ranch where no one lives at present.
    Within three days, she would sit on my knee and eat pecans. She also got unafraid of people. In the heat of the day she would lie spreadout, belly down, on the cool concrete of a porch in the shad.

  13. Posted February 3, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Have you heard of Pascal’s wager? That’s so precious it’s almost cute. In a nice, thick drawl, “Questions for me? Why I do declare, Mr. Bumpkinite; you are my hero.”

  14. Pray Hard
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I love squirrels. I had anywhere from a handful to a dozen (daily variation) semi-pet squirrels for five years. Fed and watered them every day. Put bowls of ice out for them in the Summer. They’d lie on them and cool down. If I was eating a sandwich on the patio, Blanche (the matriarch) would grab a pecan, sit down beside me and eat it. It was great fun.

    • jesse
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      I hope one of them was named Stella, so that at feeding time you could call out loud into the neigborhood, “Stellllllaaaaaaa!”

  15. Old Rasputin
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the truthfulness, I can’t vouch for the squirrel’s past, but there is video of the little guy on Youtube.

    I don’t recall how to get youtube links to appear here without embedding the whole video, so I’ll just write the bit that follows “youtube.com”:

    /watch?v=6D9EwCqu_XM

    About the squirrel’s diet he says only that he fed it milk every four hours at first and then transitioned it onto baby food. Then, after it got its teeth, everything became much easier. The word he used for “milk” was just the generic term for milk in Russian and I’m not sure how broadly it may be interpreted, but I’m skeptical about feeding a baby squirrel, say, cow’s milk. Later on he says that he feeds it all kinds of nuts and fruits, but that almonds aren’t allowed.

    Oh, and the squirrel’s name is Masik, not “Minsk”, although they live in Minsk.

  16. Posted February 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on CHRONICLES and commented:
    oh my, that is too cute…


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