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: