Presenting Science’s newest, regular commentator, Occam’s Razor…our skeptical cheerleader.  Take it away, Occam…

This year we honor Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. Few scientists are celebrated so ardently for so long as Darwin, and many institutions are using this year to stage a variety of events to celebrate his work and his life with lectures, symposia, conferences, etc. Just like many other pioneers he caused a massive paradigm shift, forcing us to think about something in a whole new way, not unlike Linda Lovelace, for example, who changed the way we thought about movies; both of these brave trailblazers understood how to use evidence to make certain concepts easier to swallow. Of course on the flip side, this pro-Darwin vibe has caused a rise in tensions in the communities typically involved in the debate over his work – those with ideas in opposition to Darwin have been raising their voices lately and the Darwinists have become less tolerant of any dissent…example: new reports from Connecticut indicate that that crazy xanax-laden chimp who attacked that woman did so after he heard her speak poorly of a recent performance of “Inherit the Wind
Yes, it’s been a veritable scientific Darwinpalooza around the U.S., so much so that it’s easy to forget the guy actually was not called a “scientist,” but is commonly referred to as a “naturalist,” which in today’s vernacular can also mean “nudist.” This would explain this often-discussed entry from his Notes from the Beagle: “As I hopped from rock to rock at Galapagos, I did so free and uninhibited of wardrobe, causing the tortoises to observe me in a queer manner…and truly the chill breeze in the air that morning did so cause my parts for reproduction to evolve to a state of such shrinkage that were a potential mate to see me thus I think I would stand a fair chance of natural de-selection!”
But what brought Darwin to this role in history? A love for knowledge? The search for deeper understanding? Maybe, but here’s my theory as to why he was obsessed with this stuff. Have you seen a picture of this guy?  Take a look at that forehead and descending brow! Notice any similarities to this?  I bet when you get called “monkey head” for most of your formative years you sort of become obsessed with the idea and want to legitimize the whole thing somehow!
All of this Darwin stuff is only on my mind because a photo of this pretty cool new bust of him in the National Academy of Sciences Building was recently sent to me. If you’re on the western end of the Mall, north of the Lincoln, check it out. It’s not so much that the bust itself is cool but there was some advanced science used in the creation of it. According to a plaque at the site, “A virtual model was created by (digitally) scanning the original sculpture at the New York Academy of Sciences, which graciously consented to the creation of a second replica to be located at the NAS Building. Using a rapid prototype process, a form was created from which a bronze will be cast.”
Three observations: 1. isn’t “second replica” redundant? Unless there is already one replica and that seems unlikely since they had to graciously consent to this. situ is Latin for “in the nude,” another reference to his naturalism. 3. Again note the graciously there. This is the NATIONAL Academy of Sciences we’re talking about but of course the New York Academy of Sciences, like everything else in NY, thinks it’s the center of the solar system (ironically ignoring the discoveries of Copernicus, one of their own). Being smarter and more sophisticated (and oh by the way more likely to destroy most of the wealth in this country), New Yorkers must let it be known they are condescending to share something of theirs, even if it’s something for a like-minded institution that seemingly outranks them.
One fascinating piece of information not noted on the plaque regarding the bronze casting: The plan is to create the final sculpture by initially making 20 large sculptures, which when completed will be toppled from their pedestals. The sculptures which do not shatter will be melted down and mixed together to make another several sculptures, which will then also be dropped. Again, the unbroken sculptures will be melted together and so on for several iterations. It’s hoped that after this is done enough times the sculpture will also form legs, eyes, consciousness, animation, etc. Check back in a billion years.

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