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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Bastille Day 2024

Today is the Fête Nationale in France known also as "le quatorze juillet" or Bastille Day.

This is the day in 1789 when French citizens stormed and captured the Bastille—a Royalist fortress in Paris. It marks the symbolic beginning of the French revolution although the real beginning is when the Third Estate transformed itself into the National Assembly on June 17, 1789 [Tennis Court Oath].

We visited the site of the Bastille (Place de la Bastille) when we were in Paris a few years ago. There's nothing left of the former castle but the site still resonates with meaning and history.

My wife's 5th great-grandfather is William Playfair (1759-1823), the inventor of pie charts and bar graphs [Bar Graphs, Pie Charts, and Darwin]. His work attracted the attention of the French King so he moved to Paris in 1787 to set up an engineering business. Playfair was present at the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. He is recorded as one of one of about 1000 militia who took part in the action: "William Playfair, ingénieur anglais, petit hôtel de Lamaignon rue Couture Sainte Catherine."

His residence, the Hôtel de Lamaignon, still exists. It was about a kilometer west of the Bastille.

In honor of the French national day I invite you to sing the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. An English translation is provided so you can see that La Marseillaise is truly a revolutionary call to arms. (A much better translation can be found here.)

Check out Uncertain Principles for another version of La Marseillaise—this is the famous scene in Casablanca.

Reposted and modified from 2017.

Friday, July 12, 2024

My ancestor's house in New Amsterdam (1655)

This is the 400th anniversary of the founding of New Amsterdam by Dutch settlers. The map shows what the city looked like in 1660, a few years before it was taken over by the British and renamed New York. The red oval shows the location of Abraham Rychen's house; he sold it in 1655.

Abraham Rycken was born in 1618 in Nijmegen, Netherlands. He is my 9th great-grandfather. Abraham married Grietje Harmensen, the daughter of settler Harmen Harmensen. Harmen was an armorer for the Dutch army and later retired to a farm on Riker's Island where he made tomahawks for the indigenous people who lived there and on Long Island. Harmen was killed in 1643 by a native using one of his tomahawks.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Jerry Coyne changes his mind about the lab leak conspiracy theory and now rejects it

Jerry Coyne was initially convinced by Alina Chan's arguments in favor of the lab leak conspiracy theory concerning the origin of SARS-CoV-2. His mind was changed by reading Paul Offit's rebuttal [Lab Leak Mania].

Here's how Jerry describes his conversion in an article posted on his website [The lab leak theory for the origin of the Covid virus is once again deep-sixed].

The Scientific Theory of Intelligent Design

Everything that's happening in the world today is very depressing but there's at least one bright spot. The Intelligent Design Creationists have finally come up with a scientific theory of intelligent design. It's described by mathematics professor Ganville Sewell on the Evolution News (sic) website: Introduction to the Scientific Theory of Intelligent Design.

Here's how Sewell desribes this "scientific theory."

Of course, normally if a scientific theory for some observed phenomenon fails, we just look for an alternative “natural” theory. But what has long been obvious to the layman is finally becoming clear to many scientists, that evolution is different. We are not talking now about explaining earthquakes or comets or volcanos, we are talking about explaining hearts and lungs and eyes and ears. How many theories without design can there be for the origin of circulatory systems, nervous systems, and human brains? Design has finally started to be taken seriously by scientists not because there are minor problems with Darwin’s explanation, but because it has become absurdly, blindingly obvious that neither it nor any other theory that ignores design will ever completely explain living things. Contrary to common belief, science really has no reasonable alternative to design to explain either the origin or evolution of life. In fact, we really have no idea how living things are able to pass their current complex structures on to their descendants without significant degradation, generation after generation, much less how they evolve even more complex structures.

That's it? The scientific theory of intelligent design is that evolution has failed and it is now "absurdly, blindingly obvious" that you need design in order to explain the origin of life or the evolution of life.

I'm still depressed. Is this the best they can do after three decades of pushing intelligent design creationism?1

1. Yes.