Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Awe Moments, Ewww Moments

PZ Mxyzptlk is taking comfort, or comradeship, or sly schadenfreude, or something, in the fact that the great documentarian, Sir David Attenborough, also gets hate mail from believers:

"They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance," Sir David said during an interview with the Radio Times about his latest documentary on Charles Darwin and natural selection. ...

Telling the magazine that he was also asked why he did not give "credit" to the Lord, Sir David continued: "They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds.

"I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in East Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball.

"The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs.

"I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator."

I like that example (I assume Sir David is referring to Onchocerca volvulus, a nematode worm transmitted by black flies, that causes "river blindness") better than Darwin's of the Ichneumonidae wasps, since the victim of the worm is human, rather than the wasps' targets of caterpillars, and Sir David is able to work in the fact that that many of the sufferers are children, for whom we have a natural sympathy and protective instinct. As an emotive argument -– and that's what it is, though in this case it is entirely appropriate, since it is in counter to the equally emotive invocation of the sense of awe we get at the beauty and abilities of hummingbirds -– it beats the heck out of dead and dying larvae.

Fight schmaltz with suffering children.

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