Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Skeptics' Circle #74: The Evolution of Thanksgiving

big turkey

Welcome all, I am very pleased to see you in our meeting, and I have been told that many prominent friends such as James Randi, the Bad Astronomer, Norm Jenson, and others, are watching us from outside. It is a great honour for me, as a newbie in the midst of all you great skeptics, giving my first lecture. Needless to say that I do not expect you to buy all what I am going to say, so don't be shy. Heckle. Make the British Parliament look like a church on a Sunday morning.

Unidentified voice: "Amen."
So be it. My lecture is about Thanksgiving ...
Orac: "Holy crap!"
Unidentified voices: "Woo." "Woo."
Holford Watch: "Did you tick the appropriate box, eh?"
... and its evolution from the very beginning of mankind. I'll use a narrative style but don't get me wrong. It is all based upon scientific facts and razor-proof hypotheses ...
Infophile (just entering): "Every hypothesis must stand Occam's ..."
Unidentified voices: "Hey sit down first!" "Who is late must wait."
... from radio-carbon, petrified turkeys, prehistorical paintings, to DNA out of stone-age party litter ...
Sandy: "Math, math, don't forget math! If scientists forget using it, they produce a big chunk of junk."
... I could name more of such stuff, thanks Sandy, but let me come right to the point ...
PZ Meyers: "Not yet. There are liars around, fabricating false evidence. Beware of these!"
Evangelical Realism: "Exactly. Just look at the Noah's Ark fake. I've done some math on this one."
... to the point, my friends: It is evolution, and for those celebrating Thanksgiving the hard-core way it may be a big surprise that even their celebration ...
Martin Rundkvist: "All is subject to evolution, even altie medicine."
Orac: "Fascinating idea, Martin! I wish it had been mine!. Woo even has evolved to invade academia like a parasite."
Steven Novella: "You hit upon two big points!"
... has a long evolutionary history. Let's go back to the roots of Homo sapiens.

One hundred thousand years ago

"Why you touch ground with head Maa?" asked the boy.
"Giving thanks to Big Maa", the woman said.
"Show me Big Maa."
The woman pointed to the ground, then to the trees, the grass, the sun, the clouds in the sky. "All this ...
Dikkii: "Happy times that far back, without Big Pharma putting patents on mother nature. I am trying not to get confused by the anti-science approach of the anti-biopiracy movement. But it's not easy."
... is Big Maa."
The boy pointed to his chest. "Also Big Maa?"
The woman scratched her head, thinking. Then she said: "You nothing without Big Maa. We all nothing without Big Maa. Give thanks!"
The boy touched the ground with his head. "Daa not give thanks? Where Daa?"
"Daa out hunting turkey", the woman said.

Twenty thousand years ago

"What are you doing, Dad?" asked the boy.
"Giving thanks to Big Mother", the man replied, dancing and touching the ground.
"Show me Big Mother."
The man shook his head. "We cannot see Her. She is behind all things. Behind the ground, behind the trees, behind the grass, behind the sun and the clouds in the sky."
"Where is Mom?"
"At the fireplace, roasting a big turkey", the man said. "Give thanks, my son!"
The boy scratched his head, thinking. Then, all of a sudden, he broke into laughter, began to dance in a frenzy, pointing to the ground, to the trees, the grass, the sun and the clouds in the sky, shouting: "Big turkey behind, big turkey behind!"
The man stopped dancing, scratched his head, thinking. He remained quiet until they all had eaten the turkey. He grabbed a turkey bone out of the ashes, got up and shouted: "My son is clever! My son is clever! He can see behind all things!" ...
Jakob Punkt: "Haha, great, he got the point, this old guy. Turkey? Goddess? Who cares, it all depends on how you define turkey or goddess."
Bing McGhandi: "No turkey, it is a horse! I have got the proof by e-mail."
Miller: "Oh no, guys! No. No. Listen. Forget turkeys and horses! It's penguins. Ninety percent of the brain is filled with them, according to the ten percent myth. I've got the proof!"
Akusai: "Turkeys? Horses? Penguins? This is all old stuff. I've got something really new: Black Eyed Kids!"
Skeptico: "Seeing behind things is nothing special at all. Anyone can do that. Just try out my Cold Reader Bingo!"

Five thousand years ago

"Come on my son", said the man. "It is time to give thanks to Big Turkey."
"Why can't I see Big Turkey?" asked the boy, ...
Lord Runolfr: "Even if you see you must stay skeptic. Not everything that looks big is big in reality!"
... but the father shook his head: "Thou shalt not put such a question, my son. He in his wisdom hath forbidden us that. Blesseth those whose eyes not see, yet their mind believeth."
"Why do you use such a strange language, Dad?"
"This is not language, this is tongue", the man explained. "We use it in religion."
Mike: "Woo talk has a long history. Reiki woo talk is a modern example."
Bad: "Not to forget supplement quack talk. You may be better off drinking a glass of good French red wine, and this is no paradox."
CAE: "There are more things in science and woo, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Take care of the money to be extracted from your pockets, women!"
John: "Oh, back in September, I have come across a piece of resonant bond quack talk."
Thursday: "Quacks never call quacks quacks because they don't want to be called quacks by quacks but, surprise, surprise, I have found an example of quacks suing quacks for quackery. But don't let them infiltrate our Skeptics' Circle!"
I can reassure you, Thursday, they didn't try.

Two hundred years ago

"Oh is this turkey big", said the boy. "He is so beautiful, please do not kill him!"
But the settler, an Irish immigrant, took his axe. "I'm not the President. I cannot amnesty him."
Down swished the axe, and the headless turkey flapped his wings.
"Why did you kill him?" The boy cried. He sat on the ground, sobbing ...
Zoo Knudsen: "Sobbing? I guess he just had a cough which would have forced his parents to become criminals if you believe what the FDA tells us."
... and looking at his father.
"Because we are celebrating Thanksgiving. Giving thanks to Lord the Big Father in heaven who has given us all these things we have harvested."
"How do you know?" The boy still sobbed. "Did you see him? Maybe he is Big Turkey. And then he will be sad about what you have done." And away he ran.
The settler called his wife, and together they plucked the turkey.
"Hm, our boy", the settler said to his wife. "Are you sure he did not mitch Sunday school?" ...
Revere: "Don't play hooky! Come to my Sunday morning Bible Class. Else you might miss the Big Flying Spaghetti Monster."
Orac: "And don't miss my Sunday afternoon lesson on Homeopathy!"

November 22th, 2007

The man in his best age, a great-grandson of the grandson of the settler's boy, gets up, raising his glass: "And now, let us be quiet for a moment and give thanks to the one who has given us all those things on our table and much more. Let us give thanks to ..." he hesitates, looking at his father who, in all the years before, had brought out the toast, that is, said his prayer. " ... nature, the Great Mother of us all, whose evolution is better than all intelligence of all designers ...
Seth Manapio: "And does a turkey look designed? A watch does, but not a turkey, and this alone refutes the whole Intelligent Design theory."
Infophile: "Every hypothesis must stand Occam's Razor, and the god hypothesis fails according to a bunch of logic."
... and their ideas taken together."
Some murmur of aunts, uncles and in-laws.
His father shakes his head and, in low voice, says to his wife: "I am sure he has been playing hooky on Sunday mornings."

This brings me to the end of my lecture, giving thanks for your patience and for your contributions. Have a happy Thanksgiving, together with your families, and choose the appropriate way of celebrating from all the options that evolution has to offer. For those outside the United States, giving thanks is a good idea anyway, to whom it may be due. Hope to see you all again at the 75th Skeptics' Circle over at Pro-Science.

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