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'The Evolution of God'

My friend Bob Wright and I recorded one of those Bloggerheady things last night and it should be up later today for your viewing pleasure. I'll post a link when that happens. [UPDATE, 4:38 p.m.: I've added the video at the end of this post.] But in the meantime here are some thoughts about Bob's fantastic new book, "The Evolution of God."

Bob, as you know, has an IQ so high it has to be expressed in scientific notation. He has been called a genius by Bill Clinton, who as president made all of his staffers read Bob's book "NonZero." I would like to point out, however, that I once ate dinner with President Clinton. So that's a wash, surely.

Bob has had a highly successful career as a writer, teacher, and bloggingheader, so it is with all due respect that I say that he has spent much of the past couple of decades retailing one big idea. And it's a really big idea. It is a candidate, frankly, for a Theory of Everything.

Bob's idea -- and I hesitate to summarize it in my clumsy way, but here goes -- is that human history, including thousands of years of cultural, economic, and political changes, can be explained through a fundamentally mathematical principle that Bob refers to as "non-zero-sumness."

Presumably he chose that term because an even uglier and more ungainly one was unavailable. Give him credit; he sticks with it despite any brickbats from those of us in the bleacher seats, and it plays a crucial role in his latest book, modestly titled, "The Evolution of God."

For a number of years, Bob and I have gone cycling in and around our alma mater, and at some point I began to wonder if Bob would ever actually produce this alleged book on the evolution of God. It seemed kind of a big subject. But the wait was worth it. The book is great fun, very smart, full of stuff I didn't know. It's a rather heroic attempt to produce a new insight on the totality of human history.

What Bob perceives -- and this is controversial, though I think he's right -- is that human history is very broadly and generally progressive and directional. That doesn't mean it's not also tragic, farcical, and potentially headed toward some kind of catastrophe. But if you had to plot the whole thing on a graph you see a movement toward greater prosperity, longer lives, and economic cooperation.

This strikingly mirrors what we see in the biological world -- a very gradual, halting, but ultimately dramatic increase in complexity. A planet that for two billion years was inhabited solely by one-celled life forms has become inhabited by a dizzying array of complex organisms, including one species capable of writing a 700-page book on non-zero-sumness.

Bob is thus at odds, intellectually, with the late Stephen Jay Gould, who spent decades warring against any notion of progressivity and directionality in evolution. Wright is, I believe, fundamentally correct in this debate, though you could get knee-deep in the definitional murk as you discuss what exactly we mean by progressivity etc. For example, no one, not even a Bob Wright, thinks that if you reran the tape of biological evolution you'd once again wind up with human beings, exactly. But Wright, unlike Gould, would argue that you wind up with a creature in key respects like a human being.

With his latest book he raises the bet: He is saying that even our culture is shaped by a kind of natural selection.

At the base of that culture is religion. And through painstaking reflection on the history of religion and in particular the rise of monotheism and the notion of "brotherly love," Bob argues that we've seen an evolutionary change in the attributes of the gods we worship. Key to this has been an increase in tolerance of other peoples and a willingness to imagine that a single, all-powerful god would extend his love to people unlike ourselves.

None of this is particularly radical. Indeed, the notion that the world gets more interconnected because people benefit from cooperation -- that peace is good business and vice versa -- strikes me as common sense.

But Bob then gets a bit theologically ambitious. Look at the big word on his cover (reprinted several times in case you missed it): GOD.

An editor once told me of an author whose books sold much better whenever he put "God" in the title. People care about their personal god. What many readers will want to know is whether Bob Wright will permit, in his cosmology, the existence of a god who cares about them. The short answer is no -- that by many conventional standards Bob shares the atheist's strong belief that there is no personal god. [On the bloggingheads thing I wish I had shouted: "Bob, you're an ATHEIST."]

Religious people are counting on more than an algorithm-god. They want an upper case God who truly loves them and watches over them and perhaps offers them a chance for eternal life and a reunion with their loved ones. They don't want a god whose main attribute seems to be the proliferation of trade agreements such as NAFTA.

Bob will say he believes in more than just that. He thinks there is some kind of higher purpose at work in the universe. He can explain it better than I can, but basically, he senses that "brotherly love" is the point, the meaning, the driving force of life -- and that it's essentially a divine force.

His book is, in fact, not about "the evolution of God," but about "the evolution of love."

I believe in the power of love. And I will happily journey with my friend all the way to the very edge of his belief that we live in a world that is fundamentally getting better in key respects (with all due caveats regarding war, global warming, etc.) and that the source of this improvement is the willingness to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. I'll also concede that a mathematical principle of sorts underlies the practical benefits of peace, cooperation, love, etc.

But the talk of higher purpose, etc., seems to have an element of arm-waving. I'm not entirely sure what Bob is driving at there. My preference would be to keep our algorithms and our gods separate.

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 31, 2009; 10:09 AM ET
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Posted by: bayouself | July 31, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

If God cooked, what would he make?

Posted by: russianthistle | July 31, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I'm just glad I'll get a chance to listen in to the whole thing for a change. I have absolutely nothing to do today, but knit and pretend that if I water enough, my plants will live.

I'm going to get another cup of coffee and go sit for a spell.

Posted by: --dr-- | July 31, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Now I need to finally read David Sloan Wilson's "Darwin's Cathedral" to see whether he scooped Richard Wright.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 31, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Joel and Bob, thanks for the quick presentation/essay, here. In all seriousness, I totally agree. When your life gets stripped bare by the economy and things aren't going well, you have two ways to go: (1) anger, resentment and loathing; or (2) simple brotherly love.

The discoveries that are most profound are about ourselves... our own weaknesses and our own caring. It's funny how so many folks use the notion of God to impose certain ways upon others. To me, the entire message of such a spirit goes no further than the boundary of our own skin.

Our deeds and words and caring (love) is all that we can provide, not a litany of rules and lists of good and bad.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 31, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"you could get knee-deep in the definitional murk"

Alert Bartletts

Posted by: russianthistle | July 31, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Bayouself! How ya been?

Temps here are back to normal this morning, thanks to the beloved onshore flow. Still no rain in sight for us. Saturday evening it sprinkled for a few minutes, but that's all.

Maybe Bob or Joel could work with Mudge...I saw Bob Wright on Bill Moyers' show - very good (and he was much more pleasant with Bill than he is with Joel!).

Posted by: seasea1 | July 31, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I've ordered Wright's book.

davemarks, if you're still around, I think you are looking for

Weed, that's a great site!

Posted by: Yoki | July 31, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all.

If the concept of god has evolved, must the concept of satan evolve as well? Maybe from god's prosecutor to the cop who relies on entrapment? Hmmm.

Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 31, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: seasea1 | July 31, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm looking forward to this exchange of ideas. I had read Bob's article in The Atlantic to which I subscribe. Great. I am such a believer...even more so as the economy as forced me to do some real soul-searching. A good thing although not always a good time.

Posted by: Windy3 | July 31, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Bob's problem, as I see it (and I'm not worthy to diagram his footnotes let alone critique his genius), is that he is conflating biological evolution with societal progress. The last time this happened it was over Social Darwinism and it didn't turn out well.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 31, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Excellent post in the last Boodle, Yoki. Thanks.

Somehow I think a God Algorithm would be expressed using a dizzying number of sets of parenthesis. You'd have to use debug big-time to sort it all out.

Kind of like one's mortgage algorithm but much worse.

Cassandra, mojo and love to you and your daughter.

Mo, go to They're holding a 3-day basic dba workshop for $999. Generally, I've found their conferences are good.

Posted by: -dbG- | July 31, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Reading this review (and some excerpts), while the book sounds interesting, it doesn't sound like there is much new here.
"God, A biography" by Jack mIles, analyzes how God's personality grows in the Bible.
Steven Pinker, in "The Blank Slate" shows how most human activity, including culture and religion, is a product of evolution.
Richard Dawkins refutes the "two realities" (god-truth and Science truth).
Personally, I believe that God = metaphor. An invention of the human brain to express deep feelings that we cannot otherwise express.
I like the awkward phrase, though, "zero-sum-ness" = brotherly love.

Posted by: ATeardropinTime | July 31, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

You know, I think that, for our nation to really grow--now that we have gone 4 quarters without any economic growth--we need to have our OWN Thermal Units.

We have to stop our reliance on the English in this area. We need to establish our own high tech dominance in this field.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 31, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Yoki!

Posted by: davemarks | July 31, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

This is fascinating. I have no time for comment - either brief and incoherent or considered and slightly more coherent. I look forawrd to reading the discussion.

Getting ready to leave this weekend. The Boy & I head out for mountains, leaving Ivansdad with the rabbit, the dogs, the wild deer, and a bunch of work to do. There's a lot to accomplish before we can set out.

I'm off to eat lunch with the Boy and vacation Bible school-type campers. He was a counselor this week. Came home exhausted every day, after shepherding around toddlers and elementary school kids. I told him this builds character.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Question about "pressed yogurt" in last boodle --

Yogurt Cheese

2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
2 cups plain nonfat yogurt

Mix together. Drain in a colander lined with three or four layers of damp cheesecloth. Place in bowl and drain in refrigerator overnight.
A softer cheese is made by draining only a few hours, then use on baked potatoes. A denser cheese is obtained by tying the cheesecloth over the cheese and weighting it down for an additional couple of hours --- this is good mixed with chopped chives, dill, garlic, or other herbs.
(no idea where this recipe came from, but it is good.)

Posted by: nellie4 | July 31, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Endeavour has landed. I think it should be Edeavor, being a US craft and all.

I already use the kilojoule weed, I can lend it to you though. I,ve always like the erg as well.

Another pressed yogurt, Greek style, that is available in our area from a nearby goat farm.
"a thick strained yogurt that has a smooth, rich and velvety texture and a deliciously creamy taste"

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 31, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

SCC Endeavor, of course

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 31, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Gould, to his credit, was *extremely* leery of opening the door, even a crack, to those who see the "Hand of God" in natural history. He seemed to have a special disdain for those iconic "March of Evolution" charts. And Gould is right. The notion of an intelligent force behind increasing complexity is not at all necessary, so I think Wright is being a bit disingenuous when he uses the G word.

The thing is, any dynamic system with enough degrees of freedom (ways to move) and some kind of negative feedback loop will evolve. And, given enough time, something stable will stick against the wall. This, to me, is a massively self-evident "duh-like" observation. It doesn't matter if it is human civilization, the life, the universe, or, um, well, everything.

I mean, I can (and have) programmed simple toy systems in MATLAB that evolve into stable increasingly complex configurations. It's just the way the numbers work. Does this make me a deity to my computer? Of course not.

But don't tell it that.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 31, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I could read a whole Boodle of RD's comments.

For pressed yogurt, I find that full-fat natural (i.e. just culture, no gelatine/agar) works best and doesn't loosen up too much when mixed with other good things (like cucumber and dill!).

Posted by: Yoki | July 31, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

If I could ask Stephen Gould one question, it would be about examples of organisms LOSING complexity, which he discussed in his book Full House, wherein he used baseball metaphors and discussed complexity using statistics and the history of batting averages in baseball.

I have to ask if you, Joel, or Wright either, read this book. It is, I think, important, and enough people have commented on it (including Dawkins, whose comments I have admittedly not seen) that I think shows others believe it's important too. Because he shoots down with a big gun most general concepts of increasing tendencies towards complexity in general.

The question I would ask, however, is this: give me examples, please. I need lots of examples of complexity decreasing.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 31, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I am betting you have messed with Wolfram's rules, RD. Lots of those rules go irreversably to simplicity. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 31, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The shuttle's double-boom this morning sounded as though something huge had landed on the house. Really loud.

In the book department, David JC MacKay's "Sustainable Energy--without the hot air" arrived yesterday afternoon. I had thought the book was kind of expensive at $34, but with copy in hand, looking at the impressive layout, heavy (and effective) use of color, and the cleverness of the graphics, the book's a bargain. The full text is available free online at

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 31, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Jumper1, I think there's been a tendency for languages to become less complex with time. Or maybe that's just a feature of widely-used languages. Latin vs. Italian?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 31, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Which is just what I was fixing to say, Dave. I'd like to see the benefits of non-zero-sum-ness plotted against worldwide energy consumption back to the invention of the horse collar. I think social recognition of cooperation got masked by the energy use, in the sense that there was an agenda incorporating propagation of a belief that self-centered greed by bazdards still resulted in net social gains. Only it was the profligate energy consumption that brought those gains and the zero-sum theory actually took some away from them. In other words, Wright has rediscovered the wheel. Which in his defense has and does need rediscovery.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 31, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Cave animals lose sight very quickly, indicating strong natural selection against keeping things that aren't needed.

Metabolic pathways are so incredibly complex that significant simplification isn't possible. Not like Apple, which will be releasing a greatly-shrunk version of its Mac operating system in a few months.

I've never understood why a biochemist would look at his subject and declare complexity to be a sign of Design. No one in their right mind would ever design such a mess. It's all duct tape and bubblegum.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 31, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I don't speak German but I've heard things...

Here's Dawkins on Gould's 'Full House':

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 31, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Did someone say de-evolution?

Are we not men? No! We are Devo!

Posted by: yellojkt | July 31, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

IIRC, one of Gould's arguments is that complexity is not a measure of success. The simpler a creature is, the more widely it can be found. There are a lot more ants than people and a lot more bacteria than anything else.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 31, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Dave and Jumper and others, good points. This is a discussion I am very interested in and when this happens it just emphasizes how much the 3d life interferes with the True Life of the Mind. To wit: I am on my way to WalMart etc., needing to get back and have some food cooked by 3:00--how I'd rather just sit here and think about Everything!

Thanks for this, Joel, and yea for Achenbloggingheads--can never get enough of that!!!

yellojkt, I don't think "Social Darwinism" is bad if it's descriptive; the problem comes when bad people try to harness the process or manipulate it or second guess it or something. It does appear that memes evolve like genes only a lot faster, so we can benefit from paying attention and analyzing it.

I like Bob Wright's work. I think it's important. I find it interesting that he was raised by fundamentalists. I wish he would have Kurt Andersen (quoted recently in the A-blog) on bloggingheads (if he has already, somebody throw me a clue) because I recently learned Kurt also had a rather strict religious family. His new book is important, too, "Reset." Joel and Bob, try not to hold Kurt's Harvard education against him; EVERYBODY can't go to Princeton. (And, he had lunch with Michelle Obama last week...)

Anyway, I have read The Evolution of God and I appreciate it. In some ways, Bob is making the point that is the intellectual underpinning of my religious faith: it boils down to the idea that being good is good for everybody, and that if we knew everything and understood all the consequences of all our actions, we would finally come to the conclusion that Jesus (and Moses, and Buddha, and Mohammed) was right. In the end, being a follower of Jesus is the smart thing to do. And by that, I just mean, Love God, and Love Your Neighbor. Don't take my word for it. Give it a try. It's not only good for the universe, it's good for you as an individual.

Bob does not make that specific point in the book, don't get me wrong. What he does is give all kinds of evidence that religion develops in response to specific social needs. I can use his research to shore up my theory.

One thing that has to be kept in mind is that Bob uses the word "God" to refer to the construct of various religions. That is not what I usually mean when I say "God." I use the term to refer to something that we all agree is incomprehensible: The Mystery. The "God of the Old Testament" is a definable literary character, but God Almighty is something larger. So maybe that could be the next book: what is God, really.

And now: off to WalMart (God forgive me.)

Posted by: kbertocci | July 31, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Yello - I think you have to conflate biological evolution with societal progress, or throw up your arms and say, "God did it." There aren't any other options, are there?

Posted by: bobsewell | July 31, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Of course, dyslexics will say "dog did it," won't they, Bob?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 31, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

They could say "it did dog," too...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 31, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Or even "hot diggity dog" if they read too fast...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 31, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 31, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Re. Options - BobS, depending on what cosmological models and interpretations of quantum mechanics you subscribe to, you could also shrung your shoulders and say: "It was bound to happen somewhen."

Some of those models suggest that Everything and Anything is.

My oft-stated opinion (certainly in the early days of the Boodle) is that Love may be the most important force in the Multiverse.

And like everything else, I think Love is Relative.
A full set of 1/2 in. drive metric six-point Snap-On sockets speaks "Love" to *me,* but for someone else it might be home-grown tomatoes, or a foot rub, dinner at the Palm, a nice string of pearls, a weekend in St. John's, or Stewart Weitzmann shoes, or maybe a quiet evening at home.

Bur really - and to Wright's point I think - Love involves conscious sacrifice and a willingness to accept harm or to defer resources for someone else's betterment, to advance them or their cause. Or just provide for their happiness.

Hm, I'm going to have to think about this a bit more...


Posted by: -bc- | July 31, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

bob s,

At some level you do, but where is the line drawn? More people live and are born under totalitarian regimes than democracies. Do dictatorships have a evolutionary advantage? Is universal health care an evolutionary plus or minus? Is it better to let more live or to thin the herd?

At some point human dominance (at least among vertebrates) became so overwhelming that we can do a lot of things despite of or contrary to our basic need to replicate our genes. I have yet to find an evolutionary bias in favor of opera over rock music.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 31, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Whoa, thanks for that heads-up S'nuke.

I'll be heading out into the teeth of it here shortly.


Posted by: -bc- | July 31, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the concept of God gave primitive humans an evolutionary advantage over non-believers. This could happen independent of there being an actual God. Wow, man.

All this existential religious talk is making me feel like a college freshman in a dormroom reeking of patchouli.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 31, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Love is the last piece of pizza.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 31, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I thought love was "As you wish." :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 31, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

The evidence of monotheism promoting love is very mixed; polytheisms tend to be tolerant of one another as they regard religion as more personal or local. Monotheisms believe they have the truth and tend thus to be less tolerant, even though within their principles they do espouse more humaneness (if you accede to their theology). It's really been the secular Enlightenment that has brought us to the highest stage so far of humane values. For example, as far as I can tell, no major monotheism absolutely condemned slavery prior to the espousal of absolute freedom by Enlightenment thinkers.

Posted by: allenmeyer | July 31, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

About Gould, complexity and Baseball. Gould argued, quite convincingly, that baseball has driven itself to mediocrity. That is, the offense and the defense have both improved together over the years so that each tampers down the other.

He specifically claimed that the Great Sluggers of Days Past were only Great because the pitching and fielding wasn't as good as it is today. In other words, he is arguing that in a highly competitive system things tend to drive to stability unless an outside force mucks things up. In the same way that baseball isn't becoming more of a complex game over the years, neither. he argues, is the natural world.

But a system drives to stability only so long as the rules remain fixed. Gould assumes that the rules will never allow something innovative like advanced lubricants applied to the ball, or the use of two pitchers. New rules allow extra complexity to evolve.

In the extreme, instead of baseball we know, consider a bunch of guys who are making up a game involving balls and bats as they go along. Such a system really will develop complexity until all available degrees of freedom are constrained.

So Gould is talking about a mature system in which radical innovation is fully constrained. Wright is talking about a more wild and wooly system in which innovation can be exploited more successfully to increase complexity.

So the question comes down, which model better represents reality?

I guess it depends how how closely the scenario you are interested in resembles baseball.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 31, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Love for me is getting on the river.

Yesterday we were delighted to enjoy a wonderful bird show while paddling.Several Blue Herons,a large flock of geese that we kept pushing downstream(everytime leaving a goose down coating floating downriver)3 or 4 different species of ducks.At one point we saw some big fat birds ahead,hanging by the river's edge.They turned out to be 6 or 7 Wild Turkeys who struggled to fly across the river right in front of us.Later in a flat section just floating along,my friend what's that flying upriver?A Bald Eagle flew some 20 feet above our heads and upriver,we watched it fly till it was out of sight.20 minutes later or so,we belive we saw it's mate fly by to join it.

It's Almost Heaven this West by God Virginia and I love it.

See sorta on kit.

Have a Great day everyone!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 31, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

"...a willingness to imagine that a single, all-powerful god would extend his love to people unlike ourselves."

I don't think monotheists have exclusivity over the Golden Rule. Many Buddhists I have met are far more turn the cheek-ish than most children of Abraham.

Wright's whole argument seems anthropic to the point of being Panglossian.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 31, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, I am a Gould fan, too. However I think I saw a Sciencedaily article a year or so ago that indicated that complexity per class does tend to increase.

Complexity has many measures. Parasites may lose a lot of irrelevant features in order to conserve energy (use it or lose it), but they don't actually lose the genetic information for such; these genes simply get deactivated. In addition, multicellular parasites have a very complex life cycle; extreme metamorphoses in size, shape, even metabolic tolerances may occur in every life cycle. That's possible in part by simplyfing the body plan, but it's also another indicator of increased complexity driven by natural selection.

Life does tend towards increasing complexity as long as resources permit it. There's just a constant trade-off in what becomes more complex due to energy, genetic, and environmental constraints. Multicellular organisms are able to develop many varied cell types (from the same genetic material!) because they can develop many microenvironments and specialize and split up among those cell types most or all of the essential functions an unicellular organism has.

The analogy to civilization is irresistable, of course. But then we have to contend with the analogy of programmed cell death, infection or cancer, and then that gets worrying-- do we dehumanize people and only see the "big picture?" Yellojkt pointed out Social Darwinism was a bad idea-- precisely because it justified a sociopathic viewpoint of society.

Humans are not that specialized; we are more like a colony of communally breeding sea birds than mole rats or eusocial insects. We all have our own individual needs and goals that bring us in mild or moderate conflict to society's needs on a daily basis.

One thing we could do to acknowledge and vent that conflict is to form social microenvironments-- places where laws vary according to the needs of survival in a specific spot-- such as hunting-friendly laws in rural environments, more restrictive gun laws in cities-- or create holidays from the rigid law and order (fools' feasts; halloween) at other times. But ultimately, there will never be a perfect compromise between law and societal need that will last forever.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Society inevitably will become much more complex than it appears on paper-- precisely because we cannot be completely coordinated as a single organism; we remain limited in our social skills.

Too many strangers around, and the constraints on our social behavior get loosened as opportunities multiply. We are using culturally evolved skills-- language, writing, organization of law and punishment-- to fill a gap that isn't necessary in very small tribes (150 people or less, I think), because everybody knows everybody else.

We are not evolving towards being able to live in 200-member tribes, let alone 500-member tribes. In large societies like America, we are evolving culturally towards intense involvement with smaller tribes (family and friends) and superfical, formal and specialized contact with the rest of society through media, law, education, writing, technology.

If we are surprised at the wisdom of the ancients, remember they lived very much within their societies, which were much smaller than today and more nearly ideal mentally for humanity. I don't think those societies were any less complex, by a long shot.

Just to counter this general " more complexity is great!" trend...

Okay, I'm done boodlehogging.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

One of the easiest ways for a lifeform to lose a lot of complexity might be for it to simply stop a transformation from a larval stage to an adult stage. In effect, if some tadpole lineages adapted to simply remaining happy tadpoles. Which may not a good example but it easily expresses my hypothetical. (adapting for reproduction might be near-impossible). Or perhaps it's not a bad example at all. In any case, since Gould studied molluscs, I suspect he could name some forms that had likely had mature stages but evolved to eschew much growth and live happily as larvae. Thus showing the random walk of evolution can indeed decrease complexity, at least of form. The problem is I never had a chance to quiz him on the prevalence of such a thing, especially I can't get a grip on such transformations towards simplicity in any other class of beast or plant. I suppose fungi might be an example of shedding complexity; I'm unsure not being any kind of expert.

Also I wonder if file compression technique is maxed out in DNA, RNA, etc. Or are other even denser compressions remaining for evolution to avail of.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 31, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, we are immature tunicates. All vertebrates come from that "immature stage" of a tunicate.

A complex body plan isn't the only complexity possible; metabolic complexity to my mind is far more interesting.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

DNA and RNA are pretty efficient mathematically, but mutations and evolution can't occur without mistakes and some back-up, so a little sloppiness is ideal.

The machinery for transcripting genes can be hijacked by viruses and retrogenes, so we have to defend our genetic material even inside the nucleus. Nothing in nature is completely optimized for a single function, because the environment always makes multiple demands on us.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Hi, all! This is a test. I just had a comment held for review so I'm checking to see if it is me or the links I was trying to post.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | July 31, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

It could be the links-- 2 maximum, or the length of the post, Wheezy. It's not you.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Wilbrod. I only had two links, but it was held anyway. Here's the first, woman at Dallas Social Security office considered dangerous for knitting:

(courtesy of Andrew Sullivan)

Posted by: Wheezy11 | July 31, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse
Early kit-related cootie

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 31, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

And the second (figured out why the post was held) Dana Milbank suggests that Hillary should be served "Mad B*tch" beer:

but I can't post the link because of the verboten word. Read about it on Krugman's blog, he has the link, it's from some WaPo think called Mouthpiece Theater (unless that's a joke).*tch-beer.php?ref=fpblg

You have to fix the verboten word yourself to make the link whole.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | July 31, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Madame deFarge meets Inspector Javert!

The musical'll be called

"A Tale of Les Mis-yarnables"

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

That was one awesome link about tunicates, Wilbrod!

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 31, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Eh, Jumper. I MEANT to post a link, but don't see it up.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Who would think a knitter would be worsted by security?

I'm already thinking about the musical numbers for Les Mis-yarnables.

I like "Tweedy Tweed Chicks," but that may be too lighthearted.

Any other ideas?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

My god, it took 35 years for this poor guy to get justice...

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

*Laughing hysterically*

I kilt the boodle with them knitting needles!

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 31, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Gotta watch out for those knitters. They could put someone's eye out.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 31, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Wheezy, Mouthpiece Theater is not a joke, although it's supposed to be funny. I've watched one or two and they're underwhelming to me, although I like Chris Cilliza and Dana Milbank, usually.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 31, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Mouthpiece Theatre leaves me cold, too. Those guys should stick to the written word.

Posted by: Yoki | July 31, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I was startled to discover that the word "entropy" does not heretofore appear anywhere on this page. The net increase of complexity over time is a fundamental principle of statistical mechanics, the driving force, in fact, of irreversible processes such as the breaking of a glass, eroding landforms, and your dinner getting cold before you finish eating it. 150 years ago, it was a new and subtle insight. Today, less so.

My impression is that the book might better have been called "the evolution of the conception of God" but that would have been even more ungainly. Plus, while more honest, it would have been less likely to draw dollars to the metaphorical bookstore counter.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 31, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I've been wondering -- which species' history has Bob been reading? 3000 to 2000 (or so) years ago, it was standard practice that upon invading a country, the invaders would suddenly discover that their own gods and the local gods were really the same gods under different guises, so surely we can all get along. Which sounds like the sort of social nirvana that Bob thinks we have today. It worked pretty well until some upstart circumcised dudes at the eastern end of the Mediterranean boorishly insisted that their one-and-only god was God the one-and-only, thank you very much, and not to be confused with any tinhorn crackpot barbarian pantheistic goat-horned nitwit who didn't know that "oi moi" is correctly pronounced "oy vey" (if you get my drift, even though this actually preceded the evolution of Yiddish). Furthermore, the invaders had been successful not because their god was stronger, but because the God of the circumcised dudes had become irritated with them and let the invasion happen (yet again) in order to teach his Chosen People an important lesson; once the lesson's learned, everything will be put back the way it belongs, you see.

Meanwhile, over in Polynesia, everybody believed in the same semi-infinite collection of gods and got along famously unless you made some insanely trivial transgression like a man eating food cooked by a woman, or a woman eating from the same bowl as a man, then you would have to be killed violently and quickly unless you first got to a place of refuge and got your kapu cleaned up. And this worked all right for them for a few thousand years, until they met the spiritual descendants of the circumcised dudes and decided to go with unisex kitchens and less capital punishment. So, Bob does all right with them.

And while that was going on, some guys in Central and South America came up with some interesting sports rules and a conception of "sudden-death overtime" that has never yet been equaled in its literal-minded character. They were only persuaded otherwise by the evolutionarily gentle method of hacking them all to bits until they agreed to follow the same spiritual descendants of the circumcised dudes, the ones who were having such success with unisex Polynesian kitchens, in exchange for which the hacking would stop -- so long as they coughed up the location of all the gold. 'Cause the evolution of a kindly conception of God requires lots of gold.

Still, things have pretty much settled down on the religious front for the past few hundred years. So maybe Bob's got it right.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 31, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Teilhard de Chardin exhaust the idea of the evolution of God? I guess we'll have to find out.

Anyway, God is love, so without God there is no love (actually, without God there is nothing, since God is the source of being, but above all there is no love).

But regardless of God, how can you believe there is love, but then assert that love doesn't care about you? Seems a weird kind of love.

Posted by: zjr78xva | July 31, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Come on, zjr78xva, don't you think you're being a little sweeping in your generalizations? I, for instance, am an atheist. I love my children. They love me. This God fellow has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | July 31, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

And I love YOU, Wheezy!

Posted by: -TBG- | July 31, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Tonight, RT, God be cooking up gumbo. For desert, some rhubarb sauce on very fresh homemade ice cream. Tonight, she looks one part Julia Child and the other part Graham Kerr and the other part -- insert your favorite cook here --.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 31, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Nice hat.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 31, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Beauty does survive.

Damn straight.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 31, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Cory Aquino has passed away:

Posted by: seasea1 | July 31, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

A brilliant discussion, as always. Plus a gratuitous Amadeus quote.

You guys do good bloggingheads. I am very impressed, as always. Especially with no retakes.

And I really do dig the hat.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 31, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Was it last week that Mudge asked some of us to comment on, explicate, defend, parse, explain this:

God is love.
Robert Wright says this about love and God (and truth, too):
Though we can no more conceive of God than we can conceive of an electron, believers can ascribe properties to God, somewhat as physicists ascribe properties to electrons. One of the more plausible such properties is love. And maybe, in this light, the argument for God is strengthened by love’s organic association with truth—by the fact, indeed, that at times these two properties almost blend into one. You might say that love and truth are the two primary manifestations of divinity in which we can partake, and that by partaking in them we become truer manifestations of the divine. Then again, you might not say that. The point is just that you wouldn’t have to be crazy to say it. END ROBERT WHITE QUOTE

Wright is generous with clips from his book at this site:

So, Mudge, is this at all helpfu? Look at his last line: not crazy to say it. I like that cover from WizardyBobWright, no less.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 31, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

blech....typing on chicklits for keys.

This was me and not WizardyWright:
Robert Wright says this about love and God (and truth, too):

AND blech again....
helpFU? Retreating to my corner....

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 31, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Is that like typing on the Shopaholic books?

Posted by: Yoki | July 31, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

So... ? Yoki... ? There's a courtyard in your future? With a water feature?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 31, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

I am dense tonight, Yoki, with a headache from the thunderbumpers around here. My littke XO computer keys are wee ones. The action is nice and my fingers are small (size 4 ring) but still....trouble typing clearly.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 31, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

There is indeed! Still at the offer stage, but everything looks very promising for a swift and satisfactory conclusion to negotiations.

Because of difficulties in breaking my rental lease, though, closing will not occur until mid-October.

Posted by: Yoki | July 31, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Paging SciTim: entropy does belong here but the concept is more quicksilver than God!

I admit to this: late at night and often when looking at the sky, I contemplate God and entropy and enthalpy at the same time. And energy. And Love. I do think that love is an energy that is exchanged interpersonally.

You might recall that my study area concerns entropy and ecological economics. So, I think about this too: what is a just distribution? How can we allocate both in and out of markets? What are the biological and geo-spacial limits to our human activities?

Then, I go back to thinking poetically and not at all clearly about definitions, including

Enthalpy is the measure of energy released by a reaction (can be positive or negative)....what results is more stable (pardon me, but I think of this as God "grounding" all being.)

Entropy is the measure of free energy of a system. (dispersal and flow are the metaphors) I think of this as the scene/stage within which all activity occurs.....I shall stop blithering.....

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 31, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Reading more of Wright's site makes me recall this from Quantum Theory (chemistry version):

Nature spontaneously proceeds toward the states that have the highest probabilities of existing -- how to describe the driver of entropic action in the statistical or probalistic model of entropy as compared to the classical brain hurts. Just when I think I might understand a whiff of this...vanish.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 31, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good evening, friends. I don't understand the kit. The guy that wrote the book, JA's exposition on that book, too much for me. I'm not that complex. I believe in God, and I believe in God's Son, Jesus. It seems the world would rather believe anything but God and Christ.

dbG, thanks. My daughter went yesterday and signed up with the local community college. Prayers answered, and I'm hoping that will lead to a greater thirst for knowledge, as in going even further.

Nice and rainy here, but hot and sticky with the rain. Mudge, Slyness, Yoki, Scotty, Martooni, and everyone here, have a wonderful weekend. *waving*

I love you guys.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 31, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

So, our image of God has evolved and changed as we have learned and changed. The question about our construct depends on it being empty or full.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | July 31, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Your buddy must have read "The Phenomenon of Man" in between riding his bike around with you. Read Teilhard deChardin. You'll get my Omega Point..

Posted by: couldbe | July 31, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

So, our image of God has evolved and changed as we have learned and changed. The question about our construct depends on it being empty or full.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | July 31, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra -- lovely on the college registration for your precious Dot!

I love you, too, Cassandra.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 31, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, CP, I think it's just wonderful, and as they say about some things, I hope it sticks.

Jack, and Yoki, I went back to the last kit and read your comments. I laughed like crazy. I agree, Jack, on the soft drink. Coke it is. And your description of Jack, Yoki, made me roll over. I needed to laugh, it's been a tough week. God is good.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 31, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

boy, miss a few hours. . .

First, Cassandra, many congratulations on your daughter's signing up for community college. That is a huge step. It is great. I am a big believer in the importance of community college. If yours is anything like the ones in this state, and I bet it is, they'll take good care of her and help her to succeed at whatever goal she develops.

About the discussion: please don't stop blathering, CollegeParkian. This is great. Everyone has a different perspective to offer, a different voice to add, more for me to learn. I look forward to reading the Wright book, which I probably would not have said without the help of the Kit and Boodle. Believing so firmly in Evil as I do, I find I am unable not to believe in Good, in some guiding benevolent principle. I like entropy and evolution leading inevitably to the Good (with lapses), although I don't know that principles of biology have much to do with it, in my mind.

RD, don't doubt for a minute. You must be a god to your computer. And indeed, Beauty endures.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Reminder to anyone at loose ends this fall: the "Head of the Oklahoma" regatta is, this year only, the "Boot of the Oklahoma" while new boathouses are constructed for area universities. October 3rd & 4th. Or you could all just visit in September, sort of a grand Unlikely but Oklahoma BPH. Just let me know when.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Back boodled very thoroughly, now I can't remember much of what I wanted to say. Here's a bit-

Congrats Cassandra!

Yoki-A balcony with shared green space will be more satisfying than your own outdoor space in Calgary's short season. Mr. F and I are very pleased with the adopted garden plot in the park across the street from the hip urban loft.

I swear I'll give up my apatheticist views forever if God, or a god, will give me an otc med that will take care of the fire in my shoulders and elbows. Replaced the gasket between tank and bowl of a toilet in the vacation rental last night, then reinstalled an outboard on the fishing boat this morning. My middle aged girlie arms are screaming from the sudden need for brute strength.

slyness-so you "love, love, love" Nate Silver. Well, I "love, love, love, love" him.

shout out to all the gardeners, with right powerful tomato frenvy. Here on the grounds Chez Frostbitten, Raccoons have found the bird feeder and trampled the peony beneath. The blooms were spent, but if they've ruined next year's flowers by robbing the plant of leaves too early I will be wearing raccoon accessories with my winter coat.

Ate the first little fingerling of a carrot from the garden today. Cool weather keeps the leaf lettuce harvest going. Peas in the pod on tap for dinner tomorrow.

The powers that be seem to have relented and it looks like Mr. F will be allowed to retire in time to take his dream job in Tampa. Once all the paperwork is signed I get to go lawn tractor shopping. Love that man!

Think I'll skip the meds and just have a beer.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 31, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

frostbitten - probably no good to you now, but next time you're in town pick up some of those medicated pain patches - gooey sticky backs on gauze. Icy Hot, CVS store brand, whatever. I love those things. They fixed my back this week, or at least made it possible for me to consider doing the right things by my muscles. You can buy any size - if they only have Large cut to fit. They don't care. The medicine doesn't leak out or anything. Great stuff.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

"Think I'll skip the meds and just have a beer" has been my life's motto, inspired by Charles Manson of course.

Man, us human spend so much time about this useless God business. I can't hardly stand it anymore. Relax, live your life.

Nice 3 day weekend ahead, we even had a sunny afternoon today. Luxury.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 31, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Great news, Cassandra and frosti and Yoki (and anyone else I'm forgetting). This has been rejection week for me, but that's ok as I'm enjoying having a summer off. I think I will join in with a beer - Henry Weinhard's.

Haven't had a chance to watch the Bob & Joel show yet. Interesting to hear everyone's thoughts (even the ones I don't quite follow).

Posted by: seasea1 | July 31, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Frosti, hope your peonies are OK, I recently plant a couple of lovely Astillbes, with raspberry sherbet coloured plumes, when outside this morning to discover the rabbits/squirrels/skunks or racoons had chewed off my flowers. So not amused.

I do not have anything to add to the God discussion.

Gorgeous start to the long weekend here, hot and sunny today.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 31, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Good for your daughter and good for you too, Cassandra! I've had a number of friends who teach at community colleges; they all are awed by the typical drive exhibited by their adult students. May it be so with your daughter.

Lots of tomatoes, frosti, but not many ripe ones yet.

If god cooked, what would he make? Warm-from-the-garden Rutgers tomatoes, evoo, balsamic, fresh thai basil for a little surprise. Grilled flank steak, fresh corn chowder and handpicked strawberries drizzled with melted dark chocolate. Or, maybe just chocolate wine.

On the other hand, Pizza Hut delivered mEYE dinner.

Posted by: -dbG- | July 31, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Can anyone provide a definition of the word "God" that isn't a tautology?

I was listening to one of those so-called Intelligent Design folks on a right-wing talk show a few nights ago, and that's all he did. As usual. But honestly it's all anyone does.

I'm not saying this out of any hostility to religion per se. I just don't get what the word "God" means. Religious people seem flummoxed by my opacity to what seems so obvious to them.

Perhaps it's because most of us spend most of our time with people who already agree with us--seems like our ability to argue our beliefs is dwindling.

Posted by: ehkzu | July 31, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

If God cooked, she would make tasty and filling food. In fact, wherever such is found, so is she. Or he. I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable, particularly not when we're talking about the blessing of food.

Seasea/mostly - WE don't ever reject you. Those people are fools. Unless you didn't really want the job of course, in which case you're better off. Have another beer. I've never had a Henry Weinhard's. Ale? Dark? Stout? Tasty?

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

ehkzu, just recently the Boodle had a discussion about the communication difficulties posed by a believer - Christian variety, in this instance - who states through some medium "Jesus is Lord", while the observer/receiver truly doesn't understand the phrase, even though the attendant parts are all English. This, alas, devolved into a sort of Christian Believer/Questioner muddle. The initial point, however, seemed to be part of yours: how to make sense of a communication where the communicator believes a shared language is spoken but the receiver has no frame of reference to share it? One way and another, to those of us not taking much part in it, the discussion seemed to illustrate not the difficulty of arguing beliefs but the difficulty of simple communication about complex topics requiring shared language referents.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

ehkzu -- and the best part is that the discussion took place; clear heads prevailed; disconnect remained in place YET, we still boodle on and boodle forth and talk

sporty events like F1 and TleFrance
tomato loads on plants
airplane mechanisms
crab cake variations

And, poems arrive at such times, particularly the art of the well-timed haiku that wraps up our loose threads into something elegant!

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 31, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Jeez. lost a whole thing. ehkzu - the Boodle,in case you're new, is this thing you're in. The Kit is the article up top, on which we intermittently post. We're doing pretty well today staying on topic. The comment discussion of which we speak took place recently, if you search past Boodles through their Kits. There is no doubt a more efficient way but I am not pointy-headed enough to know it.

That reminds me. Howdy to GaryEMasters (long time no post), couldbe, zjr78xva, allenmeyer, and ATearDropinTime. Lurkers, thanks for speaking out, and new guys, welcome.

And a Big Shout Out to BayouSelf!!!

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

E-ku's blog include a picture of said person suited up to dive in the Sea of Cortez.

This book, by Steinbeck and biologist Ed Ricketts, is amonst the best science writing EVER>

This line from the The Log from the Sea of Cortez is also a life direction:
Begin QUOTE:
It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again. End Quote

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 31, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, that is great great news about your daughter. I dare say your reverence for education was influential.

seasea, sorry to hear that you haven't received the validation you more than deserve. Have some from the Boodle, instead.

Dana Milbank was extremely funny about beer in his chat today.

Had a lovely chat with a friend just now, and it's put a shine on the evening. Perfect for slipping into pre-sleep relaxation with a happy outlook.

Good night, Al.

Posted by: Yoki | July 31, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

My tomato plants are dying. Nooooooooo. Yet they are. It's been wet and cool and they don't like it, the mediterranan bazterds.

Zucchinis aren't doing much better. Darn jet stream.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 31, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Boodle. I'm just about the very last guy any of you want chiming in on this kit, and you'll be vastly relieved to know I'm not going to--especially since I already haved a theological Molotov cocktail to throw into the mix. But not tonight. And I think I really need to read Wright's book first, which I'm anxious to do.

Thanks for that quote, CqP; I have to chew on it. My original point only was that "God is love" is/was NOT self-explanatory. So explaining it helps (and tends to confirm my point).

Note to Kim from last kit: Kim, a renewal of vows ceremony is "necessary" when your wife says she wants one. You're married; you understand what "I want one" means to a spouse.

Nighty-night, gang.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 31, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I guess by link I meant word (tuniculate). A psychic link, then.

I liked Tim's history of the world very much. All I can add is, "See the cat? See the cradle?"

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 31, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I'm delighted to hear that your daughter is going to go to college. Which one? I could look it up and/or guess, but I'd rather hear it from you.

Yoki, October is a wonderful time to move- not too hot, not too cold. I hope everything is concluded quickly, and to your satisfaction.

We made it up the mountain in time for supper, and ate at a new place the neighbors recommended. Great food at a reasonable price, not nearly as crowded as other places in town. With those attributes, it will be busy as soon as word gets around.

CqP, I completely understand the small keyboard thing. Dunno how long I'll be able to stand the little netbook.

You folks may tempt me yet to read Bob Wright's book, but it's going to have to wait till I'm finished with James Fowler.

Frosti, find what you need to be comfortable. And sleep well tonight!

I do love you folks!

Posted by: slyness | July 31, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Unexpected taste discovery: gingersnaps go well with Nero D'Avola (red, Sicilian grape).

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, sorry to burst your bubble but your "October is a wonderful time to move- not too hot, not too cold" isn't what we think of October. It's the month to make sure the spark plugs are OK and the fuel is fresh in the snowblower's tank. Just in case.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 31, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, great news about your daughter, I am very happy that you are happy! Sleep is restorative Frosti, even better with some ibuphrofen. I think I'll be taking some myself.

Posted by: badsneakers | July 31, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom! You inspired me to search the little tower of plastic drawers beneath the kitchen sink. Yes!! one stray brand name patch escaped the dott's wasteful years when the slightest of discomforts needed medical intervention (the waste continues, but on her dime in her house). Cut in two it is just the thing for shoulders. I can probably get the frostcats to warm my elbows if I smear them with tuna juice-the elbows not the cats.

dmd-sorry to hear about your astilbe problems. Mine, bought cheaply as bare root plants from big box o' plants, are doing well enough-a feathery mauve that matches nearly exactly some clematis and campanula for a monochromatic extravaganza that was thoroughly unplanned.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 31, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget putting the winter tires on the car, shriek.

Posted by: Yoki | July 31, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

This week's professional tally: one pointless robbery, one vicious domestic assault, one case of long-term child sexual abuse, one senseless homicide.

I'm ready for a vacation.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Boodlers. Even getting nibbles for jobs is better than nothing, at this point. And I really am enjoying not working, to the point that I fear I may never be employable again.

I don't like beer much, so I'm not much of a judge, but Henry's is a beer that goes down easily, doesn't have much of an aftertaste. It's from Oregon. I used to drink Rainier Beer, but it's gone (or transmogrified). I come from the land of Schmidt's and Iron City and Rolling Rock, so my tastes are no doubt ruined.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 31, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad you found shoulder patches, frosti. I am impressed by the idea of tuna juice on elbows as cat-warmer attraction, but I admit more charmed by tuna juice on cats. Boy, would that drive them crazy.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 31, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm a November guy myself Yoki but I'm back East and like to live dangerously.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 31, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Ah, SD, that is why I will never leave the South! My blood is entirely too thin for your weather...

Seriously, October is a fabulous month around here. The mountains are cool and the fall colors are spectacular, the humidity that bedevils Piedmont summers is's a great time to be alive.

Posted by: slyness | July 31, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Oh seasea, I am sorry you had a not so good week. I'm sure I'll have some of them also. Thank goodness for imaginary friends! I missed the part where Yoki got her condo, congratulations!!

Almost forgot the funny sight tonight while driving to BJ's. There was a bright yellow Smart Car with a license plate that read: Mattel. :-)

Posted by: badsneakers | July 31, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Of course, God is love. Love is sustained in the resonance of radiant fields in microwave, infrared, visible and ultraviolet light, as well as resonances in sound of the acoustic spectrum.

When close resonances occur, the two organisms or beings have much in common or close to identical. When they are merely similar, the organisms are less nearly so. When they are contradictory, as in predation, they cause adverse reactions such as flight.

The living environment is rich with the fields, scents, and odors of plants and animals. Not all of the terms are God to every organism of course, as with predation.

These fields have existed since primordial times when all life was single celled organisms. Organisms cultivated the fields, because they were advantages in survival.

In a sense, God is and surrounds life with what life makes of the fields of life. One reason our present situation cashiered God is that that the industrial revolution plays hob with not only resonance, but spirit, scent, and other sense perceptions of each other.

God is thus billions of years old and exceedingly patient, because in a real sense, He is Us. Because He is all of life, he is also exceedingly wise in life.

Our machines, though, are only approaching life. Their development should be coordinated with God, else great risk of destroying vast quantities of life exist - as with the Cod and Tuna and other species which are threatened, and others of which are already extinct.

Posted by: frogwatcher | July 31, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

@frogwatcher: Wow. You are a metaphysical poet for our time.

Posted by: Yoki | July 31, 2009 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Extinct is just a state of mind. All life is part of the same wild orgy. Individuals come and go. Some look alike, some look different. Whatever.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 31, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

To be slightly more specific: Frogwatcher is a fine and interesting individual, part of a community of fine and interesting individuals, embedded in a whole matrix full of fine and interesting individuals which includes God & Cod & Tuna.

I'll miss each of them when they (and I) are gone, but gone they shall be.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 31, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse

And you, bobsewell, are a conundrum wrapped in transparency. A sort of ontological poet (is that a school? - No).

Posted by: Yoki | August 1, 2009 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Are you up, Yoki?

Winding down from another long day. Dispensed with the rot today. The inspector gave us the ok to begin reinstalling the siding and fascia, missing from one entire side up to window level. The challenge today was building and reinstalling a rotten corbel at the end of a rotted outrigger rafter. over did the bird's mouth, but everything works, and I don't forsee that it'll fail anytime soon. Started replacing some t&g flooring in the back room, and doubled the size of the repair because of aesthetics. Still looking at asking for the final next week. Caught the tail end of the '77 interview of former Pres. Nixon by Sir David Frost. Nixons's presidency was bad, and it pretty much roont him. Arbusto's was beyond the pale and he and many in the former administration got away with it. *shaking my head*

Posted by: -jack- | August 1, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'm up. You know that moment in real estate negotiations when you know you're not going to hear back, but you've counter-countered? I'm riding that edge.

That was a great interview; part of TV history. I think somebody made a movie...

I love corbels. I really do.

Posted by: Yoki | August 1, 2009 12:42 AM | Report abuse

This particular corbel wasn't anything fancy. More toward a brace, but all corbels do *that*. Anyway, this was one of those ladder tricks, with a 12 ton hydraulic bottle jack and about 8 feet of 4x4 to jack the offending rafter into position. The ladder trick was complicated by the small plot we made for some knock out roses; varied terrain, power tools eight feet in the air...WFO. Cool news about the condo.

Posted by: -jack- | August 1, 2009 12:51 AM | Report abuse

Not to everyone's taste. Or, maybe, even anyone's but mine.

Posted by: Yoki | August 1, 2009 12:55 AM | Report abuse

Well, then, I'll hoist a flagon of Korbel in honor of corbels, and bang down a Budweiser for buttresses, and toss off a Tanqueray & tonic for tassels.

I really love architectural supports.

And alcohol.

Posted by: bobsewell | August 1, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

And a little path running down the middle...

Posted by: Yoki | August 1, 2009 12:57 AM | Report abuse

At the risk of being repetitious, the taper's section has a really cool, IMHO, jam from the legendary weekend at Watkins Glen. The headliner was The Band, and the Dead and Allman Bros. were along for the ride.

Posted by: -jack- | August 1, 2009 1:06 AM | Report abuse

...I meant to add that the link is not to everyone's taste. The licks are fine, though, and the overall feel is jazzy...

Posted by: -jack- | August 1, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

It is fine. Love the guitar work.

Posted by: Yoki | August 1, 2009 1:15 AM | Report abuse

Blues harp extrordinaire...J. Geils, featuring Magic Dick. That moniker always makes me chuckle.

Posted by: -jack- | August 1, 2009 1:23 AM | Report abuse

I meant, of course, that I'd toss "back" a Tanqueray & tonic. Tossing off is different. Not necessarily better, just different.

Speaking of Tanqueray & tonic: I recently told a bartender that, if he was out of limes, I'd prefer a wedge of lemon (or grapefruit, in a pinch) to Rose's sweetened lime juice in my G&T. IMHO, tonic water is quite sweet enough already, and I'd prefer not to turn the drink into Kool-Aid.

He assured me that, 1) He'd remember my preference, and 2) I'm greatly in the minority.

Is that possible? Do people actually request Rose's when actual citrus fruit is available?

Posted by: bobsewell | August 1, 2009 1:27 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | August 1, 2009 1:31 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: bobsewell | August 1, 2009 1:33 AM | Report abuse

grapefruit, bob...good choice. Not rose's, but my rose of san antonio

Posted by: -jack- | August 1, 2009 1:40 AM | Report abuse

A haiku whistle,
blown to write poems on-boodle?
..I better get steak.

1) Boodles about God
Need more prancing poodles,
less theology.

2) God is Dog reversed:
We pant and hunt all good things;
God paints all,then hides.

3) Dogs cannot take wine
Nor live by wafers, CQP...
So,...where IS my steak?


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | August 1, 2009 2:06 AM | Report abuse

Rolling through the German countryside at high speed on the ICE (Inter-City Express -- yes, an acronym for a German train that can only be interpreted in English). On my way to the Frankfurt airport. Soon, my German adventure will end. Two days at home, then off to Hawaii. Pity me.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 1, 2009 2:29 AM | Report abuse

Mittel-Europe report for Yoki:

The wisdom of god,
Sofia, is Bombay too;
love is coming home

Posted by: DNA_Girl | August 1, 2009 2:47 AM | Report abuse


Sofia is wise.

Thank you, DNA_Girl. All is now well.

Posted by: Yoki | August 1, 2009 2:53 AM | Report abuse

The Milbank-Cillizza beer video has already been scoured from the internet. Vanished without a trace before I go a chance to see it.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 1, 2009 3:01 AM | Report abuse

An (eccentrically-structured and poorly-rhymed) Ode to Me (and the rest of the universe)
- - -

There comes a time,
(twixt ten & four)
When I amuse me more & more.
The problems of the world, I see,
Will benefit from more of me.

I'm stunned, aghast,
and shocked, you know,
To learn my fount of knowledge flows,
Straight to a vast and heaving sea,
of folks aren't enough like me.

"There is a God,"
I say and say,
"It don't make sense no other way!"
Otherwise, it's clear to see,
the world can't be so right for ME.

The fish and birds,
and apes and mites,
All have their universal rights.
But clearly all of history
was destined just to produce me!

Posted by: bobsewell | August 1, 2009 3:07 AM | Report abuse

HuffPo still has the beer summit video parody in all its glory.

And just how many boodlers do we have traipsing all over Europe right now?

Posted by: yellojkt | August 1, 2009 3:16 AM | Report abuse

Love the word "traipsing," yello.

Posted by: Yoki | August 1, 2009 3:27 AM | Report abuse

If delicate sensibilities can't handle the silly, and usually quite gentle, chiding of Dana Milbank, I genuinely hope that they never have to confront the likes of H.L. Mencken, Hunter S. Thompson, or even P.J. O'Rourke.

Heck, I think of myself as reasonably even-handed, and even I am often rougher than Milbank.

Posted by: bobsewell | August 1, 2009 3:50 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. August starts on a good foot, it's a beautiful day. All kinds of mushrooms are blooming on the "lawn" and in the tree patches. There is a psychedelic orange one that is a marvel to see. It will not end up in an omelette though, it looks like it belongs to the sponge family rather than the fungi's.

I envy your energy Jack. I've got 3-4 projects on the go so I coul put it to good use. But then, I like sloth too.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | August 1, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Still in Germany. The ICE had an amazing and perhaps unprecedented accident: they forgot to stop at the airport to deliver passengers. I am now two hours past my original departure time. I might not be flying until tomorrow. We are looking at a possible standby flight on Lufthansa, but probably no luck -- like everything else this weekend, it's over-booked.

I had *really* been looking forward to having two days home between trip. Now it looks like I'll be lucky to have one.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 1, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Knock knock. TBG. I am going to the breakfast club with tomatoes for Son of G. Dunno if he's an early riser, just emailed him. If he needs nudging, perhaps nudge? I cc'd to you; I seem to not have his phone #.

Posted by: Jumper1 | August 1, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I believe you are exactly correct about god and food. Thanks for turning my thinking around (which happens all the time, anyway, but . . .)

seasea1, you can do better.

Off to help a friend's daughter move into her first apartment. My help may consist of bring cold water and snacks, but every little bit helps.

Posted by: -dbG- | August 1, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

seasea1, when I wrote you can do better, you know, of course, that I meant you deserve better and if they weren't bright enough to recognize your worth, we do.

Posted by: -dbG- | August 1, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle. I see there was info of great import posted last night-so I must weigh in. Rose's lime juice belongs in club soda, for those who want just a touch of sweet on a hot day or have volunteered for designated driving duties. Sullying good gin with it, when fresh citrus is available is simply wrong. It is good to see there is consensus on this topic.

Toodles. Have vowed to stay off the computer until Chez Frostbitten no longer looks like the victim of some sort of nuclear holocaust. This requires the lifting of a few fingers, which I can do thanks to soothing patches, cats, and warm thoughts from the boodle.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | August 1, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

G'morning all. We're back from the farmers market, where I purchased comestibles for dinner. The goat cheese lady is now making Camembert as well as chevre so I bought both. That and sourdough rolls - yum! And squash and potatoes and cucumbers and spinach and lettuce, all picked within the last 24 hours. Life is good!

Posted by: slyness | August 1, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

i enjoyed the blogging heads video. great health care summary and discussion of other profound things. (great boodle discussion as well.) my brain cells are too depleted to make a meaningful contribution other than to mention (as i think i have before) that my dissertation involves some russian dudes with teilhard-de-chardin-esque qualities.

i like millbank's droll humor, but i agree with others that millbank and cillizza are better on their own. the gratuitous swipe at clinton was not in good taste, but the beer skit was funnier than most of the other clips in that series. (the recent palin one was moderately funny, too.)

seasea, good luck with the ongoing search.
scitim, good luck getting home. that does sound like an unusual train incident.
cassandra, glad to hear about your daughter.

have a good weekend, all!

Posted by: LALurker | August 1, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse


Nice Vonnegut call-out. I missed it the first time around.

Nothing is worse than hanging around an airport or train station just waiting. Maybe DNAg will drop by with an appropriate SinFest.

I too have some straightening to do. Mostly to clean up the detritus from the shower repair.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 1, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

That tornado watch in southeastern Frederick County MD, wasn't for nothing - a microburst carved a bit of a swath from Iamsville to western Mt. Airy. I only had one tomato plant damaged, but my brother's 'hood was pummeled. Big oaks split and sheared off at the tops, locust trees knocked over at the root ball, power lines down everywhere - a big mess. My brother lost significant sections of older maple and oak trees, and had the power line mounting bolts yanked right out of the brick anchors. Fortunately, no further damage to the home than that. I spent some time over here yesterday afternoon/evening, helping clear some things out and assessing the damage. A friend of his has a professional tree service, and will in a matter of hours render those downed trees into wood chips, rather than the days it would take my family to render them to badly cut logs using chain saws. Power company says he should have juice back on by Monday. We'll see.

Keep your eyes on the Shady Grove and Frederick Memorial hospital emergency rooms today, I 'spect they're going to be busy.

Cassandra, I'm glad to hear the news of your daughter, and *Tim, have another steinful of summer brew while you're waiting, my friend.

Perhaps philsophical meanderings after I enjoy some time outside this AM. But you gotta love the Boodle - someone mentions Teilhard, and no one says, "Who?"

A thought from a professor I had in college, who said with regards to God being suffused through the 'verse, omniscient and omnipresent (sorry omni), a witness to and creator of all things, "If God is good, then he cannot be God."

And finally, to that clever comment from 11:36 AM yesterday morning - indeed.

Pleased to meet you, hope you've guessed my name.


Posted by: -bc- | August 1, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and if someone has already pointed this out in the Boodle, please forgive me.

A friend mentioned to me that Joel had an article in today's paper:

I haven't read it yet, but I'm pretty far behind on everything. I don't think I've watched all of the last season of 'Seinfeld' yet.


Posted by: -bc- | August 1, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

bc....what's puzzling you is the nature of my game. How appropriate.

Posted by: LostInThought | August 1, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

SciTim needs better flyng mojo?

Or make-the-best-of-an-unanticipated-pit-stop mojo?

Posted by: Achaiku | August 1, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

New Kit! (I have to do everything around here, grumble, grumble...)

Posted by: seasea1 | August 1, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse


Entropy = disorder increases in systems over time =/= complexity increases.

Greater disorder =/=> greater complexity. Complexity is defined otherwise.

Am I mistaken?

Posted by: michaeljamesdrew | August 2, 2009 5:15 AM | Report abuse

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