I raked in a great haul of reader feedback from last Monday’s Inquirer column profiling a religious scientist. This one was a little baffling:
"By the way, you are too smart and attractive to stoop to this "what kind of designer would put the sewer pipe through the playground." Being old and demented I can think of serveral retorts that my Southern upbringing prevents me from mentioning."
Um, thanks, I guess, but what does a person’s personal appearance have to do with the appropriateness of this reference? It wasn’t my line. I’d heard it several times before, the first time from the smart and attractive developmental biologist Scott Gilbert of Swarthmore.
Another reader filled me in on its origin. It’s part of an old joke:
….But I must tell you that you referred to an abriged version of an old joke I heard at Caltech and again at Harvard.
"Three engineers were debating the nature of God. (Alan King, in a TV special recorded at Sanders Theater at Harvard, called "The College of Comedy" said if there were three or more characters in a joke, one of them must be Jewish!" But I digress.)
One said, "God is obviously an electrical engineer. Look how the nerves and brain use electrical signals for communication and action."
The second said "God is obviously a mechanical engineer. Look how the muscles and bones work together to provide leverage and motion."
The third said "God is obviously a civil engineer. Who but a civil engineer would put a toxic waste stream through a recreational area?"
Hey, if it’s good enough to make the rounds at Caltech and Harvard, it’s good enough for my column.
If you thought that was off color, wait till you see “Flock of Dodos”by biologist turned filmmaker Randy Olson. His 2006 documentary about the Intelligent Design movement also exposes a horrific truth about rabbits. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s going to be screened at Villanova University on April 12 at 7:45 pm. I’ll be participating in a panel discussion afterward.
I watched Flock of Dodoslast weekend, and that’s where I was exposed to the total insanity of the rabbit digestive system. (Stop here if you’re squeamish). Apparently, the section that absorbs the nutrients is above a critical fermentation chamber where food gets broken down into digestible molecules. That’s a very bad problem. The solution: The food has to go through the system a second time. (And I accused Higgs of being disgusting for trying to snarf up regurgitated kibble.)
Olson’s film even has a helpful animated sequence showing how bunnies eat their food twice, and then to prove he isn’t making this up, a hidden camera catches real rabbits in the act of eating their droppings.
There’s a lot more to the film, but the rabbit part is hard to get out of your head. The message to creationists is clear: Either evolution shaped the living world or God hates bunnies.
The event on the 12thwill include me, Olson, Behe and Villanova biologist Aaron Bauer. Olson will be in Philadelphia for several days to discuss Dodos, his global warming film Sizzle and his book, Don’t Be Such a Scientist, in which he applies his Hollywood savvy to science communication. Read more details here and here.