Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New series on ancient battles

The History Channel starts a new series March 9 called BATTLES BC which will depict ancient battles in a "graphic novel" style format similar to The 300.

This trailer depicts the Battle of Cannae between Carthage and Rome in 216 B.C. The Hannibal character in the trailer is a big muscular guy who reminds me a little of Vin Diesel. Not very accurate (for example, Hasdrubal Barca was not at Cannae), but it could be great fun to watch.

Apparently Vin Diesel himself is working on a 2011 movie called Hannibal the Conqueror where he plays the lead role. I could live with Vin Diesel in that role but it would all depend on the script. What made Hannibal a great general was his intelligence and leadership, not his muscles, if that doesn't come out, the role will not work.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin's legacy

This evening our family celebration the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln with cupcakes, and a few words about the legacy of these incredible men who each left an imprint on our modern world.

When Darwin formulated his theory of natural selection in the late 1800s, he had no idea what the physical mechanism of heredity was. He knew nothing about DNA or genes or genomes. It is amazing that natural selection remains the most convincing explanation for the origin of species after all this time. Darwin got so much right with so little of what we know now.

It seems fitting that on this anniversary, scientists have shed new light on human origins by completing a first draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome. It seems that the Neanderthals, who share a common ancestor with modern humans, remained a distinct species and did not interbreed with modern humans in significant numbers. It also appears that they might have had the power of speech, or at least one of the genes necessary for it. Wow.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Humanism acknowledged

President Obama gave a remarkably inclusive speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington last Thursday. He specifically mentioned the fact that secular people are part of this country, and included humanists among those who follow The Golden Rule, the basic moral precept of all religions and societies.

This small comment is a significant step forward for American political and religious life. After eight years of control by a Christian conservative president who refused to acknowledge for most of his presidency that secular people live in America or should be included among "people of good will", this is a refreshing change.

I was also pleased to see the Seattle Times running an article by Barbara Dority, president of Humanists of Washington, in its Faith and Values column today. The article discusses why humanists embrace evolution and how the understanding that life is finite actually makes life more meaningful.

Such small steps move us all a little closer to mutual understanding and tolerance.