Comment on Rats and Mice: Scientific Heroes by Bill Libby

Rats have definitely contributed more than their fair share to scientific progress, but it’s a price that I think most of us will agree has yielded good results. But is it moral? Then again that’s why it’s a controversy, right? If one side was simply wrong it wouldn’t be a very good discussion topic.

Our world is full of exchanges, some fair and some not so fair, but it’s exchanges like animal testing that advance our understanding of the world and those are the critical ones I’d like to preserve. What would a world without animal testing look like? I think that’s the central question that people still making their minds up on this issue should ask. I simply don’t see a better alternative that still preserves our advancement, this is something that I see us always needing but hope will require less loss of life in the future.

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Comment on Rats, Mice, and Lovecraft by Bill Libby

I can also see why you’d say the readings lacked a clear opinion, I ended up just trying to make people laugh and going off on animal testing in mind because it was the most readily available topic.

I think that we picked up on the same idea, that even though rats are vermin we often find a certain connection with them as parallels. This is so odd, isn’t it? I think it just goes to show that rats are our shadow in terms of our society.

I like the Lovecraft connection you have here, I’ve found his works to be fascinating for a very long time. When you think about it, Lovecraft really was out of place in his own time and I think that’s why his writing persists as it has; I don’t think anybody else wrote about the sort of things Lovecraft did. I think it’d be so cool to go back in time and read a lot of these books as they were released to sort of get a feel for them in the context of their times. I wonder if people thought that Lovecraft’s work was subpar because it deviated from the norm? Arthur Conan Doyle thought that Sherlock Holmes was an inferior form of literature all his life and preferred to write historical documentaries but we all know which one he ended up being famous for. Agatha Christie, I imagine, would be a very different experience than it is today because of all of the war references she hides in her Poirot/Miss Marple stories, and just the different culture in general. I think Books a Million sells a very nice looking Lovecraft collection for ~$20, you should look for it if you’re ever there again.

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Comment on Natural Selection & Variability by Bill Libby

I think that the word natural is another one of those words that we ought to sit down and think about in this class. If by natural (And this is the definition I prefer) you mean anything that can physically happen in this world (As in the opposite of supernatural, which is somewhat of an oxymoron because that word is often applied to science that we can’t explain and is therefore also natural, if unknown, but I digress) then it ends up being a pretty broad category that can fit everything from farming to genome science. But if you think of natural as something that only happens in the base environment, as in take away the trappings of civilization and technology and plop people in the middle of the woods somewhere, I think that such things as farming and other rudimentary involvement are still, in fact, natural because that is our base behavior, to change things. It is our very natural adaptation. I think, however, that it can be awkward to visualize that behavior as normal because we are really the only species that has this degree of control over our environment. In our human-centric view of the universe, we have very little to compare ourselves to absent an alien civilization. But if, say, there were a species of ape that exhibited agrarian tendencies, would you still think farming is an unnatural involvement?

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Comment on Darwin: A Forward Dude by Bill Libby

I think you’ve hit on something that has been bugging me for a while–namely evolution vs domestication. On the surface, they seem to be similar forces. Namely that both involve an adaptation to one’s environment, but domestication is an adaptation triggered by a companionship with humans as opposed to the natural environment. However, the natural rate of evolution is much slower than domestication because the environment itself changes slowly as well. Thus the adaptation is delayed over sometimes millions of years. It definitely hides the plasticity of animals because we tend to think of evolution as being this natural, perfect force that tailors living creatures to their environment. I’m curious about the scientific implications of domestication: My question is this: If we genetically manipulate a species, is that a form of domestication?

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Comment on The Horse by Bill Libby

First of all, if this isn’t just a glitch on my end I really like the way your blog is formatted. It reminds me of a hospital except less depressing and I don’t have to wait in line to post.

I will attempt to answer your final question, though I believe myself misinformed as well–I think archaeologists dislike migration as an explanation because, at least to me, it seems like a bit of a cop-out. Migration can be very difficult to document because it requires you to be able to track sites across a geographical plane (Which has of course changed with plate tectonics) and in absence of a concrete explanation (IE what the archaeologists dig up) it can be very tempting to say, “Oh, well it must be because of migration” for any given change in culture and then you can’t really go much farther than that. It gives the scientist a very grey area that they can dwell in without doing a whole lot of real work. In other words, maybe they think of migration as a lazy answer that shouldn’t be pursued unless all other possibilities have been explored.

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Comment on Terrestrial and Celestial by Bill Libby

I think it loops back to Jared Diamond on why some cultures are technologically superior to others; basically which cultures had the tools available to master the world around them.When I think of different cultures focusing on coexistence and the circle of life versus domination over the natural world, I think it comes down to which cultures had the tools to dominate. The ones that didn’t coexisted with their environment and the ones that did dominated it. I don’t think of that as being particularly “western” in any sense besides geography, just “modern”. In other words, what I am saying, and I’m sure someone will push back on me for saying this, is that I don’t think the Eveny (Or the tribes of Papua New Guinea) constitute a modern society. Of course, that raises the question–what is a modern society? Does being a modern society necessitate a mastery over rather than a coexistence with nature? For me, one of the defining features of a modern society is a departure from or a radical change to our natural environment, which the Eveny do not display. How could they possibly dominate their environment? It’s one of the harshest places on the planet. Simply put, in these places, nature is stronger than we are and the development of these cultures and their ideas reflect that. It makes perfect sense to me that their religious beliefs, therefore, would reflect a more earth-centric view of the world rather than the human-divine views that modern, western, dominating societies hold.

This is a lot of what I was trying to say in my post–namely that our ideas on the metaphysical and the symbolic are influenced by the changing degree of control over our environment that we as humans (Though at different rates across different geographical areas) achieve as time goes on. And that, furthermore, the metaphysical and the symbolic are products of this exchange rather than the initiators.

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Comment on Language and Pastoral Fantasies by Bill Libby

Maybe I was too hard on Kessler for his Biblical imagery (Though I do still think it’s ridiculous). Now that you mention it, people have tried to give apotheosis to things much more eccentric than goats.

I also found the language angle of this reading to be very cool. Specifically, I liked the name for the goat cheese product –chèvre (Actually translates to “goat” if you plug it into google translate). It reminds me of a word in Spanish, chévere, which means “cool” or “great”. They are pronounced the same way; I can’t imagine that the two words could be totally unrelated seeing as both languages share Latin roots. I wonder how that came to be.

That was a tangent, but what I’m trying to say is that I think it’d be really cool to see a list of words that have pastoral roots. I’m sure there would be a few surprises on that list.

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Comment on On Goats and Farming, Practicality and Pastoralism by Bill Libby


There was definitely an over-idealization of the farming process that got under my skin as well, though I am not as well versed as you are in the real-life aspects of it and could not articulate myself well enough to say what you said here in my own post. I found his tone to be inappropriately aloof; he wrote about goats the way other authors would write about religious experiences — at a certain point I had to step back and think objectively about what was really happening and how he was trying to frame it.

And yes, these people’s lives are probably much harder than he makes them out to be. One thing that I did not see (Or perhaps glossed over) was any mention of the amount of money these people make doing what they do. Because this takes place in the USA, and I assume not on an Indian Reservation, I think they must pay some kind of tax in addition to the cost of providing for the animals they keep. Indeed, he focused on the goats instead, separating himself from the people.The overall impression I got was that Kessler was fascinated by, but did not necessarily understand, the very type of life he intended to catalog.


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Comment on A little bit about dogs and us, but mostly us. by Bill Libby

That is a much more succinct way to say what I was trying to get across, Ben–not changing genetics, but environmental pressures (Which includes, of course, science and how it’s changed our diet in the last generation or so). I think that’s the best way to talk about something like Diabetes.

In regards to cancer, though, I did some basic searching and found some information that actually makes me doubt my own claims about carcinogens. I thought of this as a modern disease for a very long time, mostly because now we have the means to detect it before it’s fatal. But apparently cancer has been a killer even back into ancient Greece–I just imagine that since lifespans in general were shorter then, less people died from it and therefore it has the illusion of being less fatal then than it is now. And of course, since we couldn’t detect it we have no idea how many people either lived long lives even with cancer or died but weren’t identified as cancer patients.

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Comment on Dogs Rule by Bill Libby

I agree with the difficulty of defining domestication–it definitely seems to exist more as a continuum than a pendulum, if that makes any sense. It got me thinking. Of course, domestication is a concept that we invented to describe a phenomena. But that, to me, raises a critical question–how do we know when it’s done? Is it ever done?

I also agree with you that one can’t underestimate our nurturing tendencies–I don’t know if I would write that feeling off as dog bias, so to speak. I think that there’s a lot to be said about the way we care for pets as though they were our children. My father believes that pets often take the place of children for people who either can’t or don’t have children of their own. If a pitiful, even tempered looking wolf was hungry and scavenging, maybe one of our ancestors would have picked it up.

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