Archive for May, 2010

CARTOONS FROM THE REV

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

A little love in the late Cretaceous...

REVIEWS FROM THE REV: RichardDawkins.net

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Richard Dawkins

I’ve had a link to The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science site on the boblog from the beginning, but decided to give it another visit and draw your attention to it.  The site has undergone a recent overhaul, and offers a clear menu of a wide range of resources.

The site promotes (naturally) Dawkins’ book and videos, but is clearly focused, primarily, on promoting reason and science above all else.  There are links to many related articles covering (to a large extent) the ongoing conflict between science and religion.  You could just as easily classify this as a website dedicated to rational Atheism as anything else.  The entire site reflects what I’ve come to know as Dawkins’ fearless approach to confronting irrational belief (that same quality that maddens many of his critics and generates their charges of his preening arrogance).  Personally, I find it refreshing.

Among the more entertaining sections is one dedicated to letters to the site, including a special area reserved for the most vitriolic.  Here’s a good example:

“Go f*** yourself. You , Sir, are an absolute ASS. Your feigned intelligence is nothing more than the fart of GOD. You are one of those unfortunate ones that need GOD to shove it in your FACE.
Your soul is at jeopardy.”

Another section contains a variety of quotes from well-known names (yes, there are plenty of Dawkins quotes, but he places his quotes last on the list).  Here’s a great quote from Mark Twain (there are many!):

“During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for 800 years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.”    Mark Twain – Bible Teaching and Religious Practice –
There is another section with a long list of links to other websites, including Atheist websites, sites for apostate Muslims and the like, including, of course, science sites.  The site also has a section dedicated to videos produced by RDFTV.
Richarddawkins.net is a rich resource for those who relish the engagement of science with religion, but certainly not a welcoming place for the concept of “non-overlapping magisteria” (which endeavors to keep the two fields in separate corners)!

t.n.s.r. bob

SERMON: “Signs from God” by the not-so-reverend bob

Sunday, May 30th, 2010
A sign from god.

A sign from God?

If you’ve read any Christopher Hitchens at all, you’ll have run across his frequent use of the word “solipsism” to describe humanity’s tendency to think of ourselves as the point around which the universe revolves.  Hitchens uses this tendency as explanation for the nearly universal notion that there is an eternal an omnipotent personal God, creator of heaven and earth, that is deeply interested in each of our prayers, no matter how trivial or ridiculous.

The refreshing slap in the face that wakes us up to the absurdity of such a notion is that religion — which claims to represent the properly humble posture of man before God — is actually more representative of our fully-flowered narcissism and inflated sense of self importance.  God — the thing above which there is no other — cares for ME, little old (humble and meek) me.  There is nothing in such a statement that is either humble or meek.

Yet the easily observable reality is that a great many people believe just that: that we are — if not the center of God’s universe — certainly the primary focus of his attentions.

To take a less cynical view, it is completely understandable that we would naturally view everything from a “me” perspective.   As evolutionary psychology might describe it, our self-centeredness is a product of our capacity for survival and adaptation that made us the successful species that we are.

But having evolved the kinds of high-functioning minds we carry with us, we have also developed a remarkable capacity for self-examination.  We can step outside ourselves and observe our own thoughts, behaviors and emotions.  (Of course just because we can doesn’t mean we always do — we are highly evolved animals, yes, but — to paraphrase Darwin — we still  “bear the indelible stamp of our humble origins”).  It is this self-reflective capacity that makes humans capable of philosophy, poetry, art, music and literature.  It is this capacity for perspective that allowed human minds to examine the evidence of geology, biology and cosmology to come to the mind-blowing conclusions that we are elaborate replication systems for DNA, evolved over millennia from earlier life forms on a planet formed by cosmic explosions which we are barely able to comprehend.

None of the evolutionary worldview was obvious (one suspects) to our ancestors that built first a magical view of the world, the forces of nature and the actions of biology.  And even now that we understand the mountains of evidence we have catalogued over the last few hundred years, there is a majority of our global population that persists in believing in the magic, not the science.  (For a fine overview of that “mountain of evidence” for evolution, read Richard Dawkins’ latest book “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution” — previously reviewed on this site).

This persistent belief in the irrational is a reminder that — despite the innumerable (and remarkable) human achievements in science, art, self-government and industry — we humans are not as rational nor as powerful as we suppose.  For here, again, a mix of human-centric religious thinking mixed with our innate tendency towards a self-focus conspire to create in us an evidence-poor notion of our own mental and analytical capabilities.  We secretly suppose that we are capable of anything we put our mind to.

But the human mind is highly distractible.  It has likely evolved to be that way as part of its survival strategy.  In sleep we dream because this enormous, calorie devouring computer in our big skulls never shuts off.  Just look around and you’ll see the limits of our minds: how many of us have everything in their house put away, have painted the trim that needs painting, fixed that squeak in the car, written that letter, updated that resume.  Or expand this out to all of the issues we are daily made aware of: starving children in Africa, rain forests being razed in South America, keeping up with who’s running for office locally and nationally, or the oil spill in the gulf.

The BP oil spill is a good example, in fact.  We have laws and regulations, legislators and regulators that are paid to pay attention to the application of (and compliance with) the laws.  But is there ever enough time or resources to enforce every regulation (or, from the corporate side, to comply with every regulation)?  The reality of our lives, both personal, corporate and national, is that we are forced to make choices all the time about where to focus our limited resources of time and attention, because there is never enough (of either) to do everything our busy mind calls upon us to do.  Hence a neglected friend or spouse has to put his or her foot down, and demand some “quality time”.  Deadlines are missed; the house repairs are put off.  We do the best we can and hope to do better tomorrow.  And yet the public uproar over any disaster or lapse in government oversight indicates to me a deeper belief in a human capacity approaching that of omniscience and omnipotence.  Every arm-chair critic knows how to easily fix the problem, or imagines the presence of some great conspiracy among the “top minds” that are working the actual problem “on the ground”.  Both views ignore the very real possibility that we are not the complete masters of our world, or even of our individual lives.

This is where I come to the evolutionary point of view as the one that gives us a more realistic understanding of our own capacities.  Religion both diminishes and inflates us in all the wrong ways while claiming to do it in the ONLY right way.  (And it’s not just religion — there are those that actually believe, for example, that an electric car would make their driving “Carbon neutral”, ignoring the vast resources required to both manufacture and maintain the vehicle and produce the electricity to run it.  Though clearly the better choice, we shouldn’t delude ourselves about how much we really consume).

The naturalistic, evolutionary, scientific view is – I would argue – the path to true humility in the face of the complexity of both our own and the earth’s origins.  A scientific understanding of where we came from, and what we really are is what, in the end, puts us in our place.  There is no room for false pride (in Science, not individual scientists of course), and there is none of the false humility of religion.  Instead we are free to develop a true appreciation for both how limited and how remarkable we are in the vast parade of life.

There is no better antidote to our natural self-centeredness-parading-as-humility than to look up at the stars twinkling in the night sky and recall that the light we see has travelled many millions of miles and could well be the last beams of light that left a dying star eons ago; that the minerals that build our body were brought to this planet by ancient objects from space that slammed into our boiling planet in it’s nursery years; that each of us is the living result of uncountable generations of lucky and adaptable ancestors that survived the remorseless culling of natural selection; that in a very real way, our bodies are primarily ecosystems for bacteria.  In such understandings as these lie the basis for our true humility, and a healthy pride in our species’ capacity for survival.

This is humankind standing naked before the true creation, open to what the heavens are telling us.  Now what was it I was going to get done today?

t.n.s.r. bob

WATCH t.n.s.r. bob’s “DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS” ON YOUTUBE!

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

t.n.s.r. bob narrates his composition "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" with the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra. (Mike Groves Photo)

It’s ART, it’s SCIENCE, it’s a SYMPHONIC JOURNEY through the history of the Dinosaurs, Planet Earth and, well, US!  VIEW THE ENTIRE PREMIERE PERFORMANCE, or follow the link to watch the short promotional video.  NOTE: This 10-minute piece for Orchestra and Narrator is now available for booking with Orchestras (wind band arrangements coming soon) for family and educational concerts.  Click here for more information.

\”Dawn of the Dinosaurs\” by Bob Diven on YouTube\”

CARTOONS FROM THE REV

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

The companion to last week's cartoon!

REVIEWS FROM THE REV: Christian Sex Toys?!?

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Image from the SLATE article by Tom Perrotta "The Sexy Puritan"

It started with a Google search to determine if former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin had actually hunted wolves from a helicopter herself (she didn’t — though she proposed the reinstatement of a now-illegal state-paid bounty for wolves).   What I found (in addition to the details just mentioned) was an article by Tom Perrotta in SLATE about the role of the “Sexy Puritan” in American Evangelical culture.  (Having been an Evangelical Christian for 15 years of my life, I particularly enjoyed the article).  The article contained a surprising link (which I followed) to a Christian sex advice website called “Christian Nymphos”.  What I found is what one would expect from a serious sex advice website, with the exception of their stated mission: “The mission of Christian Nymphos is to teach married women to walk in sexual freedom with their husbands, so they will be able to reach out and help free the women in their lives”.

A brief survey of some of the columns posted on the site revealed a wealth of really useful and enthusiastic information, sprinkled with Bible verses.  Some of the questions and comments posted by readers suggest a heart-breaking level of sexual ignorance “out there” such that I can only applaud the work of these believing women!  For a sense of the “spirit” of the website, here is the conclusion from the article on getting started with anal sex:  “You may try this only to find that one or both of you don’t like it. If that’s the case, then there are hundreds of other ideas and positions to try. Pray about it, take it slow, and HAVE FUN!”

Someone must be paying attention.  The site boosts over 7.6 million visits!

Their attitude brings to mind the mantra of sex columnist Dan Savage (“Savage Love”) when it comes to negotiating sexual adventurism with your partner: “Be good, giving and game!” (Think ‘good in bed,’ ‘giving equal time and equal pleasure,’ and ‘game for anything—within reason)'”

To add even more spice to this unexpected sojourn into Evangelical sexual advice, I couldn’t help but click the banner ad on theOne of the sexy games offered for married Christian couples on the "Christian Love Toys" website. site that took me to, yes, “Christian Love Toys”.  So that you’re not disappointed, let me here quote what the the site says: “Christian Sex Toys??!  Our sex toys & novelties are not especially “Christian”. These are normal marital aids, carefully selected for a safe married Christian shopping experience.”  It would seem the main goal is to save a believer a trip to the local dirty book shop.  Note: the site draws the line at pornography, sticking to toys, ticklers and games.

As my wise brother once told me years ago about the process of cultural re-branding for the Christian audience: “We can imitate, but we cannot condone!”

What conclusions can be drawn from all of this.  I find a certain reassurance that people are still people trying to make their live work, whatever ideologies or beliefs they claim to offer their allegiance to.  Our innate, shared humanity is undeniable (though that fact has never stopped us trying).  Of course I didn’t have to look far for some detractors:

“Well, just when you think you have seen the worst, you find out something sicker, something sluttier.  The Lord Jesus came to me while I was shopping for stuffed thank-you gifts at the Hallmark Card shop this morning.  He alerted me to a website called CHRISTIAN NYMPHOS.  It is a place for filthy, despicable trashy whores to compare notes on how to be a bigger slut in the bedroom.
Sick and sad and soul-destroying!  Please go to that site and witness to these lost tramps and bring them back to the grace of Jesus!”

Perhaps I was a bit too hasty: maybe not quite ALL of us are just people trying to make their lives work.  There are always those determined to deny their own humanity, and the humanity of others for a cause.
Now go have an orgasm for the celestial deity of your choosing.  Hmm.  Wonder if I need a line of “The Church of Bob” sex toys?

t.n.s.r. bob

SERMON: ‘The CRAZY IDEA” by the not-so-reverend bob.

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

I’m compelled on (a regular basis) to run reality checks on my perceptions of things.  Today that involved tuning my truck radio to the AM dial, and listening to Rush Limbaugh.  I know people that listen to Rush.  It is because I know these people (some of whom I consider friends and human beings I’d want on my side in a bar fight) that I have a desire to understand what they are finding in Rush.  I listened long enough to get the idea that Obama’s true agenda is to ruin in four years the America that we and our forefathers took two hundred years to build.  Rush said that we can’t look at what’s going on now in the “normal” way that we’ve always evaluated politics.  This is something different, something unprecedented.  Rush’s opening comment was a rhetorical question: “Let me get this straight: we can’t identify the illegal aliens in this country, but we can require everyone to buy health insurance?” (adding the tag that “If you don’t, Reid and Pelosi will track you down and throw you in jail” — a fiction as there is no criminal penalty for non-compliance with the Health Care Reform Act).  Every Limbaugh sentence was seasoned with dramatic pauses, heavy sighs, and every vocal cue that Rush was wearing himself out trying to point out this web of conspiracies to true Americans and thereby single-handedly save this great nation.

It got me thinking.  In an odd moment of understanding, I realized that the “conservatives” (as represented by Rush and the TEA Party members) are actually the more utopian of the two idealogical camps we describe with the popular duality of “liberal” versus “conservative”.  The conservatives are deeply convinced that — left to their own devices — the rich and the powerful will act in the best interest of “the common good”.  The real problem is government, and too much of it.

I’ve come to think that if “liberals” are guilty of overestimating the rationality and moral potential of our species, the “conservatives” are equally guilty of underestimating our potential for selfish behavior and general mayhem.  Liberalism sees governance as a means of protecting as many of us as possible from the rapacious behavior of the (inevitable) dangerous few.  In a sense this is a blend of optimism with pragmatism.  The TEA Party view seems to be a mix of disparate elements in search of a synthesis: they want to abolish government and yet abhor anarchy;  they call any government involvement in healthcare “socialist”, yet find no inner conflict in utilizing veterans TRICARE, or Social Security and Medicare.

There is in me a pull toward finding connections with my fellow citizens.  I look for a common reference point — something we agree on.  Once established, both parties know their starting point and can get their bearings.  But each time I try to approach the inner workings of my upset conservative fellow-citizens I run into obstacles I cannot readily surmount.  Although I am able to enter into many of the feelings of those who fear domination by an aggressive government (I am an American, after all — it’s in our character to be wary), I am blocked by a boulder-field of odd and irrational beliefs that inhibit my progress toward meaningful, rational connection.

I think it’s safe to say that a high percentage of the TEA Party folks are “god fearing”, and being such, are already exhibiting an increased capacity to believe in things for which there is no more evidence than another’s word on the matter.  How can I find common ground with someone who really believes, deep in their heart, that our sitting President is not an American citizen (despite proof to the contrary), or that he is bent on destroying our economy instead of trying to fix it?  The imagined conspiracies fly so fast and so thick that it is, literally, dizzying.

There must be a certain thing about our minds that is draws us to notions of vast conspiracies.  As a friend pointed out to me, such beliefs engender a feeling of powerlessness (as in the forces arrayed against one are far too great to be overcome, so there is no point in actually trying to engage “it”).  I keep thinking of the “Baloney Detection Kit” video from Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine, where one of the ten testing points is the question: “Does this fit in with what I know about how the world works?”  From time to time I get a letter from the left hinting at vast conspiracies on the right, and a little sensor in my head jumps to life and says “wait a minute — this sounds pretty conspiratorial to me”.  My response, in such cases, is to not take it seriously unless (and until) I get corroborating evidence (and the evidence had better be good for such a large claim).  I’ve learned to ferret out the 5 or 10 percent that is truth and disregard the soaring, rickety edifice of conspiracy that is inevitably built upon an original thin sliver of truth.  I’m calling people on this sort of stuff all the time.  It’s maddening, because I’m just one voice giving one friend shit for some piece of internet crap that they forwarded to their entire e-mailing list without taking two minutes to see if it was bogus or not.

Once again, I think we overestimate our abilities as humans.  The more I try to keep up with science and politics and world events, the more feeble my brain seems.  Rush Limbaugh seems to think we are all super humans being held in check by Liberal-Secular-Humanist-Socialist force fields.  Every mis-step (or perceived mis-step) or lack of immediate overwhelming result from any administration initiative is held up like the severed head of a martyr by some demagogue or another.

One thing about holding a naturalistic, Darwinian view of life is that I take humans being for what we actually are: not what the Bible tells me we are, or the mystics say we are capable of.  My brand of magical thinking is to carry the rosy hope that I have the potential power to bring insights to people in a way that will make them leave aside some of their irrationality and thereby be of more practical help in the heavy lifting of managing the global and local societies we live in.  Embedded in that hope is a belief that humans are capable of becoming ever more rational the more educated they become.  Clearly, there is evidence to the contrary.  Recent survey’s show that a high percentage of the TEA Party membership is college educated.  Which makes it all the more baffling that they believe in so much crazy stuff.

But perhaps I’m unfair to pick on one self-selecting group of politically-motivated people, except insofar as they are perfectly representative of any other group of humans that are drawn together by a particular orthodoxy of irrational ideas.  This seems to be a perfectly common pattern in our species: otherwise rational people who function smoothly in their work and family lives retain for themselves one corner of their thinking for a completely loony idea: the CIA killed Kennedy; the Twin Towers was an inside job; Pterosaurs still live in a remote lake area in Africa; Noah’s Ark rests on a mountain side in Turkey;  President Obama is a Kenyan agent bent on destroying the Constitution.

It is this propensity of the human mind that has me running my reality checks — as a sort of a self-diagnostic — looking for mental “spam” or the virus of a bad idea.  Of course the power of a CRAZY IDEA is that it can never be completely disproved (and of course Science is not in the business of obliterating ideas, only showing where the weight of evidence points us — which is enough for a reasonable person).  The CRAZY IDEA demands that it be not just shown to be unlikely, but proven to be completely impossible.  This is where the CRAZY IDEA’S brilliance and durability lies.  This is why so many people can still deny the evidence for Evolution and Natural Selection with questions that Darwin answered fully over 150 years ago.

This phenomenon of belief is wonderfully skewered by Bertrand Russell’s famous Celestial Teapot analogy:

“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

Of course Russell here is famously going after the idea of God, but leave off that final sentence about ancient texts and you could be talking about the 10 to 20 requests a week to the Hawaii Health Department for President Obama’s (previously verified to the satisfaction of all reasonable people) birth certificate.  Of course, I could be wrong.  Obama could be a Venusian cyborg, perfectly designed to appeal to our human need for a political savior.  Now that would be a CRAZY IDEA.  But somewhere, sometime, I could just about guarantee you, there is a human brain that would (or does) believe it.  How would you or I talk to such a person?

I have no idea.  I don’t speak Venusian.

t.n.s.r. bob

CARTOONS FROM THE REV

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

And to think I originally drew this four years ago...

REVUES FROM THE REV: The Smithsonian Human Origins Program

Sunday, May 16th, 2010


What does it mean to be human?  That is the question posed by the Smithsonian Human Origins Initiative.  To answer that question the Smithsonian has set up an impressive website to compliment the opening of a new 15,000-square-foot Hall of Human Origins exhibition.  I’ve spent some time perusing the website.

The basic organization of the information on this website is in the form of brief introductory-level summaries that highlight our current understanding of a wide range of subjects relating to human evolution.  Many of these pages contain only a brief paragraph of text, but some run longer and include short embedded videos.  A fun feature is a wide selection of ancient human artifacts and fossils that have been scanned in such a way as to allow you to rotate the object on the screen and see if from any angle.

The exhibit features an entire troupe of bronze sculptures and detailed recreations of the more recognizable landmark hominids in our evolutionary past, many of which can be seen on the website (one video “featurette” shows the sculptor at work on this massive project).

An interesting part of the Human Origins Initiative is the Human Origins Initiative Broader Social Impacts Committee, which is  a group comprised of a wide range of religious leaders tasked with assisting in the acceptance of evolutionary discovery into their religious traditions.  The organizing principle of this committee is the idea that belief in religion and an acceptance of science are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  The fact that science can and does pose a challenge to many people’s religious beliefs is therefore met head-on (the conflict is recognized in other areas of the website as well).

Although personally I don’t see much intellectual gold to be mined from attempting to accept science while holding on to religion, I can nonetheless recognize that religious faith is not going to go away any time soon.  And I can well imagine that the exhibit’s more conciliatory (though unapologetic) approach will appeal to many religious moderates (though no “Young Earth Creationist” s going to go for the idea, no matter what the approach).

The new David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins opened on March 17, 2010, marking the museum’s 100th anniversary on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Part of the museum’s mission in this exhibit is stated in the following from the website:

“The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is committed to expanding the public understanding of human evolution:
•    An unforgettable museum experience presents the epic story of human ancestry.
•    Pioneering research investigates fundamental questions about our evolutionary past, including the roots of human adaptability.
•    Innovative educational programs meet the critical need for expanding public knowledge of scientific research and evolution.
Our web site is dedicated to bringing you the excitement, latest findings, and profound implications of the scientific exploration of human origins.”
t.n.s.r. bob

SERMON: “Forbidden Love of the Pleistocene” by the not-so-reverend bob

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Although I was the one drawing attention to the recent (and rather dramatic) revelations about our (now proven) link to extinct Neanderthals, it took a mention of Neanderthals in a note from my Anthropologist friend Gaea to put me in touch with the actual implications of the news.  Suddenly I stopped and let my focus shift to my physical body, and my feelings, and considered the fact that I had Neanderthal DNA resident inside me.

I suppose it’s like finding out that you have a great grand-parent that fooled around a bit more than you suspected — took a walk on the “wild” side.  In some intangible way, it makes me feel differently about myself.  Of course my brain scans the obvious jokes about men behaving like Neanderthals (now we can all claim such inspiration, man and woman alike!).  But I also want to imagine the meeting between my modern human ancestors and my, well, Neanderthal relations.  I would like to think they were consensual, but who can say.  I’d rather not think about aggressive males, and focus instead on the historically powerful force of female sexual selection.

I read a fine book on the “last Neanderthal” that posited that we modern humans might have looked upon the Neanderthals as a separate species, and hardly paid them any mind (say the way deer and elk might interact).  But knowing human history, and our imaginative willingness to engage in sexual activity with just about anything that moves, it’s not surprising that we got it on with our huskier hominid neighbors.

The big debate until now has been whether such coupling produced any viable offspring, assuming that little evidence of such coupling survived because of either the genetic impossibility of (presumably) cross-species fertilization, or the sterility of whatever children were born.  Well, all of that is out the window now.  We (at least we non-Africans) need to put uncle Neanderthal’s photo up on the mantle with all the other family photos.

Even as I write this, I feel a shift in my self-perception.  I wonder why, since I’ve previously accepted that I’m descended from ape-like ancestors, and small shrew-like mammals before them and fish before that (and, of course, all the way back to the earliest bacteria).  But perhaps it’s because the Neanderthal connection is so much closer in time compared to any of that.  What are they saying, maybe 80,000 years ago as the time we and the Neanderthals mixed our genes?  Of course, the last Neanderthals died out midway between then and now (maybe as recently as 30,000 years ago).  So who can say how much fooling around there was.

And I can’t help thinking about my theatrical monologue “Forbidden Love of the Pleistocene” that I’ve done a few times over the last few years, where I portray a Cro Magnon man who is describing his forbidden love affair with a Neanderthal woman.  In the story (accompanied by a slide show of the beloved “Madga” — an actress I created Neanderthal prosthetics for!), he talks about their attraction to each other, the difficulties of communication and final insurmountable issue of their inability to have a baby.  In the end of the monologue, Magda and her small band of Neanderthals trudge off in search of a more hospitable land, never to be seen again.  In an elegant postscript, it now seems that they did not leave without a trace after all.  They weren’t just another dead-end branch on the human family tree.  A part of them lives on, and will continue to live on, in us.

Grrrr, indeed.

t.n.s.r. bob