Happy Birthday to The Cladogram!

Just after announcing the temporary hibernation of this blog, I’m BAAAAAACK! Only for today, though. ‘Cause the 23rd of august of one year ago, The Cladogram was born! Oh, what a glorious adventure during the course of a year! Well, maybe not that great, some of you might say, but I’m still pretty satisfied with what I’ve done, and I’ve learned a few more tricks about blogging. And remember all those good ol’ memories? Like when I mocked mockumentaries. Or when I shamelessly analyzed the biology in Avatar. And what about my clumsy attempts at microphotography? Not to mention the most awesome environmentalist ad ever made, and my encounters with rare animals and plants. So, I hope I’ll come back soon and better than ever. Long live The Cladogram!

Cryptobiosis. This blog has entered it.

As you might have noticed, it’s been a couple of months since I’ve last updated this blog, but I want to assure you that I don’t want to let it die. It’s just that, except for a brief period of rest in the exotic land of Turkey, my summer has been full of work for my stage (or internship or whatever the hell you want to call it) and my exams – and it’s not over. I still have to complete the stage, write my thesis, take one last exam and choose where to continue my University adventure. So I declare officially that this blog, while not dead, certainly is in a state of cryptobiosis; don’t expect too much in the next few months, even though I might pop up sometimes with something new. See ya, folks.

Random incoherent rants vol. 4: I discovered that I’ve stopped reading Pharyngula

PZ rides again (photo taken from Pharyngula)

Once upon a time PZ Myers loved to ride dinosaurs. Now he mainly jumps sharks.

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

I haven’t spent much time on this blog in the past few weeks, but now I’ve passed the Physics exam (brilliantly, as usual for a superior mind like me), and I’m back with a vengeance.

What I’ve realized just recently is that it’s been a few weeks since I last visited Pharyngula, which is kind of a big deal since everyone that has an interest in skepticism, atheism and especially debunking creationism probably knows, or at least has heard of, biologist PZ Myers and his blog, which is probably the most important blog about those subjects. I discovered Pharyngula only in 2009, but I immediately liked Myers’ rationality and his unapologetic and highly critical views on religion and superstition; I liked the science articles, and I liked his sense of humor in dealing with creationists. So what made me lose my interest in the blog lately?

Starting with the infamous ElevatorGate (short version: a man clumsily approached a girl on an elevator, was rejected and accepted it; the whole internet skeptic community – including PZ – asploded accusing the man of sexism, and there was even a proposal of boycotting Richard Dawkins himself because he had the audacity to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the whole situation was kind of irrelevant and ultimately innocuous, and thus it was better to focus on real examples of sexism around the world – I know, what a fucking monster) Myers’ posts about science, atheism, evolution and religion gradually started to decrease in number in favor of an increasing amount of posts about pointless and, quite frankly, pretty boring internet drama. Examples of new content include: the evilness of the word “cunt” (WTF?) and other so called “feminist issues” that are even less substantial than ElevatorGate (which I cannot fucking believe people are still discussing 9 MONTHS after it happened), criticism of what some stupid students NOBODY HAS EVER HEARD OF OR PAID ATTENTION TO wrote on their blog or said on YouTube about OccupyWallStreet or abortion, dissertations on why it’s imperative not to accept a public apology of some dumb christian who wrote “atheist not welcome here” on a piece of paper in front of his gelato shop (yes, that was stupid and the guy deserved criticism, but there was no reason not to accept the apology), and also an absolutely hilarious series of discussions in which, for once, PZ was seen as the bad guy and viciously attacked by the most insane readers of his blog, since he had the balls to post a cute anti-religious comic strip in which the rational character was a bunny dressed as a boy and the religious character was a bunny dressed as a girl and this, somehow, makes the strip incredibly offensive towards women (even though the sex of the character wasn’t important, or even mentioned, in the comic). Whatever. Criticizing stupidity when you see it is good (and fun), but it’s useful only when you attack the stupidity of people or groups who have some sort of relevance in the world around them, and thus are likely to damage it. And let’s not forget that many of PZ’s recent attacks are against people who didn’t even do anything particularly wrong or stupid. In fact, in most cases, they didn’t do ANYTHING, except maybe writing some bad words on the internet, and in his ludicrous rage against them PZ looks frightfully similar to the religious zealots he often valiantly fights. Or “fought”, since now that he has to write about uneducated teenagers and middle-aged men on the internet he hasn’t time for that anymore. Hell, lately he’s so absorbed in finding and debating poor unknown fuckers that dared not to agree with him on everything, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he found this article (written by an italian undergraduate student on a six-months old blog which counts, at the moment I’m writing, a grand total of 613 views all-time) and created a long, rambling post dissecting and debunking it.

And what about those “Why I am an atheist” articles submitted by readers that he drops daily (or almost daily, I don’t know)? I like the idea, but an article every day or so is too fucking much: the excessive quantity makes each one of them less special. It looks like a spammy way to constantly update the blog. Okay, okay, my “Friday’s Featured Organism” articles are a spammy way to constantly update the blog too, but 1) I write them myself and 2) They happen once a week.

Another relatively minor annoying thing is that after a while PZ left ScienceBlogs and relocated Pharyngula on FreeThought Blogs (or FTB), a completely new site that was allegedly created with the intention of gather the most promising skeptical bloggers around the net under one roof, without the fear of censorship. Sounds promising, right? Well, first of all is kind of hard not to agree, or at least not to see, the point made by some of PZ’s detractors, who claim that the “We create this new site because elsewhere we are censored” story is bullshit, and that PZ did it only to get more money from the ads (which isn’t anything to be ashamed of, so why not being sincere about it?). Actually, PZ has always been fierce against religion and other kinds of popular silliness on ScienceBlogs, so I don’t think he had any censorship problems there. And the ads at Freethought Blogs – yeah, they’re pretty big and obnoxious. Even more annoying is the fact that it’s an automated ad service that works with keywords, and this means that ironically most of the ads are things like “Become a priest today” and shit like that. And what about the other skeptic bloggers of FTB? They’re kind of redundant, actually. Whenever someone of them writes about something, all of the others write about the exact same thing – which would be perfectly natural and even interesting were they to cover some relevant event or idea; but alas, it’s almost always some irrelevant internet drama that gets dissected repeatedly by PZ and friends, like a fucking echo through all of FTB – only it’s made of boredom instead of soundwaves (bare with me, I just passed a Physics exam).

What does all of this means? Is PZ getting too old, and Pharyngula doomed? Is it just a phase of transition in the initial year of exisence of FTB? I hope it’s the latter. Personally, I’ll probably stay away for Pharyngula for a while and eventually come back to see if something has changed for the better. Fans of PZ, don’t be too angered by this incoeherent rant of mine: I used to be a fan too, and I hope I can be a fan again soon.

Coyne’s competition becomes unbearable

Aaargh! Not only he’s famous in the science/skeptic world and I’m not, not only his blog is widely known and mine is not even really worth of the name “blog”, not only he is a real biologist and for now I’m only a student; now Jerry Coyne is clearly beating me in the amount of NSFW content too! He started a while ago, and now he’s at it, again, with an article about the penis of geese! Curse you Coyne!

Guess what…

… the only post for the next 7-8 days is gonna be the next Friday’s Featured Organism. Yeah, you guessed it, my blogging is going to slow down a bit for a while, AGAIN. Motivation? Next week I’ll take an exam in Applied Ecology and one in Evolutionary Zoology. Then peace will come for a while – then I’ll have to start thinking about Physics, since, after the passage from Biotechnology to Biological Sciences, I have to retake that exam. Whatevs. Anyway, I’m pretty proud of my relatively continuous dedication to this blog (written in a foreign language, I’d add), especially since at the beginning I was supposed to have TWO guys working on it, then the other guy retired without contributing to anything. So yeah, suck it everyone.

A little world made cunningly (UPDATED)

NOTE: BY THE TIME I’M WRITING THIS, ENRICO MADE CLEAR THAT HE’LL NEVER BE A REGULAR WRITER HERE AT THE CLADOGRAM. I’LL LEAVE THE FOLLOWING POST AS IT WAS, AND I HOPE HE’LL WRITE SOME GUEST ARTICLES IN THE FUTURE, BUT FOR NOW IT’S JUST YOU AND ME, FOLKS.

FRANCESCO

Hello readers, and welcome to The Cladogram!

To start things off, we should say what a cladogram is, and what this blog is for. A cladogram is the representation of an evolutionary tree, based on morphological, palaeontological and molecular data to ensure that it stands true to the real relations between biological groups and to their evolutionary history. It’s an essential tool for the study of biodiversity and evolution. And in a world where science, biology and ecology are becoming more and more important every day, it is our intention to do our best with what we know to try to convince you that even the most insignificant-looking creature is, to use John Donne’s words, “a little world made cunningly”.

We will post here about astoundingly interesting topics such as the effects of global warming on flamingoes, the reason why it is so important for mammals to stink and the crucial information you can obtain from monkey dung.

And now, to introduce ourselves:

Francesco

I was born in 1990 in Bologna, Italy, but my story actually started a long time before, in 1935, when naturalist Gerald Durrell (10 years old at the time) went to live on the greek island of Corfu. That sojourn became a source of inspiration for Durrell’s book My Family and other Animals: I read that book as a child, and it was one of the main reasons my interests, at the time focused only on dinosaurs (which I still regard as the most kick-ass Chordates to ever appear on this planet), started to broaden to all other animals, and from there to the wonderful world of ecology and evolution.

After one year of Biotechnology (not my choice, don’t ask) I finally went to study Biological Sciences here in Bologna, in the hope of becoming a researcher in the field I love the most. Other than biology and science in general, my main interests are travelling and watching movies (especially B-movies).

Enrico

A third-year Archaeology and Anthropology student at Cambridge University, my expertise lies mainly with primates, but I’ve also had some direct experience with all kinds of tropical flora and fauna in both Peru and Mexico. Besides primates and some practical stuff about life in the jungle, I don’t know nearly half as much as Francesco does about animals, but what I lack in knowledge I hope to make up for in electric enthusiasm. Yes, I am the 21-year-old that still drags his family to zoos and Natural History museums. My loves include the the grotesquely swollen nose of the proboscis monkey, the disturbingly anthropoid face of the barn owl, and the turquoise plumage of the swallow tanager, and I never cease to be amazed at how easily goats climb over the most impervious stone walls.

We hope that you will enjoy reading our blog as much as we will enjoy writing it, and please do comment our posts!