ERV at the Texas Freethought Convention!

Even though the real ERV is a) hiding in an undisclosed location and b) blinded by a week long migraine from this stress, you can still enjoy me via video taken at the Texas Freethought Convention!

First of all, that was an absolutely fantastic introduction. I loved it! I felt like a total ass for changing my topic at the last minute :-/

Aaaaaand I was totally terrified. The largest group of normal people I think Ive talked to, ever. And not just normal people. Normal people who really like science and were really excited to learn something new. My inner thoughts as I was walking up the stage stairs: “DONTFUCKTHISUPDONTFUCKTHISUPDONTFUCKTHISUP!!!!”

I would also like to give the sound people props again. It was a pleasure to use their mic, and thats a rarity!

Terrified, hopped up on caffeine ERV:

TFC 2010: Abigail Smith from Zachary Moore on Vimeo.

Comments

  1. #1 vhutchison
    November 11, 2010

    Good job! Keep after ‘em.

  2. #2 Alex
    November 11, 2010

    You say early in your talk that endogenous retroviruses are the weak point of creationism because creationists don’t know anything about it and don’t have a response. Well, it is probably true that they don’t currently know much about it, and it is certainly true (as for many other topics) that they don’t have a scientifically valid response to the evidence.

    However, creationists do in fact have rhetorically useful (not to be confused with scientifically valid) responses to many points of evolutionary biology, and many of those responses are useful to them. If ERVs (the viruses, not you) become a common talking point among those debating creationists, I am confident that creationists will, um, evolve, and come up with some sort of talking point that serves their purposes, keeps the faithful assured, sounds sophisticated to the easily-impressed, etc.

    In a way, creationist talking points are examples of rapid evolution on human time scales. They’ve gone from selling flood geology to God of the gaps to irreducible complexity to “just a theory” to very weak disclaimers about the nature of the scientific method. Still bullshit, but let’s face it, a sticker saying something about the need to critically evaluate the evidence in the evolution chapter (or whatever their current tactic is for dealing with First Amendment challenges to their curricular proposals) is pretty thin stuff compared with Flood Geology. They are a textbook example of a parasite evolving to evade a competitor.

  3. #3 MikeMa
    November 11, 2010

    Great talk Abbie. I can see why the work you do get you juiced most days.

  4. #4 CW
    November 11, 2010

    Great talk. It makes me want to go out and either tell people about endogenous retroviruses, or debate a Creationist! Thank you.

  5. #5 denature
    November 12, 2010

    I liked the analogy with gene duplications and computers.
    1. Was that original or have you heard that used before?
    2. May I steal it?

  6. #6 Shout in Darkness
    November 12, 2010

    Well done, Abbie!

    You are really good at this!

  7. #7 Scott
    November 12, 2010

    You used MacGuyver as a verb in a talk about evolution. I’m pretty sure you’re now my hero.

    Nice talk. =D

  8. #8 ChrisG
    November 12, 2010

    It was a wonderful discussion, Abbie – you most def did not fuck it up. :-)

    Hope that I get to hear you again in the not too distant future!

  9. #9 The Curmudgeon
    November 12, 2010

    Abigail??? All this time I thought you were a guy named Irv.

  10. #10 Tyler
    November 12, 2010

    Lol! “Dickish” FTFW. Good talk, stimulating and concise without being boring.

  11. #11 Dick
    November 12, 2010

    Your eyes are scary.

  12. #12 Rheanna Sand
    November 12, 2010

    Awesome talk! How frustrating that the best arguments are also the ones that fly over the heads of the masses. I also like the human touch you’ve given to evolution… it’s about Mom’s breast cancer. Yes.

  13. #13 DrDuke
    November 12, 2010

    Arguing whether or not evolution if for reals misses the point. The point is more about whether humans can have morals and ethics, and whether we can find purpose and goals in life without belief in a Big Man up there taking care of us.

  14. #14 Chiefley
    November 13, 2010

    Abbie,
    A very effective presentation style. There is a kind of informal, unrehearsed quality to it that projects a great deal of sincerity. But it is backed up by a crackling intelligence and those playful but highly effective analogies.

    This is excellent science and excellent science presentation. Thanks for all of this.

  15. #15 complex field
    November 13, 2010

    Abbie, great talk, keep up the good work!!

    @11 — reminds me of the Russian folk song, “Oche Chornya”

  16. #16 Tommykey
    November 13, 2010

    You used MacGuyver as a verb in a talk about evolution. I’m pretty sure you’re now my hero.

    Actually, I liked the “rail gun” reference, because it is one of the turret upgrades in Halo Wars.

    Nice presentation Abbie.

  17. #17 TonyC
    November 16, 2010

    ARGHHH!

    The guy introducing you spoke about bacteria being ‘smart enough’ to eventually ‘overcome penicillin’!

    NOOOEEEESSS!!!!!!

    Not smarts – simply population dynamics and variation within populations (through mutation, plasmid exchange, & c)

    The natural population dynamic meant that some bacteria were naturally resistant to penicillin – they survived! By killing all the penicillin-susceptible critters, those survivors simply spread out to take advantage of the now vacant environmental niches!

    The changed environment changed the population survival opportunities and challenges.

    that’s all!

    OH! your talk was teh kool!

  18. #18 Mobius
    November 16, 2010

    I finally got to watch you talk last night. Good speech. But “accidentliest”???

  19. #19 Neil
    November 18, 2010

    Great talk. Are you on twitter Abi? I tried to find you but no luck.

  20. #20 C. Johnston
    November 18, 2010

    Learn how to give serious presentations to the adults and not the children. Find another cute schtick that doesn’t involve childish terms like dickish. The grad school boys seem to think that’s funny and sexy. Don’t play this cutsie game in the real world where your remarks and behavior will get you fired. That’s if you find a job given the rest of the crude and inane comments on your blog all of which are out there for employers to see.

  21. #21 Tommykey
    November 18, 2010

    Thank you for your concern, C. Johnston. I’m sure Abbie is setting up a swear words jar in her lab right now in response to your comments.

  22. #22 ERV
    November 18, 2010

    I hate it when I dont really have time to comment, so I ignore really good comments/questions, and then a dumb troll comes along and magically I have time to comment… :( Sorry guys. BUT…

    C. Johnson, you arent an atheist (or you dont follow basic atheistic cultural events).

    You arent a geek.

    How the hell did you even *find* ERV, and what possessed you to even watch this video? And then comment? As if you will wander back this way to respond…

  23. #23 Science Avenger
    November 18, 2010

    C. Johnston is bloviating out his bunghole. I was sitting in the audience and I can tell you it was not just grad school boys, but middle-aged adults who thought Abbie’s presentation was funny, intelligent, and (dare I say it) sexy. Using words like “dickish” and “accidentliest” brings the image of the scientist down from the ivory tower to accessible earth with the rest of us mere mortals, which is what we need MORE of as we battle the forces of ignorance, not less. Abbie was scheduled for exactly that reason, and she performed beyond expectations. I can only hope we can get her to join us at more such events.

    Oh, and Dick, the eyes are even scarier up close. :)

  24. #24 Prometheus
    November 18, 2010

    “Don’t play this cutsie game in the real world where your remarks and behavior will get you fired. That’s if you find a job given the rest of the crude and inane comments on your blog all of which are out there for employers to see.”

    Can we come up with a new and less transparent strategy to throw a wet blanket free speech already?

    It is always spoken like someone who has never been an employer and hasn’t the first clue what an employer looks for, hence also spoken like a shitty employee.

    I’m picturing a pseudo civil servant (BTK/Dennis Rader springs to mind).

    Clear confident and accessible communicators are the ones that get hired. In the real world, judicious use of the f-bomb can save you a week in arbitration.

    Being cutsie, personable and seeking attention to get your message out is something people do who have their work done and shit together.

    They aren’t trying to hide the fact they have spent the last three hours peeking over the cubicle at the clock and hoping the doped up coed they snagged at lunch doesn’t get out of the trunk.

    Oh fiddlesticks, that reminds me…

    B.R.B.

  25. #25 R. Schauer
    November 19, 2010

    C. Johnson, for additional clarity: try to focus on the content and not the package. Great talk, Ab…pwned!

  26. #26 Jon Peters
    November 22, 2010

    Dear ERV -

    I’ve been reading some of your past counters to creationists regarding ERVs and need your help with Peter Borger’s flip of ERV definition and interpretation. This is too technical for me, but I’d love to counter his new paradigm when discussing with my YEC friends and family. HELP!!

    http://creation.com/vige-introduction

    Part 3 of 4 specifically discusses ERVs, but to understand his reworking of the genetics, one would need to at least review all four parts. Or, if you can point me to a site that discusses why his view is incorrect, that would be a help also.

    Thanks,
    JFP

  27. #27 Kemanorel
    November 22, 2010

    @13

    Arguing whether or not evolution if for reals misses the point. The point is more about whether humans can have morals and ethics, and whether we can find purpose and goals in life without belief in a Big Man up there taking care of us.

    1.) Go read Sam Harris’s new book. He covers this topic in depth. And it is not the focus of Abby’s talk.

    2.) How is it not about whether evolution is real or not? It’s one of the most important aspects of biology, if not THE MOST important. It plays a role in almost every aspect of medicine. It’s important information, religious or not.

  28. #28 charles soper
    November 24, 2010

    The problem of highly functional ERVs that show ‘convergent evolution’ like the syncitial genes (at least 3 different ERVs in different mammalian groups), of untraceably spliced deletions that foil conventional phylogenetic trees, and of odd orthologous sequences still make me think you’re presenting a case you want to make more watertight than it really is.
    Borger’s ideas develop exogenisation of a kind raised before.

  29. #29 Pluribara
    January 18, 2011

    To whome it may concern,

    Darwinians have it upside down.

    RNA viruses have their origin in genomes! For a summary see:

    http://blog.drwile.com/?p=1106

    For more information:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19736519
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21215797
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19845643

    Cheers,

    PB

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