Adventures in Ethics and Science

Guest Blogger: Prof. Steve Steve


My esteemed Panda’s Thumb colleague John Wilkins invited me to attend the PSA meeting in Vancouver. It seemed like a good idea at the time, so I agreed.

Last evening started pleasantly enough. I met Wilkins, John Lynch, Ben Cohen and David Ng, and Janet Stemwedel (from whose blog I am writing to you now) for refreshments. Yes, there was a bit of confusion when it turned out that the hotel didn’t have an ice machine on every floor. As well, there was the puzzle of how properly to utilize the fresh limes for beverages in the absence of a knife. (The solution: quick and forceful jabs with a house-key. There was no suitably clever solution to the puzzle of how to extract a cork without a corkscrew, however, so the wine remained in its bottle.) Still, there was lively conversation and good cheer.

After the ScienceBloggers confab, we joined the larger conference reception, where I greeted an important philosopher of science:


Professor Kim Sterelny is noted for his work in the philosophy of biology, his appreciation of red wine, and his fabulous beard. It was a pleasure to have spent time with him at the reception.

And then, inexplicably, the evening went wrong for me. Wilkins and Lynch vanished into the crowd, and suddenly I was in a cab on my way to a dinner hosted by the Chemical Heritage Foundation. I was surrounded by historians, philosophers, and other scholars focused on the study of chemistry. Not that I have anything against chemistry — nor, as I quickly ascertained, did the assembled scholars have any worries about the soundness or fecundity of evolutionary theory. It’s just that they’re not accustomed to dining with a panda, even a learned one.

The dessert was nice, though.



  1. #1 John Lynch
    November 3, 2006

    Steve Steve:

    Well, we trusted Janet with you and thought that exposure to chemical-types would be good for you … that’s why we “disappeared”. Yeah, that’s it.

  2. #2 AndyS
    November 3, 2006

    There was no suitably clever solution to the puzzle of how to extract a cork without a corkscrew, however, so the wine remained in its bottle.

    Horrors! Your education is sadly lacking. Just take off your shoe and pound on the bottom of the bottle until the cork is sufficiently out of the bottle so you can grab it. Then just twist and pull. It is a great lesson in the transmission of force through fluids. (Note: this is not a suggested solution for a bottle of bubbly.)

  3. #3 John Wilkins
    November 3, 2006

    It was all just a ploy by the ursine maverick to evade a serious discussion with me and John. And besides, Janet is much more attractive than either of us. But I’ll catch up with you, Steve, whether you like it or not.

  4. #4 Super Sally
    November 3, 2006

    I guess hotel rooms don’t come equiped with kitchen scissors.

    When the corkscrew at my mon’s assisted living apt. disappeared, and I was “on duty” providing her care, I was desparate to have a nip of the wine I had brought along, I found I could (eventually) pry the cork out, and since it was one of the plastic type it didn’t shread. It was misshapen enough that there was NO HOPE of re-inserting it after I had had my limit for the evening. But I’m sure your group would not have been faced such a problem.

    Happy Vancouver.

  5. #5 RMD
    November 4, 2006

    That’s why both my car and Uncle Fishy’s are equipped with cheap plastic corkscrews in the glove compartments. Too many picnics spoiled by stubborn corks…

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