Pharyngula

Livin’ on the edge

There’s a great story in the Rake about the Dakotas—that place just a few miles west of where I’m sitting. This is an odd part of the world, where population is actually contracting and drifting away to leave our rural communities standing rather lonely and empty.

Quite obviously, North Dakota has a problem. Even as some of its cities grow and become more cosmopolitan and diverse, namely Fargo and Grand Forks, which huddle against the border of Minnesota, the rest of the state seems to be returning to nature. It’s a conundrum across the country, this decline in rural vitality, but the matter is especially dire in greater North Dakota, which threatens to empty out completely. Various survival plans have been floated. The more mundane involve tax breaks and other financial incentives for those willing to move to, say, the town of Tioga, in the northwestern quarter of the state. Other proposals are more unusual. One suggests turning the better part of the state into a federal grassland, where buffalo and prairie dogs could roam free. Another would make North Dakota a “four-seasons war games zone.” Proponents of that plan talk of the plethora of abandoned houses and barns and silos that the military could use for target practice. These are the people who refer to North Dakota, with very little irony, as “Dakistan.”

It’s not all bad news, though, and these old empty farmlands aren’t a dreadful place to live, as Tara attests. You have to like living at a slower, quieter pace, and you have to think it’s not such a terrible thing for human residents to move away and other beasties to move in.

You also have to be tolerant of interesting weather. Extremely cold temperatures (which we haven’t had much of this year), strong winds, occasional blizzards, tornadoes, the usual. And sometimes we get spectacular sundogs and weird phenomena I never heard of before, like this recent occurence of snow rollers. When the conditions are just right, high winds and temperatures right around freezing, Mother Nature rolls snowballs on the local fields.

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(via MNSpeak, and the snow rollers story was from some lady named Mary Gjerness Myers)

Comments

  1. #1 Charlie Wagner
    January 31, 2006

    Sorry if this is not in the appropriate thread, but the Dawkins thread seems to have scrolled out of range.

    But then again, that has never bothered me before ;-)

    Anyway, I acquired the Dawkins program “Root of All Evil?” and I must say I now have a new respect for Richard. It turns out that I agreed with almost everything he had to say about the evils of religion and “faith”, being a long-time adherent to the view of Bertrand Russell that “every single bit of progress of humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that…religion,…has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”
    http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell0.htm

    That having been said, as right as he is about religion, so he is equally wrong about evolution. He cannot seem to grasp the fact that his unyielding and adamant belief in darwinism is no different from the religious fundamentalists belief that God created the earth in 6 (or is it seven?) days.
    He claims that there is a “mountain of evidence” for darwinian evolution yet the truth is that there is not one shred of empirical evidence, either observational or experimental that connects mutation and selection to the emergence of highly organized structures, processes, systems and organisms. It is nothing more than a huge “leap of faith” that is in many ways no different from the religious fundamentalists belief in miracles. In fact, darwinism is *his* miracle and evolution is *his* religion and he appears unwilling to consider any evidence that opposes it. This makes him no different from the religious fundamentalist who denies clear and obvious facts that conflict with his faith.
    So the need to explain the world is hard-wired into our brains. Everyone needs his own “weltanschauung” to make sense of the world. Dawkins’ miracle, that life “evolved” by a series of small steps and his unwavering faith in evolution’s cumulative effect lacks no scientific support and is really no different from the belief that God “poofed” it all into existence from nothing. Why is Dawkins’ miracle more valid than that of Mike Behe or Bill Dembski?
    Many argue that intelligent design and religious creationism are not science. That’s true, they’re not. But the same rules of science must also apply to evolution and when measured by that standard, the scientific method, darwinism falls just as short as creationism for consideration as respectable science.
    The simple fact is that neither science or religion has the answers to the most basic questions that trouble human minds, where did we come from and why are we here? Each thinks they have the answer but in fact all they have is “faith”. Empirical evidence is conspicuous by its absence in all cases.
    If I had to choose between science and religion to eventually answer these questions, my money would be on science. Will science ever be able to answer these questions? Perhaps. But we may have to resign ourselves to the possibility that we will never know. And that’s a concession that few humans are willing to make.
    By the way, even though Richard and I disagree strongly on darwinism, I took no pleasure in seeing him get his ass kicked by a christian fundamentalist, an orthodox Jew and a Muslim. I would have edited those painful moments for sure!

  2. #2 feralboy12
    February 26, 2010

    For what it’s worth, my family cleared out of North Dakota in 1965. When my Dad found out he could make $1.75/hr as a carpenter in Oregon, we loaded up the car and left. Politics take a back seat to things like food and shelter.

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