Seven things that make me happy right now

1) Republican “leaders” in the House of “Representatives” giving up, at least temporarily, on their latest attempt to deface and destroy the Arctic wilderness.

2) The good people of Dover, Pennsylvania voting in a new slate of school board candidates who have promised to restore natural causation to the science curriculum – and incidentally restore religion to its rightful position as an outside counter-weight to scientific hubris. (If only Kansas voters were less credulous about arguments that denature and attempt to second-guess Creation!)

3) The impossibility of discerning what is most likely to be true apart from considerations of what appears to be the most beautiful (or, as scientists like to say, elegant). As the New Yorker’s exposé on “intelligent design” points out, “to scientists, a good theory is one that inspires new experiments and provides unexpected insights into familiar phenomena.” Over the past century or more since the general acceptance of Darwin and Wallace’s theory of evolution by natural selection, some of those insights have included the astonishingly beautiful ideas of coevolution, convergent evolution, and cladistics. I.D., by contrast, “has inspired no nontrivial experiments and has provided no surprising insights into biology. As the years pass, intelligent design looks less and less like the science it claimed to be and more and more like an extended exercise in polemics.” And what could be uglier than that?

4) The fact that, thanks to evolution, one can think compassionately and synergistically, comprehending the world as numinous Creation – or givenness, as a philosopher might say. One corollary of this is that one can appreciate – and, with luck, communicate – the beauty of scientific theories without fully understanding the complex math, chemistry or physics upon which they are based, thus keeping one’s head from hurting too much.

5) The presence of readers who are co-creators, and writers who co-evolve and sometimes converge – in the blogosphere and beyond.

6) The fact that the beauty- and symmetry-obsessed Navajos, well in advance of J. B. S. Haldane, gave primacy in their creation story to the Air-Spirit People – insects. Long before anything else stirred,

Yellow beetles lived there. Hard beetles lived there. Stone-carrier beetles lived there. Black beetles lived there. Coyote-dung beetles lived there. … Whitefaced beetles made their homes there…

7) The pear tree behind my house, which this year turned a wondrous shade of orange instead of its usual dingy yellow.

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With beauty before me, I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty above me, I walk.
With beauty below me, I walk.
With beauty all around me, I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

(Navajo chantway refrain)

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