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John Gaudet
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Ecologist, worked in African swamps and papyrus. Expert on the plant, its history, general ecology and use in ancient paper. In his book The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown says a map that shows the location of the Holy Grail resides inside a ‘cryptex' marble cylinder that can be opened only with a secret code. He also says that in your anxiety to open it, if you use the wrong code, a vial of vinegar contained therein will be broken and the map drawn on papyrus paper will turn to mush. It may allow you to rest easy knowing that if you had such a cryptex, you can open it without fear because papyrus is not affected by vinegar. Please let me know if you have any interest in any of the above.
Ecologist, worked in African swamps and papyrus. Expert on the plant, its history, general ecology and use in ancient paper. In his book The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown says a map that shows the location of the Holy Grail resides inside a ‘cryptex' marble cylinder that can be opened only with a secret code. He also says that in your anxiety to open it, if you use the wrong code, a vial of vinegar contained therein will be broken and the map drawn on papyrus paper will turn to mush. It may allow you to rest easy knowing that if you had such a cryptex, you can open it without fear because papyrus is not affected by vinegar. Please let me know if you have any interest in any of the above.

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Great pre-publication review of my latest book (avail on Amazon Oct 4) https://tinyurl.com/y76k5dp7

Kirkus Reviews

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Latest review from Kirkus https://tinyurl.com/y76k5dp7
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The Darwin I Thought I Knew

It started, as many innocent things do, as a seemingly simple task, “Just once a week for about an hour.” Easy enough, I was sure. It was my first time out as a young college professor at a new university on Long Island. I would be teaching a general freshman class in biology with a twist. The department head thought we should divide up the class of 100 or so and have them meet for a mini-seminar once a week in which a single theme would be discussed. That year the topic would be ‘Darwin and the Origin of Species.’ Each staff member would be assigned to lead one of these sessions each week.
It sounded like a snap, after all, I had been in training in biological sciences for ten years, leading to a Ph. D. in plant sciences. As I prepared for the first session I thought it wise to have a quick look at Darwin’s 1859 classic, On the Origin of Species. In the library I also read several general articles on creation and the evolution of life and then I skimmed through a special issue of Life magazine on The Universe, an edition that had just come out written by a famous editor, David Bergamini.
Feeling more and more confident as I crammed my head with facts and figures, I confronted a senior member of staff, George Williams, who happened to be an expert on Darwin and animal evolution, and asked him for advice. He offered two things, “One, when you start talking about Darwin’s concept of species and the survival of the fittest, remember it only works if the survivor can sexually reproduce. Otherwise, any adaptation that the animal happens to come up with will be lost.”
“Right,” I said, “sex is important.” Then I added, “That should be an easy concept to get across to a class of college students. Anything else?”
“Oh, also remind them that Darwin had little to say about the origin of life. His big effort involved the origin of species, well after life as we know it was underway.”
To reinforce this last he pointed out one place in The Origin of Species where Darwin said that “all the organic beings which have ever lived on this Earth may be descended from some primordial form.” From this I gathered he appreciated the enormity of the task involved with tracing back the origin of life. This, coupled with the mention of the word 'Creator' in the last paragraph of the book, led me to believe that he probably was never willing to commit himself too far on the matter.
The class went well after an initial hesitation. The drill was for me to introduce the topic with a short statement about Darwin, his life and thoughts on evolution, and then promote some discussion by asking a few provocative questions to start things going. “After all,” I reminded them, “it is a seminar not a lecture.”
In my introduction I put forward the idea promoted by Life magazine that about 13 billion years ago new matter was created as the universe expanded. Once it cooled sufficiently this new matter allowed the formation of giant clouds of primordial elements. Organic life would begin 4 billion years ago and that would be followed by the evolution of plants and animals which came along about 500 mill years ago.
Not long into the discussion that followed, one young man raised his hand. From his accent, demeanor and attitude, I took him to be from New York City. That year the Vietnam War had taken a serious turn and, although active resistance to the draft was yet to come, our biological sciences department had experienced a sharp uptick in enrollment of young males who intended to get into medicine, fast. One advantage of our college was that it was located on Long Island close to New York City, a second advantage was that a major in biosciences at our place was a cheap and easy way to avoid the draft.
“What’s wrong with the old idea of six 24-hour days?”
“You mean like in the Bible?”
“Yeah. I read that we can trace all the ancestors and their ages back to the beginning. They say if you add them all up, it points to only 10,000 years ago when things began to pop.”
I explained that Darwin found fossils in ancient rock formations that were millions of years old. This told him that prehistoric animals were roaming the savannahs of Patagonia during very ancient times. “For him it was an epiphany,” I added.
“Oh, then what about maybe God has the power to make everything look old. He could have done it all yesterday for all we know.”
“The whole universe?” I asked incredulously. “You mean he started up the whole universe then aged it to look old on purpose?”
“Why not? Look what he did with Adam and Eve.”
“What?”
“He made them both as adults. They didn’t even have to grow up.”
I waited for someone to add the word “cool,” as I was almost certain would happen, but it didn’t, and he didn’t smirk, though he did make eye contact. For a New Yorker I supposed that must have been a really significant gesture.
“Okay,” I said trying to lead the discussion back to something more productive, “let’s skip forward to…”
“I’ve read the book,” he said interrupting my train of discussion.
“The Origin of Species?”
“Yeah, cover to cover.”
“And?”
“Darwin used the word ‘Creator’ several times in several places.”
“So?”
“I think he used that word when he got in over his head.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like when he talks about the eye. Really complicated stuff. It’s not an easy thing to make an eye, too complicated for others, but not for the Creator.” He then reached into his book bag, pulled out his copy and read us the relevant passage, “…and may we not believe that a living optical instrument might thus be formed as superior to one of glass, as the works of the Creator are to those of man?"
“What did he mean by that?” asked a startlingly attractive female student in the front row.
“Did Darwin believe in God?” asked another student.
“Yes,” I answered and was about to add, “to the best of my knowledge,” when I hesitated.
How did I know, I asked myself, realizing I was in over my head. I really didn’t know that much about Darwin’s personal life. I quickly steered the discussion elsewhere.
The next day, as soon as I could, I made it my business to look up George.
Over coffee, I asked, “Was he a religious man, a Christian?”
“Depends on whether you call a Unitarian a Christian,” he said laughing. Then seeing that I was serious about this he told me that Darwin as a young man was a believer. “Darwin even recalled that as a child he would daydream about being the discoverer of written notes or full statements on papyrus scrolls that would corroborate the Bible. On board the Beagle he would even go so far as to offer Biblical answers to arguments with the men on board. Then as he developed his theory of evolution further, he drifted away from religion, even staying away from Sunday service. In middle age he was so far away from the Church that he described himself as an Agnostic. It was an evolution of sorts,” said George.
“Well,” I said, “that doesn’t help.”
“Why not?”
“My class has decided that the world, the universe and man were all done in six days. They also decided the thing was too complicated to be left to chance, as Darwin’s work suggests, so they concluded that someone had to supervise it all very closely.”
“I’m surprised they didn’t bring up the watch.”
“What watch?”
“In 1802 Rev, William Paley proposed that if he found a watch on the ground while crossing a heath, he might ask the question, ‘How did it come to be there?’ If it were something else, like a stone, he’d have said that it had been there forever, but the same answer would hardly apply in the case of a watch. In that case we see immediately that the watch was built for a purpose and therefore must have a maker. Someone at some place and time had to design and construct it.”
“So, because the students in the seminar see evidence of the Universe around them every day they must conclude that there has to be a maker?”
"Right. And your job will be to prove to them what most biologists believe today, which is that evolution is a fair contestant to replace God in the role of watchmaker. Did they provide any examples?”
“Yes, the human eye.”
“I thought so.”
“Why?
“They’re always doing that, and they’re not alone.”
“I see what you mean,” I said, “if someone asked me for an example of God’s hand in the formation of man, I’d say the same thing. I mean from what little I know about it, the eye seems pretty complex and yet works well.”
“Hold it,” he said. “Back up. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said ‘what little I know.’”
“Oh?”
“Any anatomist with a background in evolution will tell you that the human eye needs to be redesigned.”
“Why?”
“Because several things are wrong with it, the most noticeable being the placement of the retina.”
“Oh?”
“Our eyes have a loose application of the retina that makes us vulnerable, it’s so easy to detach. It causes doctors and patients a great deal of time and money to repair it. This wouldn’t happen if the nerve fibers formed an optic nerve behind the eye, like in the squid.”
“The squid?”
“Yes. And so unlike our tentacled friends we’re stuck with a stupid upside-down orientation of a loosely placed retina.”
“Okay, that helps. What else?”
He provided me with more grist for the mill enabling me to approach the second weekly seminar with a vengeful mind. My aim was to put all this behind us and move on, leaving the question of intelligent design in the dust if need be. And it went well. Many more students had read the book or at least skimmed the important parts and a lively discussion ensued, as I hoped it would, including a discussion of the survival of species and adaptation. There was also a spirited defense of Darwin over the likes of the Rev. Paley’s watch.
After class I approached Mr. Smart Ass from New York and, since it no longer seemed to be an issue, asked bluntly if he really believed in God the Creator. “I gave all that up when I stopped believing in Santa Clause,” he said.
“What,” I exclaimed. “Then why did you get us going on the six days of creation bit?”
“You saw that fantastic woman sitting in the front row?”
“Yes,” I admitted sheepishly, now feeling a bit embarrassed as I thought of myself as a confirmed feminist.
“She and I are an item. She comes from a local Long Island family that lives by the Bible. She even says grace before we eat in the cafeteria. I just did it to impress her. By the way,” he continued, “that guy Darwin makes a big pitch about males.”
“I know.”
"As the Man said, it's a contest. Us males have to sing to attract the females, or display some gorgeous plumage, or perform strange dances before she chooses the most attractive partner. In my case, I use my ability to lay it on. My being one with the Creator will pave the way, believe me." With that he went on his way and I left to prepare for the week ahead.

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Audience at the Bowers Museum Auditorium, Santa Ana CA talk on papyrus earlier this year
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Had a fantastic time at the Bowers' Museum in Santa Ana California last week. Exciting crowd of people interested in papyrus and Egypt attended my lecture and bought all copies of the book available! Lunch at the Tangata restaurant in the museum also a treat.
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Have a wonderful day G+  

 scarlet macaw  large, red  yellow and blue

The scarlet macaw  is a large, red, yellow and blue South American parrot, a member of a large group of Neotropical parrots called macaws. It is native to humid evergreen forests of tropical South America. Range extends from extreme south-eastern Mexico to Amazonian Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil in lowlands up to 500 m (1,640 ft) (at least formerly) up to 1,000 m (3,281 ft). It has suffered from local extinction through habitat destruction and capture for the parrot trade, but locally it remains fairly common. Formerly it ranged north to southern Tamaulipas. It can still be found on the island of Coiba. It is the national bird of Honduras

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