Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: brains

Healthy Skepticism

Healthy Skepticism

They say your brain is operating, sir.
I’m waiting till I see the evidence.
Something, observers tell me, is astir:
They say your brain is operating. Sir,
I don’t deny that miracles occur—
But is this one in sync with past events?
They say your brain is operating, sir?
I’m waiting till I see the evidence.

–Tom Riley

Soul Signals

Soul Signals

The body odor of a hog
Signals what Mark Shea’s soul is like.
What frightens every neighbor’s dog?
The body odor of a hog,
Wit of decerebrated frog,
Conscience forever out on strike!
The body odor of a hog
Signals what Mark Shea’s soul is like.

–Tom Riley

'Massively Overweight' Pig, Fed Cookies & Donuts By Owner ...

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Race against the Clock

Race against the Clock

 
If you hurry,
you may evolve a brain
just in time.

 
–Tom Riley

 

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Skull Talk

Skull Talk

 
The skull there on your desk contains a brain
Of ectoplasm, plus two watching eyes.
You claim your living privacy in vain.
The skull there on your desk contains a brain
That forms a low opinion of you. Train
Your self-indulgent wits to realize
The skull there on your desk contains a brain
Of ectoplasm, plus two watching eyes!

 
–Tom Riley

 

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Thoughtfulness

Thoughtfulness

 

 

I say the things Carl Sagan might have said,
The things that you might hear on NPR.
With thoughtful thoughtfulness I move ahead.
I know how vapid all my critics are.
Talk radio is playing at the bar—
So, people, I refuse to have a drink.
Rush Limbaugh may be smoking a cigar.
I tap my pipe – and, thoughtfully, I think.
You posit problems? I don’t even blink.
My mental gaze is piercing all the smoke
You generate, as thick and black as ink.
Your challenge to my thoughtfulness? A joke!
Your answers I don’t have to try to guess.
They all proceed from thoughtless thoughtlessness.

 

 

–Tom Riley

Something Special

Something Special

 

 

My brain is something special, you should know—
A miracle of sheer complexity.
The highest heavens eagerly bow low
Before the vastness they perceive in me.
Except they can’t perceive. Unhappily,
They’re nothing but uncomplicated space
And simple elements that can’t agree
To join and form a faintly-smiling face.
The cosmos is a deck – and I’m the Ace
Of Stunning Spades, by virtue of my brain.
I may not have a fast computing pace—
But, oh, the things my neurons can contain!
My feet are on the ground. I will not lie.
But, in my brain, I rule the lofty sky.

 

 

–Tom Riley

High Evolutionary

High Evolutionary

 

 

“There was a sequence of increasing complexity and perfection, reaching its apogee, of course, in civilized man.”

 

 

–Alice Roberts, The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being.

 

 

On my advanced state, I am getting high.
Behold my multitude of adaptations!
Look through the shiny window of my eye
And see my brain, the seat of cogitations!
How glorious my many complications!
How wonderful my placement under skies
That are mere planetary exhalations
And lack my human power to realize!
But, if you smirking, whiskey-bibbing guys
Challenge my evolutionary status
And suggest that my braininess ain’t wise
And offer your subversive queries gratis,
Look it up – and you’ll see that I am right!
The entry’s “Evolutionary Height.”

 

 

–Tom Riley

 

 

(Note: Some time ago, a Facebook friend started a thread on evolutionary matters, as viewed from a Christian perspective, and on his own thread posted the ludicrous comment that there was nothing in the universe more complicated than the human brain.

I reacted to this arrogant and unscientific formulation with the scorn that it deserved. I confess that I wasn’t thinking solely in evolutionary terms. It seemed clear to me that, however complex the human brain became, and, yea, even if it became the brain of the Hulk supervillain known as the Leader, it could never be the most complex object in the universe. My simple little brain told me that even the imaginary superbrain was only a part of the body, so that, if the brain was complicated, the body of which it was a part had to be even more complicated.

This is Aristotelian – and maybe even Scholastic – logic. But it’s not a bit less valid in its proper context for all that. It has all the overwhelming force of a geometric proof, at least as far as I can see.

And beyond this argument, of course, if you really know your Darwin, you know that all this humans-as-the-apex-of-biological-evolution stuff is ridiculous. Human beings are really rather undeveloped animals. No man can even take on a chimp in an arm-wrestle, let alone engage in hand-to-paw combat with a tiger. The human brain is much smaller than the elephant brain and presumably contains fewer neurons. Plus, if there’s life elsewhere in the universe, there may be biological brains many times as complex as any brain on earth. If humans are exceptional, it may be because of something in their brains – but it’s not because their brains are the most complex objects in the universe. Q.E.D.

I didn’t get to express my scorn in these terms on the Facebook thread. My Facebook friend abruptly cut me off. How was it possible for us to say that the human brain was the most complicated blah, blah, blah? My Facebook friend told me: “You could look it up!” Another participant in the thread – a science writer in the Boston area – appeared to think that I was some sort of naïve Biblical fundamentalist, as he imagined that category. More arrogance from the most complicated brains in the universe! He referred me to “The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being,” by Alice Roberts, as a place to start in revising my mistaken worldview.

And there my involvement in the great controversy concluded.

Now I know why my Facebook friend excluded me from the realm of acceptable discourse. He at least could not have supposed that I was unfamiliar with evolutionary theory. He understands that I know Darwin a lot better than he does. My Facebook friend was worried about something altogether other.

He thought I was going to go off on his science writer friend. He thought I was going to start pouring forth abusive Spenserian sonnets. “Contra me loquebantur qui sedebant in porta et cantabant bibentes vinum.” And, although I didn’t have this course of action on my mind when I was cut off, my Facebook friend was probably right. In the long run, that’s the kind of thing that I always do.

So was I too guilty of arrogance? Not at all. I went and did the assignment. I acquired and read “The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being.”

It wasn’t a bad book. It wasn’t something I really needed to read, since I already knew Darwin and his heirs pretty darn well. But it wasn’t a bad book.

And it was well worth the trouble for a reason that my Facebook professors didn’t even imagine. Dr. Alice Roberts turned out to be the most gorgeous biologist who’d ever directed a dissection. Ouch, that girl was a babe! I would be joyfully present in her lecture hall every day of the week, though I might have trouble concentrating on the class material.

Go look her up and you’ll see what I mean.

Besides, when I read the book, I found that my new evolutionary girlfriend – characterized as an “anatomist,” no less! – explicitly took my side in the brain controversy, not the side of my opponents. All that beauty and rectitude, too! In the passage quoted above, the Goddess of Darwinism is mocking the very arrogance that I sneered at! She’s dismissing it as a corruption of Darwinian theory. She too thinks that it’s positively imbecilic to say such things as, “The human brain is the most complicated object in the universe.”

And, naturally, since she agrees with me, she’s right.

–T.R.)

Granted

Granted

 

 

“Granted, I’m no genius….”

 

 

Let nobody deny you there, Miss Smile!
You put it just as clearly as you could–
and all who know you line up in the aisle
to say amen, as certainly they should.
If geniuses are evil, you are good.
If geniuses are troubled, you’re serene.
And, if there is a genius neighborhood,
you’re on the other side of town. How keen
your wits became when that one truth was seen
so perfectly! Of course, such moments fade.
It’s hard to keep your primitive machine
of neurons on the route of that parade.
If evolution’s true, Darwin agrees:
you left your own brain stranded in the trees.

 

 

–Tom Riley

De Cerebro Robusto

De Cerebro Robusto

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You’ve insulted my powerful brain!”

He was moved by his ass to complain.

     “You’ve accused me of error!

     What could be, well, unfairer?

You have proof?  You present it in vain!”

 

 

 

 

 

–Tom Riley