Theological disproof of evolution? Hornworms and braconid wasps

November 7, 2011

“Nature red in tooth and claw,” the poet Tennyson said.

Darwin thought these critters a clear disproof of creationism — no god would make such creatures intentionally!

Mark reports at The Divine Afflatus:

Hornworm Hosts its Destruction

While admiring some ground cherries outside my front door, I noticed a number of leaves had been stripped off. Not grazed on by the deer that frequent the area, more like eaten by caterpillars. After a brief search I spotted a hornworm munching away. I didn’t bother killing the hornworm because, after all, the ground cherries are weeds growing amongst the black-eyed susans, and it’s less work for me if they take care of the weeds.

I looked again a few days later, and saw that the hornworm had sprouted numerous white appendages. These are the cocoons of pupating braconid wasps. Braconid wasps are parasitoids that inject their eggs beneath the skin of the host (hornworms are favored by the braconid wasp Contesia congregatus). After feeding on the convenient meal surrounding them, the wasp larvae emerge and spin their coccons, attached to the body of the unfortunate hornworm. In a few days, adult wasps emerge from their cocoons, leaving a dead caterpillar.

I later spotted a second hornworm, which suffered the same fate as the first.


How about we get a government big enough, strong enough, and smart enough to protect your right to vote?

November 7, 2011

Oy.  Here’s a doozy from the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate newsletter:

Washingtonians who recently registered to vote using the Department of Licensing’s website may not have actually been added to the rolls, the Secretary of State’s office disclosed today in a late afternoon media advisory.

The Department of Licensing, which issues driver’s licenses, vehicle licenses, and boat licenses, allows voters to request that their voter registration be updated when they update their driver’s license. DOL also allows Washingtonians to register to vote when obtaining a license through its website.

But apparently, DOL hasn’t been forwarding these new and updated voter registrations to the Secretary of State’s office. Until last Friday, that is.

The Secretary of State’s office says a total of 21,000 voters may potentially be affected in some way by the blunder.

Here’s a more detailed explanation from co-elections director Katie Blinn:

When people update their address for their driver’s license with the state Department of Licensing, they can also request to update their address for voter registration purposes. This program is commonly known as Motor-Voter. DOL recently added a question about voter registration to its address update page on its website. However, the Secretary of State’s office has not been receiving these voter registration updates from DOL, and therefore has not been able to pass these updates on to the county elections offices. The Secretary of State’s Office just received the information Friday evening, just two business days before Election Day.

Obviously, ballots have already been mailed to voters, so this is a problem. The question is… how big of a problem?

Approximately 14,800 address updates were submitted to DOL that were not received by the Secretary of State’s Office. However, we think that county elections offices had already received some of these address changes due to voters contacting the elections office directly, or receiving address update information from the Post Office.

We think? Wouldn’t it be better to know for sure?

An additional 5,900 people requested to update their voter registration information on the DOL website, but were not previously registered. The information previously provided by the DOL address update system is not sufficient to complete a new voter registration so these people will be receiving a notice from their county elections office asking them to complete the registration. They can respond to the notice or fill out a new voter registration form. If anyone wants to vote in this General Election, they can go to their county elections office to vote a provisional ballot and complete the registration.

Great. So that means nearly six thousand people who thought they’d done what they needed to do to be added to the rolls didn’t actually get added, and now they’re going to have jump through more hoops in order to vote.

KING-TV Channel 5 points out a dispute between two arms of the state government, each giving different versions of the story behind why the 21,000 Washingtonians didn’t get their ballots as required by law.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

WA Secretary of State: As many as 21,000 ballot…, posted with vodpod

Is this the result of years of budget cuts?  Have we finally cut even great state governments like Washington to the point that they cannot even get the ballots out anymore?

Time to stop cutting government budgets, eh?

November 7, Elijah Lovejoy and the cause of abolition

November 7, 2011

Many key events on November 7.  November 17, 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution replaced the Kerensky government in Russia, for example.  The Bolsheviks pulled Russia out of World War I, and set the nation on a course towards soviet government whose advocacy of soviet communism would be one of the major issues of the 20th century.

Let us not forget the death of Elijah Lovejoy on November 7, 1837.  Lovejoy edited an abolitionist newspaper in Alton, Illinois — then a rival of St. Louis and larger than Chicago.

A pro-slavery mob murdered Lovejoy on November 7, 1837.  Details from the American Memory project at the Library of Congress; all links go to the Library of Congress sources:

Elijah Lovejoy

a page of text with a silhouette image of Lovejoy

Elijah Parish Lovejoy,


Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

On November 7, 1837, Elijah Parish Lovejoy was killed by a pro-slavery mob while defending the site of his anti-slavery newspaper The Saint Louis Observer. His death both deeply affected many individuals who opposed slavery and greatly strengthened the cause of abolition.

Sacramental Scene in a Western Forest
“Sacramental Scene in a Western Forest,”
Lithograph by P. S. Duval, ca. 1801,
from Joseph Smith, Old Redstone,
Copyprint. Philadelphia: 1854,
General Collections, Library of Congress.
Section VII: Religion and the New Republic,
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

Lovejoy, who was born on November 9, 1802, in Albion, Maine, decided to seek his fortune in the Midwest after graduating from college. Short on funds, he walked to St. Louis, Missouri, where, over time, he became editor and part-owner of The St. Louis Times. His name appeared in the Times for the first time on August 14, 1830, and for the last time—as editor—on February 18, 1832.

In 1832, caught up in the powerful religious revival movement sweeping the U.S. and its frontier territories, Lovejoy experienced a conversion, which led him to sell his interests in the paper and enroll in Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. Two years later, a group of St. Louis businessmen, who sought to start a newspaper to promote religious and moral education, recruited Lovejoy to return to the city as editor of The St. Louis Observer.

Lovejoy, supported by abolitionist friends such as Edward Beecher (the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), became ever more radical in his anti-slavery editorials. He first supported African recolonization then endorsed gradual emancipation. By 1835, he sanctioned abolition in the District of Columbia, and, by 1837, championed immediate universal emancipation.

Lovejoy’s editorials raised local ire while they increased national circulation. A group of local citizens, including the future Senator Thomas Hart Benton, declared that freedom of speech did not include the right to speak against slavery. As mob violence increased over the issue, Lovejoy, now a husband and father, decided to move his family to Alton, across the Mississippi River in the free state of Illinois.

Alton, Illinois

The City of Alton, Illinois,


Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

At the time Elijah Lovejoy moved to Alton it was “a booming town.” Alton had some 2,500 residents and was considered both the rival of St. Louis and a far more important Illinois city than Chicago.

Mobs had destroyed Lovejoy’s presses on a number of occasions, but when a new press arrived in November 1837, the violence escalated. No sooner was the new press offloaded from the steamboat Missouri Fulton than a drunken mob formed and tried to set fire to the warehouse where it was stored. When Lovejoy ran out to push away a would-be-arsonist, he was shot.

Throughout the North and West, membership in anti-slavery societies increased sharply following Lovejoy’s death. Yet officials in Illinois, with one exception, made little comment. Twenty-eight year old State Representative Abraham Lincoln stated publicly:

Let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children’s liberty…Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother…in short let it become the political religion of the nation…1

  • Search the collection Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 on Elijah P. Lovejoy and Alton Trials to find items pertaining to the progression of the Alton riots and the death of Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy.
  • Learn more about the Second Great Awakening, the religious movement that swept the U.S. between the inaugurations of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. See Section VII of the online exhibition Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.
  • Search across the American Memory “Photos, Prints” collections on the terms Missouri and Illinois for more images. Search on the term press for images of a wide variety of printing presses more modern than those in use during the life of Elijah Lovejoy.
  • Search across all collections on the term press for images of a wide variety of printing presses more modern than those used during the life of Elijah Lovejoy.
  • See the Abolition section of the online exhibition The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship which discusses anti-slavery movements in the nation, and the rise of the sectional controversy.

1 Paul Simon, Freedom’s Champion: Elijah Lovejoy (Southern Illinois University Press: 1994), 163.

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