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Sabbath Day

February 28, 2014

My Weekly Sabbath Post

Yesterday, Thursday, was a half day of school to accommodate parent-teacher conferences.  So, after meeting with Miss Bailey and receiving a great progress report, we headed into the city to take in the American Museum of Natural History. We spent most of our time in the Hall of Biodiversity and with the Saurischian Dinosaurs. When the museum closed, we stayed behind and joined the line for an evening talk with Elizabeth Kolbert (author of The Sixth Extinction) and Michael Novacek (Senior Vice President and Provost of Science at the Museum).

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Since we make a habit out of excursions like this, August’s teacher has encouraged him to start a journal which she will read. Here he is taking a few notes on our day. Also, while waiting for the lecture hall to open, he and Noelle had the chance to talk with paleontologist Neil Landman, whose thoughts on why ammonites did not survive the end-Cretaceous extinction is featured in Chapter 7: The Luck of the Ammonites.  These creatures “floated through the world’s shallow oceans for more than three hundred million years, and their fossilized shells turn up all around the world. Like nautiluses, to whom they were distantly related, ammonites constructed spiral shells divided into multiple chambers. The animals themselves occupied only the last and largest chamber. Based on the number of teeth ammonites had – nine – it’s believed that their closest living kin are octopuses.”

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The high point of the evening came for us when Ross MacPhee, paleobiogeographer and curator of vertebrate zoology for the museum, rose to respond to a question about attempts to re-engineer and bring back extinct species. He said that there is no question that it could be done for species like the passenger pigeon. “The ethical question to ask is, why?” Rather, “what is called for in this moment is to practice restorative justice.” Many species on the edge of extinction, he said, could have a fighting chance, and would take it, if we could just learn to live with restraint, limitation, and share this world in such a way that others have space and resources to thrive. Amen!

Following the presentation we had our copy of The Sixth Extinction inscribed for the new eco-justice section in the church library.

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