Sunday, January 15, 2023


Darwinians are celebrating the adaptation of a Puerto Rican forest lizard to urban life. In an article entitled Forest Lizards Genetically Morph to Survive Life in the City, the adaptation is ballyhooed as proof of Darwin's theory of evolution. This may be a fine example of evolution, but I don't think it supports the neo-Darwinist theory of Natural Selection. According to that theory, random mutations of the DNA molecule are selected to survive because they give the DNA an advantage in the struggle for survival. "Random mutation" equals "Accidental change." Accidents are more often disastrous than serendipitous. 

Which is more reasonable? That when the lizards moved into the city, their genes were randomly modified and the modifications gave the lizards longer legs and modified scales which helped them to better survive in the city? Or that when the lizards came into the city, their DNA recognized the need for longer legs and modified scales and reprogrammed itself to make city life easier?

If evolution is random, why does DNA keep coming up with the same solutions to the same problems? This phenomenon is called "convergent evolution," and convergent evolution has given us the Ichthyosaurus, the Shark, and the Killer Whale, all of which are basically the same. It has also given us Hyenas and Wolves--two very different genera which survive in much the same way. Then we can look at Ants and Termites; pterodactyls, bats, and birds; and myriads of other unrelated species which have "convergently evolved" the same sort of solutions to the same problems.

One of my favorite examples of convergent evolution is the Panda's thumb. The Panda, like primates and people, needed an opposable thumb for grasping things (in the Panda's case it was bamboo shoots). To meet this need the Panda evolved a thumb. It's a very different thumb than the human thumb, but it still is a thumb.

I once read a joke that claimed DNA invented human beings because it wanted to explore extraterrestrial opportunities for replication. The joke was funny because it advanced the "ridiculous" theory that DNA had some form of intelligence, and that evolution was purposeful.

I think Darwinists are allergic to the idea that some sort of intelligence drives evolution because they see the term "Intelligent Design" as a code word for God. If they could remove God from the process of evolution and retain some sort of directing force, they would probably drop Natural Selection like a hot potato.

Henri Bergson, the atheist French philosopher, could accept neither the theory that accident drove  evolution nor the theory that God controlled it. He posited a theory that there was some sort of "elan vital," or "life force," which drove evolution by seeing needs and opportunities and modifying life to meet those needs and opportunities.

I'm not a scientist, a philosopher, or a theologian, but I think I can see a theory of evolution which can satisfy both the proponents of materialistic evolution and theistic evolution. I'll discuss it in my next post.

Friday, January 13, 2023


In my last post I talked about the safety measures that have been put in place which have sought to transform football from the brutal sport which I played as a young man into something that is safer. With the exponential growth in the size and weight of today’s players, it is open to question whether these safety measures are as successful as they should be.

I’d like to talk about another change in football which possibly increases safety, but which gives players carte blanche to cheat—the legalization of blockers touching the “blockees” with their hands. When I played on the line, I was taught that if you put your hands on the person you were blocking, you would be flagged for holding and garner a 15 yard penalty. What you were supposed to do was hit the “blockee” with your shoulder and drive him back from the line of scrimmage. You were also taught to put your head between the “blockee” and the hole that the ball carrier was going to hit. This made it more difficult for the “blockee” to slide along the line toward the ball carrier to make the tackle. On defense, the linemen were taught to “read” the blocker’s head. Look and see which side of your body the head was going to be placed on, and slide in that direction to keep from being cut off from pursuing the ball carrier.

Old time defensive linemen defended against a shoulder block with a maneuver called variously a “forearm shiver” or a “flipper.” You hit the blocker with your forearm as hard as you could in order to fight off the block. Some blockers would also hit with the forearm rather than the shoulder. I got my facemask busted and my chin split open from a huge offensive tackle who smashed his forearm into my face. The worst part of it was that the blow caused me to swallow my cud of chewing tobacco. Aiming for the head with a flipper was a good tactic on either side of the line. As a defensive lineman, I aimed my flippers for the head of the offensive lineman. On offense I aimed my flipper at the chest of the opposing lineman. We used to wear flipper pads to prevent injury to the forearms, but my junior and senior years in high school flipper pads were outlawed because some cheaters were “loading” their pads. Consequently, during the course of a game I would beat my forearms bloody from hitting faceguards and chinstrap buckles.

Nowadays I don’t see the linemen throwing flippers. Why? They’ve been outlawed. NFL rule 12, Article 3, Section 1(a) defines unsportsmanlike conduct, among other things, as: "Throwing a punch, or a forearm, or kicking at an opponent even though no contact is made."

Shoulder blocking is why the old-time football linemen had such bulky shoulder pads—to cushion the shoulder against the impact of hitting the “blockee.” Today the offensive lineman’s first move is not to hit with his shoulder, but to put his hands on the defensive lineman and push. Being denied the use of the flipper, the defensive lineman can do nothing but push back.

The push block is less traumatic than the shoulder/flipper block, but that is not why blockers are now allowed to use their hands. They can use their hands because it is “too hard” for referees to police holding. I remember reading about the rule change when it was made, and the justification was that it made the policing of holding easier. It also made holding much easier. If you grab a defender by the front of his jersey, holding is almost invisible. It’s only when the blocker hugs the defender or obviously grabs the defender by the shoulder pads or side of the jersey that holding will be called. This makes pass rushing very difficult. Pass rushers had several tactics for evading the shoulder block of an offensive lineman in a passing situation, and these tactics are not nearly as successful when the blocker has hold of the front of the jersey. One pass rush tactic that would be outlawed today was the head-butt rush. As a pass rusher, your first move was to butt the blocker's face mask with the crown of your helmet. Can we say, "Targeting?"

Because of these rule changes, passers get much more time to get off their passes. So how does the modern game compensate for this great advantage? By legalizing all but the most egregious forms of pass interference. Being able to put your hands on or wrap your arm around a receiver who is trying to catch a pass is an open invitation to do a little grabbing and shaking the receiver to make him drop the pass. This grabbing is hard for referees to detect in the heat of combat, and that is why you constantly hear announcers saying, “Well, the defender got away with interfering on that play.”

Back before they legalized pass interference, the defender’s best way to defend a pass was to time the tackle to arrive at the moment the ball arrived and jar the receiver enough to make him drop the ball. Probably the greatest practitioner of this type of pass defense was Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. Williamson would time his tackles perfectly and deliver a stunning blow to the receiver’s head with his forearm. This blow would usually knock the ball loose from the receiver’s grasp. He also frequently knocked receivers out, and he boasted that he was going to knock the Packers’ top two receiver out in Super Bowl I. It didn’t quite work out as Williamson planned. He instead was the player who got knocked out.

I’m not suggesting that football go back to the old days of shoulder blocking and throwing flippers—those tactics produce a lot more trauma that is inflicted in today’s game, but there ought to be some way to tighten up on the grabbing of jerseys. Only the Umpire is specifically charged with the duty of looking for holding on the line of scrimmage. The Head Linesman and the Line Judge don’t appear to be assigned the task of looking for holding, and they are stationed on either side of the line of scrimmage. If they are not specifically required to look for holding on the line, they should have that task added to their duties. Maybe an off-the-field referee should be added who could monitor the line on a video screen and call in any holdings which are not detected by on-the-field referees. As far as grabbing by the pass defenders is concerned, maybe coaches should be given a limited number of challenges for no-calls in the event of the officials missing egregious pass interference. This right could be limited to interference in the end zone, the red zone, and on passes in excess of twenty yards. Maybe someday the players will wear “smart” jerseys that can signal when they’re being grabbed by opposing players.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023


 I’ve watched more football this past year than I have in many a moon, and the more I’ve watched, the more convinced I am that the game being played today is not the one I played in the 1960’s. Many of the maneuvers that we would have called “good hits” back then will now get you a 15 yard penalty. Targeting? We thought you were a wimp if you didn’t have skid marks all over your helmet from butting heads on the line and leading with your head making tackles. Back in the day, if you got knocked out, you could go right back into play when you woke up. We called getting knocked out "getting a phone call" or "getting your bell rung." We were smaller back then, which meant that head-on collisions at full speed were not quite as awful as getting run over by one of the 325-pound behemoths who stalk the modern football field.

All the changes I have discussed are designed to, and do, reduce the probability and severity of injuries. Probably the best thing that could be done would be to do away with the two-platoon system. If you’ve got eleven guys who run onto the football field for the kickoff and stay there until the final whistle, those guys aren’t going to be carrying a lot of extra weight. Look at the men who play rugby and Australian rules football. There’s not a 300 pounder in sight. Another way to reduce injuries is to restrict the weight of football players. I’m not a mathematician, so these figures might be off, but I’m going to take a shot at calculating the force of a 325-pound (147.7 kilogram) tackle targeting a 220-pound (100 kilogram) quarterback who is in the pocket looking for a receiver. Using the equation F=ma, and taking 8 miles per hour (12.8 kilometers per hour) as the speed of an average human being, we get an equation of F=147.7*12.8. Force equals 527 Newtons. A Newton is the force necessary to accelerate one kilogram a distance of 1 meter. The quarterback is hit in the head with a force of 527 Newtons. That is sufficient to knock his head off if it isn’t screwed down tight, and that is why targeting gets a 15 yard penalty.

Now let’s reduce the size of the defensive lineman to 250 pounds (113.6 kilograms). Our equation becomes F=113.6*12.6. Force equals 404 Newtons. The 250-pound tackle hits the quarterback with only 77% of the force of the 325-pound tackle.

You can make all the rules you want against targeting, and players are still going to do it. And quarterbacks are going to suffer massive trauma to the head. Rules against targeting won’t eliminate head trauma, but a weight restriction will reduce it significantly.

My modest suggestion for player safety in football is: (1) Eliminate two platooning; and (2) put a weight limit of 250 pounds on linemen.

But what about all those 300-pound behemoths? What sport can they play? To paraphrase Marie Antoinette, let them play Sumo. [That’s a joke]. I suspect most of them could eliminate body fat and excess muscle mass, and they would be under 250. When I was in college we had a defensive tackle who stood 6’6” and weighed 245 pounds. He looked like a beanpole. A muscular beanpole. That same player today could pack on weight up to 300+ pounds and carry it easily. But he wouldn't be as healthy.

I've got some other ideas for rule changes to football, but I'll save them for another post.