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reader for writers second edition Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born at eight o'clock in the morning on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. In the nearly sixty two years of his life that followed he forged a literary reputation unsurpassed in the twentieth century and created a mythological hero in himself that captivated (and at times confounded) not only serious literary critics but the average man as well...in a word, he was a star.
Born in the family home at 439 North Oak Park Avenue, a house built by his widowed grandfather Ernest Hall, Hemingway was the second of Dr. Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway's six children; he had four sisters and one brother. He was named after his maternal grandfather Ernest Hall and his great uncle Miller Hall.

Oak Park was a mainly Protestant, upper middle-class suburb of Chicago that Hemingway would later refer to as a town of "wide lawns and narrow minds." Only ten miles from the big city, Oak Park was really much farther away philosophically. It was basically a conservative town that tried to isolate itself from Chicago's liberal seediness. Hemingway was raised with the conservative Midwestern values of strong religion, hard work, physical fitness and self determination; if one adhered to these parameters, he was taught, he would be ensured of success in whatever field he chose.

As a boy he was taught by his father to hunt and fish along the shores and in the forests surrounding Lake Michigan. The Hemingways had a summer house called Windemere on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan, and the family would spend the summer months there trying to stay cool. Hemingway would either fish the different streams that ran into the lake, or would take the row boat out to do some fishing there. He would also go squirrel hunting in the woods near the summer house, discovering early in life the serenity to be found while alone in the forest or wading a stream. It was something he could always go back to throughout his life, wherever he was. Nature would be the touchstone of Hemingway's life and work, and though he often found himself living in major cities like Chicago, Toronto and Paris early in his career, once he became successful he chose somewhat isolated places to live like Key West, or San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, or Ketchum, Idaho. All were convenient locales for hunting and fishing.

When he wasn't hunting or fishing his mother taught him the finer points of music. Grace was an accomplished singer who once had aspirations of a career on stage, but eventually settled down with her husband and occupied her time by giving voice and music lessons to local children, including her own. Hemingway never had a knack for music and suffered through choir practices and cello lessons, however the musical knowledge he acquired from his mother helped him share in his first wife Hadley's interest in the piano.

Hemingway received his formal schooling in the Oak Park public school system. In high school he was mediocre at sports, playing football, swimming, water basketball and serving as the track team manager. He enjoyed working on the high school newspaper called the Trapeze, where he wrote his first articles, usually humorous pieces in the style of Ring Lardner, a popular satirist of the time. Hemingway graduated in the spring of 1917 and instead of going to college the following fall like his parents expected, he took a job as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star; the job was arranged for by his Uncle Tyler who was a close friend of the chief editorial writer of the paper.

At the time of Hemingway's graduation from High School, World War I was raging in Europe and despite Woodrow Wilson's attempts to keep America out of the war, the United States joined the Allies in the fight against Germany and Austria in April, 1917. When Hemingway turned eighteen he tried to enlist in the army, but was deferred because of poor vision; he had a bad left eye that he probably inherited from his mother, who also had poor vision. When he heard the Red Cross was taking volunteers as ambulance drivers he quickly signed up. He was accepted ... more

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The Beak of the Finch

The Bogus Logic of The Beak


People who have served in the Armed Forces may be familiar with the expression, "If you can't dazzle then with your brilliance, baffle them with your baloney." The Beak of the Finch uses such laughable logic, it is remarkable that anyone would believe it. The book does such a terrible job of presenting a case for evolution and history, that the only logical conclusion is that the book's true intent is to disprove it.


 

Jonathan Weiner, The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. New York:

Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. ISBN 0679400036.


 

"It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof." --Thoreau, Walden

This book claims to be about evolution, centered in the location made famous by Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands. I read this book on the recommendation of a good friend who knows I am interested in birds and thought I might get something out of it. Indeed, the few parts of the book actually about the Gouldian Finches of the Galapagos Islands are fascinating. The book records in detail some of the trials the Dr. Peter Grant family endured in studying these birds on a hot volcanic rock. However, the writers and editors of the book avoid simple logic and put a spin on history that is misleading. The facts and logic presented in The Beak of the Finch really make the book's author out to be a closet creationist.


 

It just so happened that at the same time I read this book, I was reading The Storm Petrel and the Owl of Athena by Louis Halle. Half of The Storm Petrel is on the bird life of the Shetland Islands, another isolated natural system. Halle, though an evolutionist, devotes a whole chapter on how the Shetlands and other islands conserve species. (Halle. 1970, 155ff.) Where species have changed their habits, it is most often due to adaptation to humanity. He compares the wild starlings, house sparrows, and rock doves found on the Shetlands with the more domesticated versions of these birds found on the continents--and to some degree even in the main village of the Shetlands. The island birds are more like their original wild forebears. I mention this now because it will come back to haunt us later.


 

Logical Fallacies

By the first thirty or so pages I had found two logical fallacies and at least one historical inaccuracy in The Beak of the Finch. The fallacies were significant. The historical point was minor, but could be misleading. The fallacies would continue through the book.


 

Page 10 says "Evolutionists are watching life evolve" on different islands. Well, not on the Shetlands, if Halle's observations are accurate. One reason given is that islands are "a closed system." I am not sure how closed any place on earth is any more; however, the Grants (the scientist couple doing the research reported by The Beak) were certainly careful to keep their little island as closed as possible. They washed themselves carefully, watched for any alien seeds they might bring, and so on. The great irony is that after twenty five years of observing, the net result is no change: Individual variation from year to year, surely, but nothing even remotely approaching one species turning into something else.


 

The Problem with Using Breeders for Analogies

Page 30 describes the "law of succession" (not plant or forest succession). This is adjunct to evolution. Is it truly a law? Can it be observed? Can it be repeated experimentally? Well, he says, Darwin showed that breeders can produce varieties of breeds of dogs and pigeons. Both Darwin and Weiner spend a lot of time on pigeons.


 

There are several problems with this. One, breeders are outside intelligent operators. They are not natural forces. Second, and what will prove to be most significant, they still breed pigeons. The pigeons never become another species, regardless of the exotic traits they display. They are still pigeons. Even Darwin backer Sir Charles Lyell noted, "There is no good evidence of spontaneous generation, and breeders know only too well that they cannot change one species into ... more

reader for writers second edition

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