JISHOU, HUNAN — You win some, you lose some.
In the nifty cool corner, we have NASA scientists discovering a strain of bacteria that actually likes arsenic so much to incorporate it in their DNA. No word yet on their reactions to old lace. Or elderberry wine.
In the dunce-cap corner, we have Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear crowing that the Commonwealth is giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to a Noah’s Ark-themed (as in religious) amusement part.
The first bit of news is exciting, because until this week biologists believed all life on Earth is based only on CHONPS (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur). Now we know some bacteria can live on CHONAsS. (I can just hear the jokes in high school biology classes now …)
Phosphorous and arsenic are neighbors in the periodic table, with similar chemical properties. It’s what makes arsenic (As) poisonous. Our cells grab hold of the arsenic, thinking it’s phosphorus, but, alas, it’s just different enough that it kills us.
These bacteria, found in an arsenic-laden lake in California could care less. Arsenic, shmarsenic.
Chances are, they were not aboard the Ark with Noah’s kin and all those animals. Genesis says nothing about bacteria, and given the lack of microscopes back then, it’s doubtful Noah could find any, much less identify them. (Unless God gave him microscopic vision. And why are Clark and Jo Nah checking each other out, and not the comely Lana Lang? Hmm.)
Kentucky, as the world knows to its great chagrin, is already home to the Creation Museum, which offers such anachronistic treats as a dinosaur with a saddle, a T. rex trying to eat fruit, and a gracile dinosaur sharing a meadow with Adam. It should come as no surprise than the same folks behind the Museum are also proposing Ark Encounter, which will feature a life-size replica of Noah’s big boat, a walled city à lá Jericho (please leave any trumpets in your cars) and the Tower of Babel (which I hope will not be too tall — we don’t need even more language confusion).
People are entitled to believe what they like, and a Bible-themed amusement park is nothing really new, but one wonders what legal genius signed off on the state government giving an unabashedly religious group $37.5 million in tax breaks? Church-state separation much? Nah …