December 2004 Archives

The new PNAS article “The descent of the antibody-based immune system by gradual evolution,” blogged by Carl Zimmer (“The Whale and the Antibody”) and Reed Cartwright at PT, brings to mind a famous old declaration by Michael Behe in his 1996 book Darwin’s Black Box:

“We can look high or we can look low, in books or in journals, but the result is the same. The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system.” Darwin’s Black Box, p. 138

This wasn’t true in 1996, as was documented when PT contributor Matt Inlay reviewed Behe’s immune system argument in 2002 (see “Evolving Immunity” at TalkDesign.org and the hilarious response of ID advocates when challenged). It is even less true now, due to the new PNAS article and other evolutionary immunology research published in 2004 and before. In fact, the ID movement is in total denial about this body of literature, yet ID advocates continue to parade around as if they have some shred of scientific credibility behind their rhetoric. They even have the gall to claim that the scientific mainstream is dogmatically oppressing them – it’s rather like a geocentrist arguing for a stationary earth without considering Foucault’s Pendulum.

I’ll take the liberty of making some predictions for 2005:

I have collected an extensive, but hardly exhaustive, list of educators, scientists and religious people supporting evolution and/or speaking out against Intelligent Design.

I will move the list to PandasThumb once I finish the translation from HTML to BBCode and clean up the organization (such as alphabetizing the states and adding an index).

If you are aware of any additional links please add a comment and I will update the list to reflect the latest, most up-to-date list.

Read further at Wedgie World

The Return of Onyate Man

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You can’t keep a good hominid down! Not even if he’s had his legs chewed off by an Allosaurus.

Check out the latest from biblelandstudios.com :

Dinosaur Swallows Human? Posted by bibleland on Friday, December 24 @ 08:59:14 EST (1405 reads) Thank you for your patience and without further delay Bibleland Studios presents The Photos as promised of what appears to be a fossil of a Dinosaur Swallowing a Human. Do these photos provide the necessary evidence that dinosaurs and humans coexisted in our recent ancient past? From our latest poll many of you believe humans and dinosaurs did coexist. But just because we believe it does that make it so? Bibleland Studios is interested in objective; naked, pure unadulterated truth no matter where it leads. Do you believe as I do that the desire to know where we came from beats in the breast of everyman, woman and child? Did we come from an ape-like creature or a beautiful pair created in innocent splendor? Let’s find out.

How I acquired these photos …

Apparently, you have to subscribe to the Bibleland Studios website in order to get the “real” story. But, Panda’s Thumb readers can have the real scoop absolutely free!

Check out the original story, the cursory and detailed explanations, and even the Spanish translation!

Happy New Year, Dave Thomas

Zimmer on Antibodies

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Carl Zimmer has written another good post on his blog about the evolution of the immune system: The Whale and the Antibody.

You can find this same remarkable system in humans, albatrosses, rattlesnakes, bullfrogs, and all other land vertebrates. You can also find it in most fish, from salmon to hammerhead sharks to sea horses. There are some variations from species to species, but they’ve all got B cells, T cells, antibodies, thymuses, and the other essential components. But you won’t find it in beetles, earthworms, dragonflies, or any other invertebrate on land. Nor will you find it in starfish, squid, lobsters, or lampreys in the water. All these other animals rely instead on rudimentary immune systems that cannot learn.

For those who reject evolution, this sort of pattern tells them nothing. Like everything else in nature, they can only wave their hands and declare it the inscrutable work of a designer (lower case d or upper case D as they are so inclined on a given day). But immunologists and other scientists who actually want to learn something about the immune system find this view useless. Instead, they look at how animals with an antibody-based immune system are related to one another. And what they find is both straightforward and astonishing. All of the living animals with an antibody-based immune system descend from a common ancestor, and none of the descendants of that common ancestor lack it. That means that the antibody-based immune system evolved once, about 470 million years ago.

Republican Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania is probably the loudest political voice for incorporating tenets of “intelligent design” creationism into biology education. He is infamous for introducing a Phillip-Johnson drafted amendment to the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act Authorization Bill, which was later renamed the No Child Left Behind Act. This amendment contained the following language:

It is the sense of the Senate that (1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and (2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why the subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.

Although the amendment was passed by the Senate, the conference committee eventually stripped the language from the law after vociferous protests from the scientific community. Even though his amendment failed, Santorum continues to support the anti-evolution movement. The current Newsweek profiles him as a powerful voice, an emerging leader of the “new faith-based GOP,” and potential candidate for president. According to the article, “[e]volution, he says, should be taught in public schools, but only as a still-controversial scientific theory that ‘has holes.’”

With creationist shenanigans happening in his own back-yard, he could not resist speaking out in support of them. However, Santorum’s op-ed drastically misrepresents what’s going on in Dover.

Are Tsunamis Intelligently Designed?

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In the wake of a deadly earthquake-triggered tsunami that has killed at least 77,000 people in southern Asia, brave scientific dissenters are standing up to the Wegenerian Orthoxody that has for so long censored and belittled anyone who dares to question the validity of Naturalistic Seismology. For decades, scientists have told us that they understood the processes that cause earthquakes. In high school science textbooks, they dazzle unsuspecting students with tales of tectonic plates shifting and so-called “continental drift”. But new evidence shows that these processes are infinitely more complex than the guardians of science would have you believe, and a growing number of scientists are dissenting from this dogmatic Wegenerism.

Continue Reading Are Tsunamis Intelligently Designed at Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Is ID Unfairly Censored?

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On the heels of Hugh Hewitt’s foray into the wonderful world of ID, we have the redoubtable Phyllis Schafly, who weighs in with an amusing piece on Townhall.com. Anyone familiar with the evo/cre debate will instantly pick out several egregious errors that are inexcusable for anyone writing a serious piece about evolution. Let’s take a look and see how bad it gets…


Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, who also happens to have been my Constitutional Law professor in law school, has a post here criticizing a Washington Post article about the Dover, Pennsylvania creationism case.

Thanks to Ed Brayton, here's an excellent article by Michael Dorf, a leading legal thinker, on why teaching ID is unconstitutional.

TheTwelve Days of Disco

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In the spirit of the season, Tom Lehrer, Weird Al Yankovic and overwhelming evidence, the Panda’s Thumb Offensive Morris Dancing Troop and Precision Yodelling Team bring you … The Twelve days of DISCO

Mopping up on the Medved show

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The Michael Medved show did a show on “intelligent design” today, and against my better judgement, I was on it, due to some rather smooth cajoling from the show’s producer. As it turned out, it was great fun, although during the show I felt a bit like a hobbit in the Mines of Moria scenes from the movie the Fellowship of the Ring: Look out, Medved’s first move is flagrant baiting! [octopus monster] Uh-oh, here comes the bacterial fla[g]ellum [big goblin], and on its heels the Second Law of Thermodynamics! [little goblin]. Then, the Discovery Institute list of 300 [“They have a Cave Troll.”] After that, pile on a classic Darwin quote mine, the where-does-information-come-from argument, evolution is random, you want to ban God and Apple Pie, and lots and lots of “random evolution,” “explain the origin of life in 2 seconds,” and “why won’t you debate Jonathan Wells?” [the goblin hoard]. Then, just when you think you’ve defeated all comers, Medved comes back with a shot at his invited guest’s qualifications, as if he’d been forced at gunpoint to invite someone without a Ph.D., and as if the opinion of the entire scientific community were pointless [a roaring giant flaming Balrog].

However, with science as my trusty sword Sting, and Project Steve as my mithril armor, I think I got through it alright. I’ll quote an email I just received from a listener and then review a few of the highlights. The show is theoretically archived in a repeating loop until Wednesday, and you can check out the opinions of listeners on the Michael Medved blog.

Dean Esmay, a blogger I respect, has a post about ID that might surprise some folks. Dean is an atheist, you see, but he doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to teach ID in schools, or at least to bring it up in biology classes and mention that there are some smart people who advocate it. The question he wants answered is essentially this: what would the negative consequences be of taking time in science classrooms to discuss intelligent design? So far all he has heard are vague slippery slope arguments (which he appears to erroneously believe is always a logical fallacy; it is not) and arguments to the effect that ID isn’t science and therefore doesn’t belong there. It’s a fair question, of course, and it deserves a serious answer. As someone who is involved in the day to day battle against the movement to put ID into public school science classrooms, I hope to provide that answer here, but first I feel I need to correct some of Dean’s misconceptions about ID and those who advocate it. For instance, in answer to a comment he says:

Continue Reading Answering Dean Esmay on ID in Science Classrooms at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Antony Flew’s Conversion to Deism

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The prominent philosopher, Antony Flew, has famously converted to deism (Flew and Habermas, 2005).

Professor Flew was, also famously, a participant in a debate (reprinted, for example, in (Pojman, 1987)), wherein he argued that nothing can falsify a firmly held religious belief. Professor Flew, who claims never to have “attacked belief,” (Ostling, 2005) has evidently changed his mind and is now a deist. (No, he did not convert to theism, and he rejects the Abrahamic God; his belief is far closer to deism, however much Gary Habermas stresses theism in the interview.)

Professor Flew’s religious belief is his own concern and is unobjectionable inasmuch as it does not require denial of established facts. It is a pity, though, that Professor Flew, who admits he is “unable to keep up with the [scientific] literature,” has based his change of heart in large measure on the writing of Gerald Schroeder and on the concept of intelligent design (Wavell, 2004).

Intelligent design theory is not testable and is based on very dubious propositions (Young and Edis, 2004). I will not discuss it here.

Gerald Schroeder’s works are beyond dubious: they are wholly unscientific and distort both science and scripture to support a preconceived old-earth creationism. My colleague, Mark Perakh, and I have independently discussed various of Mr. Schroeder’s opuses and found them wholly without merit. I will not repeat those discussions but rather will provide references below.

I wish that Professor Flew had read Mr. Schroeder’s work more carefully or had consulted critical references to Mr. Schroeder’s work before pronouncing Mr. Schroeder kosher.

Lies for Youth

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What really bugs me about creationists is that often they seem to be unconstrained by any respect for honesty. It's more than presenting a different side to a story; it's flagrant misrepresentation of the position of evolutionary biology, coupled to self-serving praise for their own unsupported position. There's a creationist site that carries prevarication to an extreme, called "Truth for Youth", which peddles online comic books that have unbelievably dishonest distortions of the facts about abortion, homosexuality, and of course, evolution. I've dissected their "Truth About Evolution" comic book, but man, the others are ripe for a good flaying.

The "Truth for Youth" stuff exemplifies the "Lying for Jesus" strategy of too many creationists. I should think Christians would be ashamed and appalled at this dishonest propaganda skulking under the banner of their faith.

Over on Evangelical Outpost, Joe Carter just posted the following shocking passage that pretty clearly associates:

1. The statistically lower average qualifications of black students applying to law school, with 2. Natural “ability or aptitude.”

Since I’ve read Stephen Jay Gould’s Mismeasure of Man, this kind of thing really bugs me (and gives us the connection of this topic to The Panda’s Thumb).

Read it for yourself:

More Dover

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This just in:

DOVER, Pa. - A school board that is requiring students to learn about alternatives to the theory of evolution voted to retain legal counsel for its defense against a federal lawsuit filed by eight families who oppose a new “intelligent design” mandate.

Seven members of the Dover Area School District board voted unanimously to retain a nonprofit law center that describes itself as a defender of Christians’ religious beliefs, the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., despite the objections of most of the community members who spoke at the meeting. The board did not issue a comment on its decision. Martha Raffaele, Associated Press story

Happy birthday, Grandma!

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Just thought I'd steal the microphone for a personal shout-out. Happy birthday to my grandmother, Dr. Elsie Sandefur, founder of the U.C.L.A. Zooarchaeology Bone Lab!

Common, though persistent, misconceptions exist among ID proponents about the Cambrian Explosion, the Darwinian ‘tree of life’ and the appearance of phyla. I hope that my contribution will help put to rest some of these misconceptions.

These misconceptions include: 1) no Pre-Cambrian fossils 2) appearance of phyla are at odds with Darwinian predictions 3) the shape of the tree of life over time 4) no transitional fossils between phyla.

The confusion seems to have started with Art Battson, was popularized by Wells but continues with on Mark Hartwig and more recently with Salvador who posted the following picture (loosely based on the original work by Art Battson).

In a comment regarding the Dover school board case, Grand Moff Texan asks,

Isn't teaching bad science as science an act of fraud?

Couldn't parents sue a public institution for willfully damaging their children's education?

Oh, how I wish. I've long said it's one of my dreams in life to be the first attorney to successfully sue a government school teacher for malpractice. Alas, it can't be done.

Comic evolution

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There has been something of a reaction by American cartoonists to the recent creationist and ID attempts to get evolution out of, or their theology into, public schools. For your delectation and amusement, courtesy of Nick Matzke, here they are in one hit: Evolving Thoughts

Scientists v Intelligent Design

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In addition to the more than 500 Steves in NCSE’s Project Steve many other scientists have started to speak out against Intelligent Design. To appreciate the number, there are about 1% of people in the US with the name Steve or Stephanie. In addition, less than 1% of the population in the US has a PhD. The NCSE has collected the position of Civil Liberty organizations, Educational organizations, Religious organizations and Scientific and Scholarly organizations in their Voices for Evolution project.

Today, eleven parents from Dover, Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU of Pennsylvania), Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP filed suit in federal court to overturn the “intelligent design” policy of the Dover Area School Board.

The National Center for Science Education is consulting on the case (for free) on the science and science education aspects of the case.

SEEC 2005

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First Call for Abstracts

Southeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference The University of Georgia Athens, Georgia 11-13 March 2005 http://www.uga.edu/seec

Registration deadline: 4 February 2005

We invite all graduate, undergraduate, and post-doctoral researchers studying in the environmental and life sciences to submit abstracts for either oral or poster presentations at the 2nd annual Southeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference (SEEC) to be held March 11-13, 2005, at the The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Talks will be delivered by Drs. Whit Gibbons, John Avise and Gary Barrett.

Creationist Carnival
The Tangled Bank

Tangled Bank #18 is now online at CodeBlueBlog. Go read about science and medicine!

A while back I noted that, just after adopting a curriculum requiring the teaching of Intelligent Design creationism, a York, Pennsylvania school district member told the York Daily Record "We are not going to be sued.... It's not going to be a problem. I have confidence in the district's lawyers."

Looks like she was wrong.

Leave no child behind, TEACH EVOLUTION!

Like this bumper sticker? Want one?

Leave No Child Behind, Teach Evolution

They're now available from:

Michael W. Klymkowsky
Professor, MCD Biology
UC Boulder, UCB347
Boulder CO. 80309

They're $2.50 each (a bargain!) Make out the check to the "UC Boulder - Bioliteracy project". And even better, look at what the money supports: The Bioliteracy Project.

Our goal is to generate, test and distribute the tools to determine whether students are learning what teachers think they are teaching.

We assume that accurate and timely assessment of student knowledge will pressure the educational world toward more effective teaching.

Why? Because basic understanding of the biological sciences impacts our lives in more and more dramatic ways every year.

A wide range of important personal, social, economic and political decisions depend upon an accurate understanding of basic biology and the means by which science generates, tests and extends our knowledge.

A good cause, a strong statement, a classy sticker for your car…how can you go wrong?

Icons of ID: The Cambrian Explosion

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Dembski’s recent lamentations about what he considered the selective use of data by evolutionists (googlewars) motivated me to look in some more detail at how ID proponents are handling topics such as the Cambrian Explosion. My findings conclude that ID proponents are still confused about the Cambrian explosion, the fossil record, and the molecular data which contradicts their cartoonish portrayal of the Cambrian. Based on selective ‘evidence’ and poor scientific arguments, the impression is created that the Cambrian explosion is a problem for evolutionary theory or supportive of intelligent design. Neither assertion is true – unless one accepts that Intelligent Design is all about ignorance. The lack of any scientifically relevant hypothesis by Intelligent Design to explain the Cambrian explosion exemplifies the scientific vacuity of ID, and I won’t even mention the theological risks.

Deep homologies in the pharyngeal arches

gcm2 in pharyngeal arches

PvM has already written a bit about this issue in the article "Human Gland Probably Evolved From Gills", but I'm not going to let the fact that I'm late to the party stop me from having fun with it. This is just such a darned pretty story that reveals how deeply vertebrate similarities run, using multiple lines of evidence.

Continue reading "Deep homologies in the pharyngeal arches" (on Pharyngula)

All I want for Christmas…

The Tangled Bank

…is some more Tangled Bank entries! This is the week to send in links to your science writing on the web. They will be exhibited for all to read on CodeBlueBlog on Wednesday, and you can send your links either directly to Dr Boyle, to me, or to host@tangledbank.net.

If you don't know what this "tangled bank" thing is, find out more on the Tangled Bank website, which also contains many links to other science weblogs and science articles on the net. And if you think it's a cool idea, volunteer to host one yourself!

Google War

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Evolution bests Creationism

Evolution: 39,300,000 Creationism: 700,000

If you would like to see what the Intelligent Design folks want to do to the state science standards in Kansas, you’re in luck! They have kindly posted their suggested revisions right here on the Intelligent Design Network website, and on the slick new Kansasscience2005.com website (look, there’s a picture of a student looking through a microscope, it must be scientific!)

A representative quote:

Icons of ID: And the Wedge continues

The Discovery Institute continues to ignore the advice of Richard Colling

Prof. Richard Colling Wrote:

In his new book, “Random Designer,” he writes: “It pains me to suggest that my religious brothers are telling falsehoods” when they say evolutionary theory is “in crisis” and claim that there is widespread skepticism about it among scientists. “Such statements are blatantly untrue,” he argues; “evolution has stood the test of time and considerable scrutiny. [1]”

Sharon Begley in Tough Assignment: Teaching Evolution To Fundamentalists, Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2004; Page A15

LFHCfS Awards

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The Annals of Improbable Research and the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS) have just announced the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS) Men and Women of the Year. The first member of LFHCfS was, naturally enough, Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Pinker (who also happens to be a Project Steve Steve – he gets around).

I move that we find out if any PT posters belong in LFHCfS. The best nomination I could think of was Ian Musgrave.

This essay is a follow-up to my recent entry, “Debating with Evolution Deniers,” which may be found at http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…]32.html#more. In that essay, I quoted a representative of the Discovery Institute, who had defended teaching so-called intelligent design in the public schools on the NPR program “Science Friday.” That representative was David DeWolf, a law professor at Gonzaga University. Yesterday (December 10, 2004) on “Science Friday,” the Biology Department at Gonzaga University released the following statement:

Biology Department rejects intelligent design

On National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation Science Friday program of November 19, GU Law Professor David DeWolf participated in a discussion on teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. Although Professor DeWolf is on the faculty of Gonzaga University Law School, his views on intelligent design do not represent those of the University as a whole. In particular, the faculty of the Biology Department at Gonzaga are unanimous in their acceptance of evolutionary theory as a fundamental underlying tenet of the science of biology. The principles of evolution are as well-established as any other body of scientific knowledge, and a full and correct appreciation for those principles is necessary for understanding the nature of life. Intelligent design is not a scientific alternative to evolution. The flaws in the idea of intelligent design have been amply and publicly exposed, and the Biology Department feels that the teaching of intelligent design has no place in a science curriculum at any level.

For additional information on the issue of intelligent design vs. evolutionary theory, visit the National Center for Science Education.

In short, the people at Gonzaga who really understand biology have repudiated the views of Prof. DeWolf. I was particularly gratified to see their link to the National Center for Science Education, which you may find at http://www.ncseweb.org.

Notes. The statement above differs slightly from what was read on the air. It may be found at http://gonzology.gonzaga.edu/view_news.php?e=1185. It is reproduced here with permission.

Doverian doings

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The York Daily Record has been doing a bang-up job reporting on the controversy in Dover, Pennsylvania about teaching “intelligent design” and Of Pandas and People. Check their new special section on “Dover Biology” for a history of situation, and daily updates.

In case anyone’s faith in democracy, America, and apple pie has been quavering lately, I wanted to alert PT readers to three recent, and excellent, letters written to the York Daily Record by people from the Dover Area.

Here are the links, I will quote them below.

The Bathroom Wall

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With any tavern, one can expect that certain things that get said are out-of-place. But there is one place where almost any saying or scribble can find a home: the bathroom wall. This is where random thoughts and oddments that don’t follow the other entries at the Panda’s Thumb wind up. As with most bathroom walls, expect to sort through a lot of oyster guts before you locate any pearls of wisdom.

The previous wall got a little cluttered, so we’ve splashed a coat of paint on it.

Icons of ID: All bark, no bite

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There still seems to be a confusion amongst ID proponents that ID actually provides an explanation or as some suggest ‘the better/best explanation”. Seems it’s time for an FAQ on ‘Icons of ID’

A good example is the case of ID’s Bulldog whose postings exemplify a myriad of misunderstandings and confusions about both evolutionary theory as well as Intelligent Design. The name is a word play on Huxley who was called Darwin’s Bulldog

Part of the confusion about ID is undoubtably due to the poor definitions, contradictory claims, the equivocation and flawed theoretical foundation of ID but I believe that a large part is due to how ID is presented to its followers. In other words, ID is oversold and underdeveloped. We see a similar problem in Salvador’s attempt to defend or even apply the Explanatory filter or the concept of Complex Specified Information (CSI).

But it is essential for ID”s (short term) survival that it ignores any shortcomings in its foundations, or hides it in equivocation, sloppy definitions and ambiguity.

Icons of ID: Equivocation on design

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Intelligent Design proponents often pull a bait and switch when discussing the detection of design. On the one hand they argue that ID contributes to science since it adds the concept of design to science, on the other hand when pressed for examples to support their claims, they point to science making successful design inferences as evidence of the validity of design detection. How can this be? On the one hand ID is portrayed as adding something to science, on the other hand science is argued to already have these concepts.

Of course ID proponents further muddle the issues by confusing Dembski’s design inference as being relevant to how science detects design. On ARN, Salvador is showing all the signs of these confusions as he tries in vain to address the critiques raised by Dayton, Charlie and RBH.

Human Gland Probably Evolved From Gills

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The human parathyroid gland, which regulates the level of calcium in the blood, probably evolved from the gills of fish, according to researchers from King’s College London. Anthony Graham and Dr Masataka Okabe published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Parshall visit cancelled

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Unfortunately, I guess, the producer of “Janet Parshall’s America” called me up and cancelled my appearance on the show tomorrow, saying “they were going in a different direction” because of some “breaking news.” I thanked him and asked him to keep me in mind, but I got the feeling ( I may be wrong) that the opportunity has passed me by. Oh well .… (It will be interesting to see who/what they have replaced me with.)

I think, however, that the little summary that I wrote here was worth the time - it helped me articulate my position, and I think I will have the opportunity to make the same points elsewhere, possible in more important venues.

Thanks to all who offered me support and advice.

One Nation, Under the Designer

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I have [URL =http://evolvethought.blogspot.com/2[…]tml#comments]blogged[/URL] an [URL = http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k_v86/k0412ter.htm]article in Phi Beta Kappa[/URL], the online magazine of the Professional Association of Educators, on the true significance for education and society of the Wedge Strategy on my [URL = http://evolvethought.blogspot.com/]Evolving Thoughts blog.[/URL]

The article, by educator Mark Terry, who works just down the road from the Disco, sorry, Discovery Institute, covers Huxley and religion and is a piece worth reading.

Analysis of Dover Biology Curriculum

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The Dover area schoolboard has released a press-release for the Biology Curriculum

It includes the following statement:

Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to Intelligent Design. The Origins of Life is not taught.

I will show that while there may be gaps in Darwin’s theory, it is not a theory in crisis. I will also show that by focusing on the gaps in Darwin’s theory, Intelligent Design is a ‘God of the Gaps’ theory which focuses on our ignorance rather than our knowledge. Finally I will show that there is no ‘Intelligent Design’ theory of evolution. Intelligent Design does not present any positive hypotheses to compete with scientific hypotheses but rather relies on scientific ignorance to makes it case. Finally I will show how the Intelligent Design approach is not only scientifically meaningless but also presents a significant risk to religious faith.

Washington Post Article

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Fresh Challenges in the Old Debate Over Evolution

David Jackson’s life straddles all the fault lines in the battle over the teaching of evolution in public schools.

Jackson is a professor of science education at the University of Georgia’s College of Education in Athens. He believes to his core that science has proved valid Charles Darwin’s theory of how life on Earth developed from a common ancestry and why life has such diversity.

About half the students he teaches to become middle school science instructors – and to teach evolution themselves – believe that God created the Earth 6,000 years ago, he said. Scientist friends tell him not to teach those students because anyone with those beliefs “shouldn’t teach.” But he tells them it is his job to make sure that his students understand evolution, not believe it.

Of course the problem with the title is that ID is not actually a fresh argument.

I would like to announce the existence of a new Resources page on NCSE’s website: the NCSE Resources page on Of Pandas and People. NCSE had a large amount of material in its files on Pandas, but almost none of it was digital, so good resources on the web were few and far between. I took this on as a project, and have now digitized just about everything published in NCSE Reports or Bookwatch Reviews on Pandas in 1989 and throughout the 1990’s, and put it in one handy central location for the sake of posterity.

Many of the reviews have never been available on the web before, including Frank Sonleitner’s epic “What’s Wrong With Pandas?”, a review which is actually longer than the book itself (the images in Sonleitner’s document are not up yet since there may be copyright issues). Various minor touch-up work still needs to be done on the collection – manual transcription and document conversion to HTML are not error-free processes – but on the whole it should be quite useable. Please alert me to any typos, formatting errors, etc., that you detect (send to matzkeATncseweb.org).

Hopefully this material will be useful to the folks in Pennsylvania. However, since the last edition of Pandas is now 11 years old, it seems more likely that future controversies will occur over the fabled third edition of Pandas, apparently now retitled The Design of Life. Whatever the title, it will be useful to have some of the long and interesting history of Pandas, and thereby intelligent design, online and available to the public.

The page can be reached via NCSE homepage –> Resources –> Of Pandas and People, or simply http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=21.

To give a fuller overview, I’ll post the Introduction I wrote for the page, and the Table of Contents.

In a previous posting I reported how I had met with a Christian friend of mine who considered “Intelligent design” to be dishonest. It seems that he is not the only Christian who has reached this conclusion. As a concerned Christian myself, I find this comforting as it seems that fellow Christians have realized the potential cost of “Intelligent Design” for religious faith and science.

Nevertheless, there are still many ID supporters who remain unaware of the lack of much of any scientific support for Intelligent Design and who are fooled into believing that there is a controversy in science on the topic of evolution, relevant to the concept of Intelligent Design. Thus we see supporters take their crusades to local schoolboards, newspapers and senators unaware of the cost of their actions to religious faith and science alike.

A searing op-ed in the York Dispatch by Paul Gross and Barbara Forrest leaves no doubt about what the Dover School Board has accomplished. Give it a read…

I have been invited to be on Janet Parshall’s America, a national conservative talk-show, next Thursday between 3:15 and 3:30 CST. The producer Ron Stafford noticed a reference to me in a recent USA Today article, which said:

“Part of the job of the public school system is to make professional judgments about what children ought to learn,” says Jack Krebs, a teacher and vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science. “It doesn’t make any sense to give equal time to all these other ideas that are vastly unsupported. It’s misleading to kids.”

Ron was interested in the part about “professional judgments about what children ought to learn” in relation to the creation/evolution debate. As part of preparing for the show, he asked me to let them know “more [about] where you’re coming from with regard to the creation/evolution debate on how this should be presented in schools.”

I thought this was a good question, and I’ve let them know that I appreciate their inviting me to discuss this issue from the point of curriculum in the public schools. In response I wrote a short summary of some of the important main points, which I post below. I’m sure there is plenty of material here for them to ask me some good questions in the short amount of time we’ll have.

In the aftermath of the decision by the Dover School Board in Pennsylvania to mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design in their science classrooms, there is quite a little fight brewing between the school board and the teachers. The York Daily Record has been following this story very closely and their latest update shows the internal battles. The science teachers are properly wondering what the heck they’re supposed to be teaching, since there really is no model or theory of intelligent design to be referred to. Quoting the head of the science department, Bertha Spahr:

Spahr said a problem could occur after the statement is read to the students. Once this topic is introduced, Miller said, she wonders how many questions will be asked as a result.

“I’m trained to teach to state standards,” Miller said. “(‘Intelligent design’) is currently not listed in those standards.”

Miller said she hopes it will be enough to read the statement or refer students to the “Pandas” book. But she realizes that students have the right to discuss curriculum items in class.

“This is all new and something we are not prepared for,” she said. “I worry that something I say could cause me to end up in some sort of litigation.”

Spahr said the science teachers feel like they’re in a battle that can’t be won.

“The Supreme Court has said it’s unconstitutional to teach creation in the classroom,” she said. “So we either risk violating a school board directive or risk breaking the law. What are we to do?”

Continue reading Science Teachers Balk at Dover Decision at Dispatches from the Culture Wars

The recent posting about the advisability of directly debating creationists by my colleague Matt Young has produced a very large number of secondary comments. He concluded that it is wiser to follow the example of Deborah Lipstadt in her refusal to share the public stage with Holocaust deniers. He then mildly criticized Michael Ruse for his frequent collaborations with evolution deniers.

The timeliness of this comparison of evolution deniers and Holocaust deniers was made even more clear in a small item from the Reuters News Service carried the 3 Dec. ‘04 morning edition of the Los Angles Times. The headline was “Auschwitz Unknown to Many Britons, Poll Says” and reported the results of a national poll that found that 45% of Britons had not heard of Auschwitz. Creationists’ goal to eliminate scientific and academic freedom is immediate and real. The stakes should be clear from the beginning. We are never more than a single generation away from total savagery.

Cobb and Dover

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The San Francisco Chronicle has a front page story today on the Dover, PA and Cobb County, GA evolution controversies.

The Tangled Bank

We have yet another collection of fascinating science posts online for your perusal, in Tangled Bank #17, hosted this week at Penn. Read and savor, get inspired, write more science articles, and submit them to Tom Boyle for the next edition, on 15 December at CodeBlueBlog.

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