June 2005 Archives

Diploblasts and triploblasts

| 1 Comment
diploblast evo

Carl Zimmer wrote on evolution in jellyfish, with the fascinating conclusion that they bear greater molecular complexity than was previously thought. He cited a recent challenging review by Seipel and Schmid that discusses the evolution of triploblasty in the metazoa—it made me rethink some of my assumptions about germ layer phylogeny, anyway, so I thought I'd try to summarize it here. The story is clear, but I realized as I started to put it together that jeez, but we developmental biologists use a lot of jargon. If this is going to make any sense to anyone else, I'm going to have to step way back and explain a collection of concepts that we've been using since Lankester in the 19th century.

Continue reading "Diploblasts and triploblasts" (on Pharyngula)

Ruben Bolling’s Tom the Dancing Bug has a funny (and only slightly exaggerated) cartoon out in today’s Salon.com here. Salon is a subscription site, but you can watch a short ad to get a day pass. Enjoy!

John West, associate director of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, has replied to my "fulminating" essay, posted to Dispatches, In the Agora and the Panda's Thumb, on ID and "divine design". You'll recall that Mr. West had claimed that he and his fellow ID advocates get "very upset" when people "confuse" intelligent design with divine design, as a Utah legislator has in a bill designed to give equal time, and I replied by offering numerous quotes from ID advocates themselves ostensibly "confusing" the two. Mr. West's reply to me, unfortunately, almost entirely misses the point of my response - by design, I suspect. He has essentially two arguments: A) that ID only has "metaphysical implications" rather than being inherently metaphysical, and B) so does evolution:

First of all, if he had read the article I referenced in my blog post about why ID is not creationism, he would have known that I never deny that ID can have metaphysical implications...I went on to explain that ID in this respect is no different than Darwinism.

But he fails to address here the real substance of my argument. I did not argue that ID merely has metaphysical implications; I argued that ID is inherently metaphysical and that many ID advocates had admitted as much. The only quotes in my initial post that dealt only with the implications of ID were the ones from Nancy Pearcey; the rest of them dealt with the nature of ID either as an explanation or as a political/legal movement. The rest of them all begin with statements like "Intelligent design is...", "Our strategy has been...", and "Our objective is...". These are statements about the nature of ID, not about the implications of ID.

Blame Aliens

| 74 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

This has been said before but needs to be said again.

Alien designers are not compatible with “intelligent design” creationism.

According to the intelligent design “theoreticians” and propagandists at Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture,

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

Top Questions

Anything requiring the prior existence of the universe, like aliens, can not logically be the DI’s “intelligent cause” of the universe. Clearly only supernatural entities satisfy the Discovery Institute’s authoritative description of intelligent design.

The Tangled Bank

We have a new edition of the Tangled Bank online, and the host, David Winter of Science & Sensibility, has introduced a much-needed innovation: refreshment and lunch breaks. You'll need them.

I'll also mention that the Tangled Bank homepage has been revised. It's still a little rough, but the most important feature is now enabled: a Tangled Bank newsfeed that will carry these announcements about new and upcoming editions.

John G. West and Seth Cooper of the Discovery Institute wrote a letter to Pennsylvania Representative Jess M. Stairs urging Stairs and the Pennsylvania legislature not to pass HB1007 which would mandate the teaching of “intelligent design” in Pennsylvania K-12 science classes.

While West and Cooper go on at length in their letter, the import is clear: don’t call their tired old antievolution rhetoric “intelligent design”; just put the same content in the classrooms and call it “teaching the controversy”, “scientific criticisms”, or “evidence against evolution” instead. There’s nothing like a marketing effort that goes to the lengths of lobbying the DI does in order to put on a name change for their product while affixing what amounts to a brightly colored sticker saying, “Old! Unimproved!” in the upper left corner of the box.

(Hat tip to Thomas D. Gillespie. Please do keep sending me news items that you see relating to evolutionary biology and antievolution efforts.)

After reading the majority opinion in the McCreary case, involving the posting of the Ten Commandments in a county courthouse, I am convinced that the ruling is extremely good news for those of us who are active in fighting the attempts of creationists (in whatever form) to weaken science education in public schools. But in order to understand why, some background is required. We've been waiting with great anticipation for this decision because it would involve the Lemon test, the set of criteria that the court has used (sometimes) for the last 35 years or so to determine whether a policy violates the Establishment Clause. The Lemon test has three prongs - purpose, effect and entanglement. In order to meet the test, a policy must have a clear secular purpose, have the effect of neither advancing not inhibiting religion, and must not unnecessarily entangle church and state.

In the battle against creationism in science classrooms, the purpose prong is very important because those who advocate putting creationism into classrooms invariably make pronouncements of religious intent. In the Dover case, for instance, the school board member who proposed putting "intelligent design" into science classrooms announced he was doing so because "someone died on a cross 2000 years ago" and it was time for someone to "take a stand for Him." But in the course of the last few years, there have been many voices on the court for either modifying or even doing away with the Lemon test, particularly the purpose prong, and many of us feared that the McCreary case might be used to renounce the test, in part or in whole. The appellants in McCreary specifically asked the court to do away with the purpose prong, arguing that it was nebulous and impossible to truly understand the purpose of a person or governing body.

I looked through the Roy Moore amicus brief that Reed Cartwright posted below. It makes a remarkable argument: that the evolution disclaimer could not possibly violate the Establishment Clause because “[a] sticker is not a ‘law,’” (p. 13), so it couldn’t possibly be a “law respecting an establishment of religion.” As far as those cases like Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 US 602 (1971), which hold that any state action which endorses a religious viewpoint is a violation of the Clause, those cases were wrong and ought to be overruled.

In this post Denyse O'Leary "comments" on a session I am organizing and chairing at the forthcoming International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology meeting. The session is the second of a two-parter on the Darwinian Revolution, and specifically deals with the following:
Many faculty members teach “Darwinian Revolution” courses. What do they teach, and how and why? And what difference does the discussion about whether there was such a revolution and what it involved make pedagogically? Should the latest scholarship matter to the teaching, or are there different and overriding pedagogical values?

Over at Stranger Fruit I deal with O'Leary's claims about the nature of the "Darwinian Revolution" and question her knowledge of history and philosophy of science.

Update: 21:30 - O'Leary has tried to defend herself against my post, so I've replied here

(UPDATE: Apparently the dispute has been resolved and Dembski will be paid. See updated post at Post-Darwinist. Links here updated.)

Well, we don’t say this very often on The Thumb, but a hat-tip goes to pro-ID journalist Denyse O’Leary and her Post-Darwinist blog for breaking this story:

Key ID theorist threatens to sue intelligent design supporters in Dover, Pennsylvania case

Recently, this blog learned that ID theorist Bill Dembski is threatening legal action against the Thomas More Law Center for refusing to pay him for over one hundred hours of time he clocked as an expert witness in the Dover intelligent design case. The Center recently dismissed Dembski as an expert witness, in what sounds like a falling out with the mainstream ID community.Denyse O’Leary, Post-Darwinist

Several funny things have happened recently in Selman v. Cobb County School District, the Georgia case involving evolution disclaimer stickers.

First off, Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law had their pro-disclaimer amicus brief rejected by recess appointee William Pryor because it challenged clearly established Supreme Court precedent. Knowing the source, you can probably guess how bad and loony it was. Now Moore’s cabal is asking for their brief to be reconsidered:

[T]his Court’s order misconstrues the relevance of, or entirely ignores, the arguments contained in the Foundation’s brief, and … the order has dangerous implications for future constitutional litigants before this Court . …

Deep-Sea News


We all know the Media is too liberal, so thank God for Deep-Sea News.

Calling Wells’s Bluff


Robert Camp over at nighlight exposes Johnathan Wells’s deception of television viewers: “Do Biology Textbooks Pit Evolution Against Theism? - A response to Jonathan Wells”.

The Lou Dobbs Tonight program is broadcast nationally by CNN. Dr. Ruse was representing the mainstream biology point of view, Jonathan Wells the “intelligent design” position, and John Morris that of “scientific creationism.” Additional context to consider is that Dr. Wells is well educated (he possesses two PhDs, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University [2]) and has written and spoken extensively on these issues. As such he is clearly an intelligent individual, aware of the nuances of personal responsibility and contextual suitability regarding public discussion of complex issues. Dr. Wells was perfectly aware that he was speaking to a national, not limited, demographic and representing “intelligent design” in its broadly understood context, not relying upon personal definitions of terms such as evolution and theism that might be unrecognizable to most listeners.

In other words, the claim made by Wells, that he has textbooks which “…explicitly use evolution, misuse evolution, as an argument against theism, belief in god, Christianity…” is clear and requires that the books in question commit the proposed misdeeds unambiguously and with obvious intent. Although the exculpation of any of the books on Dr. Wells’ list would be enough to invalidate his claim, I believe that it is in the interest of the integrity of biological pedagogy to allow that if just one is guilty of the charges this will suffice to support his claim.

John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, the most prominent ID think tank in the world, is mad as hell and he's not gonna take it anymore. It seems that a state legislator in Utah has submitted a bill in that state to give equal time in state science classrooms to teaching "divine design" along with evolution - and that just will not do. West is quite verklempt about the whole thing:

While it's frustrating when critics of intelligent design mischaracterize what ID is about, it's even worse when people billing themselves as friends of ID do the same thing. As the term "intelligent design" has increasingly entered the public discourse, the number of people misusing the term to advance their own agendas by calling it "design" has increased. Take the recent proposal by a Utah legislator for something he calls "divine design," by which he clearly seems to mean creationism...

I'd like to give a clear message to those who are trying to hijaack the term design in order to promote something else: Stop!

And he quotes himself being quoted in a Salt Lake Tribune article on this bill:

"We get very upset when supposed friends are claiming far more than what the scholars are saying," says John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in Seattle...

"We wish [Buttars] would get the name right and not propose something he doesn't understand," West says.

Let me join West in expressing my outrage at Buttars' presumptuous "hijacking" of the term "intelligent design". I mean, where on earth could Buttars have ever gotten the idea that ID had something to do with "divine design" or anything to do with notions of God and divinity at all? He clearly hasn't been listening to the Discovery Institute's scholars, but only to us evilutionists who are bent on distorting their true intent. Shame on him!

On the other hand, perhaps Buttars is not "hijacking" the phrase "intelligent design", and is instead simply relaying the plain meaning that the fellows of the Discovery Institute Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture have given to it over the past several years.

Bisonalveus browni

We mammals haven't been good poisoners. There are a few primitive forms that secrete toxins—the platypus has poison spines, and an unusual insectivore on a few Caribbean islands, Solenodon, has grooved fangs and secretes a salivary toxin, and itty-bitty shrews have toxic saliva—but our class just hasn't had much natural talent for venom. At least, not recently.

New discoveries of some fragmentary fossils in Canada have shown that there were some flourishing species of small, poison-fanged mammals running around in the Palaeocene, 60 million years ago.

Continue reading "Bisonalveus browni, a venomous mammal" (on Pharyngula)

Evolution of alcohol synthesis

yeast anaerobic metabolism

We need to appreciate beer more. Alcohol has a long history in human affairs, and has been important in purifying and preserving food and drink, and in making our parties livelier. We owe it all to a tiny little microorganism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which converts complex plant sugars into smaller, simpler, more socially potent molecules of ethanol. This is a remarkable process that seems to be entirely to our benefit (it has even been argued that beer is proof of the existence of God*), but recent research has shown that the little buggers do it all entirely for their own selfish reasons, and they've been busily making alcohol that has gone undrunk by humankind for tens of millions of years.

Carl Zimmer provides a clear argument against complaints of "circularity" in evolution. It isn't circular—it's successful!

On his blog, William Dembski noted the appearance of a new Intelligent Design blog at the University of California Irvine, and suggested that the appearance of more such blogs would be "a Darwinist's worst nightmare".

Might I suggest instead that biologists (calling them 'Darwinists' is about as silly as calling chemists Daltonists) are more likely to fall about laughing? Take, for example, some reasoning from an early posting at the new blog:

Now here comes my intuitive (a.k.a. hand-waving) argument for design:
1. This fountain is elegant and complex.
2. The ducks are more elegant and more complex than the fountain.
3. If X is more elegant and more complex than Y, then X is more likely to be designed than Y.
4. The fountain was likely to be designed.
5. The ducks were more likely to be designed.

I haven't seen such compelling logic since the last time I saw another argument involving ducks: the witch scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Really, the idea that this something like this constitutes evidence against evolution should be embarrassing even to IDers.

Update: As expected, the ID blog mentioned above has sunk into richly deserved oblivion...

Hello, everybody! It's been a long time since I wrote to the Panda's Thumb about my adventures, but I've been extremely busy, and have only now had time to update my journal, after visits to Minnesota, Iowa, Alaska, and Georgia. There's much to catch up on! In my first stop, I visited a small liberal arts university on the western Minnesota prairies, which you'd think would be a quiet place, but appearances can be deceiving…especially when you are a small plush bear with an active fantasy life.

A student note in the latest issue of the Washington University Journal of Law And Policy, while better than the usual anti-evolution law review article (because shorter), is still rotten at the core. The unifying theme of these errors is the author’s unfortunate misconception that there are scientifically valid “alternatives” to evolution. This error infects the rest of the article—as they say, one bad apple spoils the bunch.

I reported yesterday about William Dembski, John Campbell and Stephen Meyer being withdrawn as expert witnesses by the Thomas More Law Center in the Dover lawsuit. There is now developing some contradictory explanations for that withdrawal. The York Daily Record reported that the TMLC refused to allow the three Discovery Institute (DI) fellows to have their own legal representation present during depositions because it was a "conflict of interest":

Dembski, a mathematician and scientific philosopher, said the Thomas More Law Center, which is defending the school board, basically fired him because he wanted to have his own attorney present during the depositions...

Thompson said the problem arose in the past several weeks when the Discovery Institute insisted that its people have separate legal representation.

Note: This review is based on the Italian edition of Giuseppe Sermonti?s “Dimenticare Darwin” - “To forget Darwin” - (Il Cerchio, Rimini, 2003), about to be released in English by the Discovery Institute Press as “Why is a fly not a horse?”. An updated review of the translation, if necessary, will follow. - AB

The front cover of Giuseppe Sermonti?s Dimenticare Darwin sports the picture of a woman?s head made up of a twisting ribbon, through which a cloudy sky can be seen. It is a very fitting image for the main topic of the book, which focuses on the origin of form in living organisms, but even more for its quality: an empty shell practically devoid of meaningful content. Sermonti?s short work is neither a science book, nor a science-inspired philosophical reflection on natural history, but a long rhetorical argument whose purpose is to sway and manipulate the reader, not to inform or educate.

This story has finally been made public so we can talk about it. Within the last couple weeks, three of the main experts for the defense in the Dover ID trial - William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and John Campbell - have all been withdrawn as expert witnesses in the case. The York Daily Record reports:

Dembski, a mathematician and scientific philosopher, said the Thomas More Law Center, which is defending the school board, basically fired him because he wanted to have his own attorney present during the depositions.

He said he’s puzzled and frustrated by Thomas More’s refusal to let him participate.

"I felt like I was in the crossfire," Dembski said.

The article goes on to note that there is a basic disagreement between the Discovery Institute, of which all three are fellows, and the Thomas More Law Center, over whether the Dover policy of mandating ID in classrooms is a good idea. The DI has taken the position that it should be allowed, but not mandated, while the TMLC is defending the board's policy of mandating that teaching. Both Dembski and Thompson tried to downplay those differences a bit in the article above, but I would maintain that they go a lot deeper than is being admitted.

beetle hox

One of those difficult misconceptions that is hard to root out of people's heads is the idea that individual genes 'make' something. We all have this bias, this tendency to reify the gene into something concrete—scientists do it all the time, too. You can see it in the list of gene names at OMIM, for instance; many are named after diseases or their consequences in adults. The message of which I try to always remind myself (not always successfully) is that genes don't make things, interactions between collections of genes and the environment make things. Biology arises out of the processes, not the structures; it's the reactions, not the end-product.

A paper in the latest BioEssays reminds me of this. It's a short review of Hox genes and insect wing formation that carries the same message, that morphology is a consequence of patterns of gene interactions.

Continue reading "Exorcising flawed concepts of Hox function" (on Pharyngula)

A Father’s Day Remembrance


I wrote this a few years ago, long before Panda’s Thumb. Considering the occasion, I’m posting it here for PT browsers. Have a good Father’s Day! - Dave Thomas

“Father’s Day” by David E. Thomas

Last Sunday [June 20, 1999] was the worst Father’s Day I’ve ever had, because my father didn’t live to see it. He was doing fine just last Thursday, when I made one of my customary stops at his dinosaur studio to swap articles and shoot the breeze. We chuckled at how Bill Buckley had been taken in by a hoax involving postal taxes on internet mail. We looked at pop’s latest sculpture, of the pharaoh Akhenaten, and Dad gleamed as he described his plan to use radiant quartz crystals for the eyes. I gave him an article comparing the democratic spirit of ‘Star Trek’ to the feudal dictatorships (both malevolent and benevolent) of ‘Star Wars.’ We talked over a couple of other things, and then I was on my way. Dad called me at work a couple of hours later to say how much he had enjoyed the Star Wars/Star Trek article. That was the last time we talked.

I got a call from my mom at about 7 that night. In a shaking voice, she said that there were six people working on dad, and he wasn’t responding. After I made it through 40 minutes of driving rain to the house, and then (following a note’s instructions) to hospital, I learned the worst. Even though the medics were there in just minutes, there was nothing they could do.

In the days since then, as Father’s Day approached, I gave some good hard thought to what this day means to me now. And this Father’s Day was, in fact, a really good day for me. Because, on reflection, I can honestly say that my dad is the best dad in the world. The best dad ever. For real.

PT commenter Lenny Flank often asks for IDists to present an actual theory of intelligent design. Well Lenny, an exclusive commentary was just posted by Kelly Hollowell (see her website, ScienceMinistries.org) on WorldNet Daily entitled, “Mechanism behind intelligent design uncovered?

Few e-mails have ever stopped me as cold as the one I am about to describe. In it, the author, a former university professor who wishes to remain anonymous, claims to know the actual mechanism behind intelligent design. That is the mechanism by which God created the universe, our world and all biological life within it.Kelly Hollowell, “Mechanism behind intelligent design uncovered?

With an intro like that, you know it has to be good. Read it here.

From an AAUP press release sent today, June 17:

Faculty Association Speaks Out on Three Top Issues Washington, D.C.? In Washington, D.C. last Saturday, the annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) adopted resolutions on three issues of concern to faculty and others in the academic community. The resolutions address the right of graduate student employees to choose representation by a collective bargaining agent, concern over increased attacks on the academic freedom of teachers and scholars across the nation, and the teaching of evolution.

Volokh on creationism


Eugene Volokh has an interesting post here on creationism and what ID proponents are pleased to call "naturalism."

A seventh amicus brief (pdf) in the Selman case has been put up on the NCSE Selman website (www.ncseweb.org/selman – See the previous PT post). This brief is by national and Georgia religious groups (National Council of Jewish Women, Interfaith Alliance, and Georgia Interfaith Alliance), and addresses the question of whether the Cobb County Evolution Warning Label violates the Bill of Rights of the Georgia Constitution:

Paragraph VII. Separation of church and state. No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution.Bill of Rights of the Georgia Constitution

It is often the case that state constitutions are even stronger on civil rights than the Federal Constitution, so constitutional challenges to policies will often invoke the local state constitution as well as the federal constitution.

The plaintiffs’ brief in the appeal (pdf) is also now available.

Tangled Bank #30

The Tangled Bank

The latest Tangled Bank is now available at The Geomblog.

Spinning the truth the DI way


On the DI website Rob Crowther spins the following story

OSU graduate student, Bryan Leonard, is suffering a vicious attack from Darwinist who seem bent on keeping him from earning his doctoral degree, precisely because he does not adhere to a strictly Darwinian viewpoint. (see here for more details)

As PT has reported already, this is incorrect

But what really caught my eye was the following ‘quote mine’

Charles Mitchell at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (http://www.thefire.org/index.php/) has posted his insightful take on the situation:

Appearing next in Springfield?


Well, not quite. I’ve been catching up on my Science reading after a lot of travel, and found this very cool little article. (“Cultivating the Third Eye,” Science, Vol 308, Issue 5724, 948, 13 May 2005)

Evolution in Alaska


This editorial from the Anchorage Daily News is one of the best-informed I’ve ever seen about the creationists’ national strategy to “Teach the [made-up] scientific controversy about evolution!” It appears that a number of scientists and educators turned out for public hearings on Alaska’s new science standards last week, and they educated both the board and the media in the process.

It would be nice if every newspaper was this smart about the creationists’ “teach the controversy” strategy:

Without much fuss, the Alaska Board of Education put an essential bit of science back into the state science standards last Friday. That was thanks to more than a bit of civil discussion that took place the day before.


But to teach the “evolution vs. intelligent design” controversy in science classes would give too much weight to ideas that haven’t earned their scientific keep. There are better challenges to evolution on scientific grounds.

That does not mean evolution is only a hypothesis. As speakers at last week’s Alaska Board of Education hearing on state science standards pointed out, the theory of evolution is as sound scientifically as the theory of gravity. Both raise unanswered questions, but they are generally accepted in the world of science, acted upon in real life and, most of all, supported by the preponderance of evidence.

The serious scientific challenges to evolution or Darwinism are not from creationists or intelligent design theorists who draw their inspiration from faith, but from scientists who draw their conclusions from evidence. Evolution is sound theory, not fixed dogma. It can both withstand and profit by continued scrutiny and revision.Anchorage Daily News, “Board restores reason to evolution studies

While we’re on the subject of Alaska, be sure to check out the website of Alaska artist Ray Troll (www.trollart.com). He did the shark image in this post, and he does some great art on ocean biology, fossils, and evolution.

Also, the Evolution 2005 meeting has been going on up in Fairbanks. I suspect PT poster Reed Cartwright, who is at the meetings, will have a report at some point.

Victory in Gull Lake


Last evening I attended the Gull Lake school board meeting on a sweltering night when they were to decide whether or not to allow two 7th grade science teachers to teach ID as they had been doing for the last couple of years. I am happy to report that after about a year of effort and controversy, the school board voted unanimously that ID could not be taught in science classes in that district, nor could the book Of Pandas and People be used in the 7th grade class where it had been used as a supplemental text for the past couple years by two teachers there. They did so in the face of a lawsuit threatened by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of the two teachers, who claim that they have a right to teach ID in their classes even if those with authority over the curriculum do not agree.

I gave a brief talk to the board that focused on two things. First, the fact that many prominent ID advocates had themselves said that it was premature to talk about teaching ID in public school science classrooms because it is not yet a full fledged scientific theory and has not been established within the scientific community to warrant such inclusion. Specifically, I quoted Bruce Gordon's statement that ID had been "prematurely drawn into discussions of public science education where it has no business making an appearance without broad recognition from the scientific community that it is making a worthwhile contribution to our understanding of the natural world." Second, I sought to reassure the board that the lawsuit threatened by the TMLC has little hope of succeeding and that they almost certainly know that. As I wrote on the Michigan Citizens for Science webpage a few weeks ago, there are three precedents for such a suit. In all three, the complaint was dismissed and the dismissal upheld on appeal.

The DI Spins Academic Freedom

| 39 Comments | 6 TrackBacks

The Discovery Institute has a habit of misrepresenting issues, thereby publicly shooting itself in the foot. The most recent instance is a press release misleadingly titled Attack on OSU Graduate Student Endangers Academic Freedom. In it, Bruce Chapman, President of the Discovery Institute, presents a version of events filled with fabrications and misrepresentations.

Let me first briefly recapitulate the actual sequence of events.

  • Sometime in the past, months or years ago, Bryan Leonard, a doctoral candidate in science education at The Ohio State University, put together a dissertation committee whose composition violated the clear requirements of the program in which he was seeking a degree.
  • On Thursday, June 2, 2005, an assistant professor of French & Italian assigned to Leonard’s defense withdrew from the committee and was immediately replaced by Dr. Joan Herbers, Dean of the College of Biological Sciences and an evolutionary biologist. According to the graduate school, it was Paul Post, Leonard’s dissertation advisor, [corrected in edit] Peter Paul, head of the School of Teaching and Learning, who initially got the graduate school involved, resulting in the change in Leonard’s committee.
  • In a letter dated and delivered on Friday, June 3, three full professors – Rissing, McKee, and McEnnis – transmitted concerns raised by Leonard’s public testimony in the recent Kansas BOE hearings to the graduate school of the Ohio State University. That letter is a public document, available to the press on request (using an official Ohio Request for Public Records procedure if necessary). The formal letter communicating concerns to the OSU Grad School was requested by and sent to a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday 8 June.
  • Also on Friday, June 3, Leonard’s advisor, Paul Post, requested a postponement of Leonard’s defense. In other words, contrary to Bruce Chapman’s claims (discussed below), Ohio State did not prevent Leonard from defending his dissertation; his advisor requested the postponement the day after a qualified faculty member was appointed to his committee and on the same day that questions were raised about the composition of the committee.
  • On Tuesday, June 7, 2005, I posted a description of what was then known about the Leonard affair, together with some reasonable inferences from that description. Notice of my posting was transmitted over my signature to members of the press.
  • In statements since then, the Graduate School has said that it is looking into the circumstances surrounding the composition of Leonard’s committee and questions about the conduct of his research.

So we have a series of events, precipitated by Leonard’s advisor [corrected in edit] the School of Teaching and Learning and by Leonard himself in Kansas, that resulted in his advisor requesting the postponement of Leonard’s defense after a qualified faculty member – Dr. Herbers – was appointed to his committee.

The Tangled Bank looms

The Tangled Bank

Another Tangled Bank is coming up on Wednesday at Geomblog. Get those links sent in to Suresh Venkatasubramanian, host@tangledbank.net, or me soon.

Also, if you look at our schedule, we're booked up through July…but August is wide open if you want to volunteer to be a host.

A new recruit

| 46 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

The Discovery Institute is doing a fine job of raising the visibility of creationism and focusing the attention of their enemies. They say things like this:

Although much of the public controversy over intelligent design has focused on the application of design to biology, it’s important to remember that design theory itself reaches well beyond biology, and that some of the strongest evidence for design comes from such fields as physics, astronomy, and cosmology.

And suddenly, scientists in disciplines other than biology perk up and realize that these clowns are coming to pester them next. The Privileged Planet debacle is a sign that the anti-evolutionists are eager to pollute national science institutions and all scientific disciplines with their garbage, and more and more scientists are going to be speaking out harshly against them. The utter vacuity of the creationist responses in Kansas is also a sign of their weakness; the DI has overreached itself, and blood is in the water.

The newest recruit is Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy Blog. Phil has always been ready to dismantle the abuse of his discipline by the media, but now he's alerted to the bad physics, astronomy, and cosmology of the Discovery Institute, and plans to spend more effort fighting the distortions of the creationists.

Young Earth creationists have let slip the dogmas of war. In the ensuing battles they will use a host of weapons, including misrepresenting facts, mining of quotes, belaboring outdated theories, and dancing around to avoid answering direct questions. Mark my words: their history is clear.

They may have fired the first shot, but we have plenty of ammo on our side as well. And we also have many, many scientists willing to accept this call to arms.

I’m one of them. Over the course of time, you’ll be seeing more rebuttals — no, debunking — of creationist claims here. I’ve had enough, and this threat is real. They want to turn our classrooms in a theocratically-controlled anti-science breeding ground, and I’m not going to sit by and watch it happen.

Every anti-science, anti-education bill in a legislature makes a state full of bitter foes, every national embarrassment creates a horde of angry scientists. I think the only thing we've lost in our war with the creationists so far is our complacency.

Kansas Hearings: Harris


On page 28, in the Kansas Science Hearing May 5, Mr. Irigonegaray is cross examining witness Harris and exposes the contradictory beliefs.

Harris clearly accepts that science should be dealing with naturalistic explanations and supernatural explanations should not be allowed. And yet he objects at the same time that the science standards should mention something about guided/unguided and the fact that they don’t is a problem…

It seems to me that Phillip Johnson has left a legacy of confusion when he conflated philosophical and methodological naturalism. Too bad that countless Christians are left with an inability to reconcile their faith with scientific fact and theory: Christianity in Crisis…

William Dembski has just blogged about a short comment I made this morning on The Thumb answering someone’s question about whether or not a detailed evolutionary model for the bacterial flagellum would deserve a Nobel Prize. In that comment, I pointed to this long web article I wrote on the evolution of the bacterial flagellum (which is already badly in need of an update), but I said that, no, such a model would clearly not deserve a Nobel, because it would be entirely routine and conventional – simply the application of the current paradigm (modern evolutionary theory) to fill in one more little gap in our knowledge of evolutionary history. Although creationists don’t realize it, discoveries showing how complex system evolved come out all the time in the scientific literature. (A number of examples are linked from my comment here.)

Dembski’s post in reply is entitled “To Explain the Flagellum � Just Look Up All the Homologies.” There are numerous dubious assertions in Dembski’s short post that would take all day to write up, but I just want to focus on one limited point for the moment. Will the ID advocates admit that they made a mistake in asserting that, except for the 10 proteins of the Type III secretion system, they other 30-40 parts of the flagellum were “unique”?

Irony Design in Utah


Set your irony meter on max. Imagine if someone had pro-ID talking points from someplace like the Discovery Institute, but transposed them to Utah’s new proposal for “divine design” legislation in 2006. The result:

Some will argue that this is an inappropriate mixture of science and religion, but again, divine design does not purport to say who or what the designer was. “Survival of the fittest theory,” The Spectrum (southern Utah)

Looks like another trip to the irony meter store for me…

The transcripts from the Kansas Kangaroo Court of May 2005 are finally up (unfortunately labeled, “Science Standards Expert Testimony” – someone should count how many times the witnesses said something like “I’m not an expert” on relevant scientific questions). Briefs, presented materials, etc., are also available on the KSDE website.

The transcripts run to 308 pages total, if I count correctly. Still, it’s far better than trying to listen to the recordings and write down the shocking bits. I planned to do this one weekend, but it took me most of the day just to get through Bill Harris’s opening presentation.

Hear is one random bit of bogusness from Harris’s talk:

“Jumping the Shark” refers to a moment when something distinctly and irrevocably goes downhill. The origin of “jumping the shark” as a phrase goes back to an episode of the “Happy Days” TV show when the character of “Fonzie” actually performed that stunt. But “jumping the shark” works for more than TV shows. So here I want to open the floor for discussion of when “intelligent design” jumped the shark.

Regular patrons of The Thumb will be familiar with the case Selman v. Cobb County School District (see previous PT posts, e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). This was the case that tested the constitutionality of school-district mandated evolution “warning labels” in biology textbooks. In January 2005 Judge Clarence Cooper of the Northern District of Georgia ruled that these warning labels were unconstitutional because they had an impermissable religious effect, violating the Lemon test.

In May 2005 the disclaimers were finally removed from Cobb textbooks, but the Cobb County School Board has appealed the decision to the Eleventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Today, the National Center for Science Education and People for the American Way filed an amicus brief explaining the history of creationist attempts to place “warning labels” about evolution in kids’ textbooks. See the NCSE Press Release. The history of creationist attempts to infere with the teaching of evolution, via “warning labels” and other methods, seems to have been an important consideration in Cooper’s trial court decision, and so will likely be important at the appeals court level as well.

NCSE has set up a special webpage on Selman. NCSE’s amicus brief is not alone: so far, we know of seven other amicus briefs that are supporting Judge Cooper’s decision. The briefs come from diverse perspectives, including scientists, science teachers, civil liberties, religious groups, grassroots groups opposed to creationism, etc. PDFs of the briefs are being uploaded to NCSE’s Selman page as they are sent to NCSE. See the NCSE press release and the NCSE Selman FAQ for more information, and spread the word.

Jay Richards recently stepped in it when he speculated that, because he didn’t find general relativity particularly intuitive, therefore Einstein might have been wrong. Now Sean Carroll calls out Paul Nelson on his interpretation of a supposedly ID-friendly essay by cosmologist George Ellis. “Nelson,” writes Carroll, “turns Ellis’s essay to his advantage via the venerable technique of ‘making shit up.’”

Biologists, astronomers, geologists, and now, increasingly, physicists: who’s next in line for a Discovery Institute-style “retraining”?

With the Smithsonian Institute/Privileged Planet brouhaha, the subject of cosmological ID has been buzzing about the blogosphere lately. In particular, as noted by other PT contributors, physicist William Jeffreys has written this excellent, scathing reivew of the book version of The Privileged Planet. But David Heddle, author of the blog He Lives, was less impressed. He vents his spleen here.

Over at EvolutionBlog I have offered these thoughts on the matter. I argue, among other things, that cosmological fine-tuning is more plausibly interpreted as evidence for multiple universes than it is for ID. And in this entry I offer some thoughts on Heddle's arguments regarding the falsifiability, or lack thereof, of cosmological ID. Enjoy!

As reported by Red State Rabble, the Tulsa Zoo has approved a new exhibit. This exhibit will chronicle the biblical account of creation.

The new exhibit was promoted by architect Dan Hicks, who some may recall was involved in the Tulsa Zoo “removing” evolution displays in the late nineties. (He also doesn’t like gays at the zoo.)

According to the Tulsa Beacon, Dan Hicks has pushed for a display on biblical creation because other idols, like Ganesha, are displayed at the zoo.

Hicks said his display, a series of photographs by Oregon photographer Rick Ergenbright from his book, The Art of God, should be presented because of the numerous displays of pagan religions throughout the zoo. Either put them all up or take them all down, Hicks said.

Over at the National Center for Science Education web site, William H. Jefferys of the University of Texas at Austin skewers Gonzalez and Richards’s “The Privileged Planet” (the book) in an excellent review. Jefferys sums it up like this:

To summarize, the little that is new in this book isn’t interesting, and what is old is just old-hat creationism in a new, modern-looking astronomical costume.

I guess they got tired of the cheap tuxedo.

Go read the whole thing. And I mean NOW.

ID vs. Academic Integrity: Gaming the System in Ohio

| 129 Comments | 11 TrackBacks

Bryan Leonard is a recently visible figure in the intelligent design creationism movement. Leonard is a high school biology teacher at Hilliard Davidson High School in a suburb of Columbus. As an appointee to the Ohio State BOE’s model curriculum-writing committee, he was the author of the IDC-oriented “Critical Analysis” model lesson plan adopted by the Ohio State Board of Education last year, and he recently testified at the Kansas Creationist Kangaroo Court hearings. The credential that endears him to the IDC movement is that he is a doctoral candidate in science education at the Ohio State University, and his dissertation research is on the academic merits of an ID-based “critical analysis” approach to teaching evolution in public schools.

Leonard was scheduled to defend his dissertation yesterday, June 6, but we learned late last week that his defense has been postponed.

More below the fold.

Intelligent Design proponents who claim that they have a ‘theory’ often formulate it in the form of “evolutionary/Darwinian mechanisms cannot explain X”. When pressed for a scientific theory, it quickly becomes obvious that ID is scientifically vacuous.

Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’-but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.

Paul Nelson, Touchstone Magazine 7/8 (2004): pp 64 – 65.

For Paul’s explanation see this link

Coyne as quoted by Behe in Darwin’s Black Box:

We conclude-unexpectedly-that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak.

I decided to check the actual text and guess what? In the actual text the period is a comma and the text continues as follows:

and there is no doubt that mutations of large effects are sometimes important in adaptation.

By Connor J. O’Brien

As we are all aware, the recent publicity surrounding the Kansas Kangaroo Kourt and the Dover, PA case has led many academics outside of the biological sciences to weigh in on the place of Creationist ideas like Intelligent Design in the scientific discourse. The rhetoric of these missives will be familiar to anyone who’s paid attention to creationist attacks on the theory of evolution over the years. In short, there’s nothing new here, but I think one particular element of the specious reasoning often employed calls for a thorough analysis. The following quotations are just a small, representitive sample.

Make The Leap

| 34 Comments | 2 TrackBacks
Recently I wrote on Wells' paper in Rivista. Some readers may know that he presented a talk on the very same material at the 2004 Biola "Intelligent Design and the Future of Science" conference, and the talk is available from ARN. During the Q&A session, he was asked to "elaborate on the specific way in which ID plays a role in this situation". Below I provide his answer and leave it up to you, gentle reader, to discuss his viewpoint.
“First of all, ID encourages a closer look at centrosomes and centrioles. They are not very interesting from a Darwinian evolutionary standpoint, in fact they are totally uninteresting. I have submitted this paper … to several journals. The first one, the editor was a strong evolutionary biologist, and his reaction was ‘well, we are not interested in theories of centrosomal function, we just want more molecules, you should just go out and give us those.’ This is the molecular reductionist emphasis that I attribute to Darwinian evolution. ID liberates us from that first of all. It encourages us to take cell structures or living structures at face value. I mean, this thing looks for all the world like a turbine, it’s been called a turbine for decades by cell biologists, but nobody – and I’ve searched the literature – nobody has proposed that it’s a turbine before. I think it might be, you know. It’s worth a shot. ID in a broader sense encourages this sort of cellular perspective, organismal perspective, as opposed to the bottom-up molecular perspective, but the most specific instance in this case is the turbine idea. Well, I would say the Archimedes Screw too – it looks like a screw, maybe it is a screw. … maybe it is a vortexer, and it turns out the effect would be similar to what we have observed in cells for decades. So, ID encourages one to trust your intuition, to make the leap. You know, if it looks like this, maybe it is, let’s look in to it. Maybe it fits, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s worth a shot. And so it’s not that ID says ‘Yes, this is where it is, you have to find it here’ – ID is more of an umbrella, a framework, that encourages this sort of risky hypothesis making that I think could ultimately be very fruitful”

ID in their own words: Dembski


People have been wondering why critics of ID consider Intelligent Design to be scientifically vacuous.

Nichols Wrote:

Proponents of Intelligent Design theory seek to ground a scientific research program that appeals to teleology within the context of biological explanation. As such, Intelligent Design theory must contain principles to guide researchers. I argue for a disjunction: either Dembski’s ID theory lacks content, or it succumbs to the methodological problems associated with creation science-problems that Dembski explicitly attempts to avoid. The only concept of a designer permitted by Dembski’s Explanatory Filter is too weak to give the sorts of explanations which we are entitled to expect from those sciences, such as archeology, that use effect-to-cause reasoning. The new spin put upon ID theory-that it is best construed as a ‘metascientific hypothesis’-fails for roughly the same reason.

R. Nichols, Scientific content, testability, and the vacuity of Intelligent Design theory The American Catholic philosophical quarterly , 2003 , vol. 77 , no 4 , pp. 591 - 611

One need not look far to find supporting evidence as to why.

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.

William A. Dembski Organisms using GAs vs. Organisms being built by GAs thread at ISCID 18. September 2002

The Ferrett has a description of an “interesting” graphic novel.

The evil fallen angels stampede the dinosaurs toward Noah’s Ark, hoping to destroy it. … The flood waters drowned and killed the dinosaurs. … This event is [u]not[/u] a fable and [u]not[/u] a “myth”… It is a verifiable scientific [u]fact[/u]!

PZ has some more commentary.

Divine Design in Utah


According to the Salt Lake Tribune, backers of “divine design” want equal time in Utah public schools.

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, plans to lead the fight for instruction of divine design in Utah public schools. He wants to defuse some of the expected controversy by avoiding the term “creationism” altogether.

Instead, he favors “divine design,” sometimes called “intelligent design,” which “doesn’t preach religion,” he said. “The only people who will be upset about this are atheists.”

Supporters of intelligent design say nature is so complex that it could not have occurred without the guidance of some higher power, maybe God, maybe something else.

They say this differs from traditional creationists who believe that God created the Earth, and argue the distinction means its inclusion in public school curriculum would not violate church-state separation.

”The divine design is a counter to the kids’ belief that we all come from monkeys. Because we didn’t,” said the conservative Republican and retired director of a private school for troubled boys. “It shocks me that our schools are teaching evolution as fact.”

Buttars doesn’t disregard evolution completely, rather he believes God is the creator, but His creations have evolved within their own species.

“We get different types of dogs and different types of cats, but you have never seen a ‘dat,’ ” he said.

Barbara Forrest and Glenn Branch have published an interesting perspective in Academe

They provide us with an in depth overview of the Wedge approach of Intelligent Design and its scientific vacuity (scientific sterility they call it).

Over thirty years ago, the great geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution,” and his words continue to ring true today. Biologists, and scientists generally, know that evolutionary biology continues to thrive, despite constant claims by its ideological opponents that it is a “theory in crisis.” Insofar as biologists are aware of intelligent design, they generally regard it as they do young-earth creationism: negligible at best, a nuisance at worst. But unlike young-earth creationism, intelligent design maintains a not inconsiderable base within academia, whose members seemingly exploit their academic standing to promote the concept as intellectually respectable while shirking the task of producing a scientifically compelling case for it. To be sure, academic supporters of intelligent design enjoy, and should enjoy, the same degree of academic freedom conferred on the professoriate in general. But academic freedom is no excuse for misleading students about the scientific legitimacy of a view overwhelmingly rejected by the scientific community. In short, the academic supporters of intelligent design are enjoying, in the familiar phrase, power without responsibility. It is a trend that their colleagues ought to be aware of, worry about, and help to resist.

Francis Beckwith and Walter Bradley object to some minor quibbles

Comments on Beckwith’s article at Right Reason.

Dawson family protests Beckwith’s appointment to Baylor institute By Marv Knox Posted: 9/19/03

PAX Television has a weekly show called Faith Under Fire, hosted by Lee Strobel, a “former investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune turned apologist” according to a recent article that discusses Strobel’s pro-ID views.

On the episode for Saturday, June 4th, one segment discusses the Bible Code:

“Secret codes. You saw them in National Treasure. You read about them in The Da Vinci Code. Is it possible that there are actually secret codes in the Bible! And if there is some kind of code in the Bible, why is it there? Two mathematicians debate the existence of Bible codes. Insurance actuarial consultant Ed Sherman, author of the Bible Code Bombshell, says he tried to disprove the code notion but ended up being convinced of its authenticity. Physicist Dr. Dave Thomas the author of Skeptical Odysseys and a member of the Committee for Scientific of Claims of the Paranormal, remains unconvinced.…”

If you’re curious as to how a Panda’s Thumb blogger does against Ed Sherman, tune in. If you miss it, the debate between Thomas and Sherman continues on the Web.

Museum Quits as Film Sponsor

After the news of the showing caused controversy, however, officials of the museum screened “Privileged Planet” for themselves.

“The major problem with the film is the wrap-up,” said Randall Kremer, a museum spokesman.

“It takes a philosophical bent rather than a clear statement of the science, and that’s where we part ways with them.”

In today’s Washington Post, there is an editorial entitled Dissing Darwin that is recommended reading. I’ll offer some commentary on the flipside.

Revisiting Rivista

| 34 Comments | 1 TrackBack
Today, the DI proudly announced that "[f]or the second time in nine months, an article explicitly applying intelligent design theory to scientific research has been published in an internationally respected biology journal -- despite Darwinists' claims that this never happens." This leads one to wonder about the status of Rivista within the biological community? While it may be "one of the oldest biological journals in the world" (1919), I would argue that it is neither "internationally respected" nor influential.

Read more over at Stranger Fruit.

Fumble in the endzone


Denyse O’Leary wrote:

As far as I am concerned, American Darwinists are as dumb as a bag of hammers. Or, as we say here in Toronto, Canada, “smart like streetcars.” By assailing the Smithsonian in droves over the showing of an inspiring film, which the vast majority of them have NEVER SEEN, which suggests that there is meaning and purpose in the universe (well, hello!), they have managed to create a situation where the Smithsonian must now screen the film for free.

- Denyse O’Leary, Toronto

That is Ms. T. rex, buster!


The Schweitzer/Horner team that we have followed for years has released their newest result today. They had raised a tremendous clamor among young earth creationists late last March when they announced that they had recovered flexible tissues identifiable as blood vessels, blood cells, and osteocytes from a Tyrannosaur rex femur. (See ”Dino Blood Redux”). At that time, they made a rather cryptic comment that there was something unusual about the gross architecture of the bone, and that they had a second paper already in review with Science.

The online supplemental data with their March article (Schweitzer MH, Wittmeyer JL, Horner JR, Toporski JK (2005) Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex. Science 307(5717):1952-1955) indicated that they had molecular data directly attesting to the evolutionary relationship between dinosaurs and birds. At that time, I noted the direct contrast between creationist David Menton’s complaint, “Why not compare the histology of the dinosaur bone to that of some living reptile? After all, dinosaurs are reptiles,” (‘Ostrich-osaurus’ discovery?) and Jack Horner’s comment that, “Birds are dinosaurs.”

Today we learn that the unusual gross anatomy from the interior of the MOR 1125 femur was immediately recognized by Schweitzer as Medullary bone. Medullary tissue is a calcium-rich layer lining the inside of bird’s bone marrow cavities that develops during the egg-laying process. The formation of medullary tissue is today uniquely avian and distinct from reptilian egg-laying biology.

The actually paper becomes available Friday, June 3rd. We will look forward to reading it, and examining the creationist’s reactions in a following item.

In the Inferno, Dante tells the story of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca (don’t even try to pronounce it, unless you are Italian). Count Ugolino was locked up in a tower with his sons, without food or water, by his Pisan political enemies, whom he had betrayed. To survive, he ate his own children (he died anyway, and got to spend eternity stuck in a frozen lake, gnawing at his incarcerator’s skull).

Michael Behe also had to face Ugolino’s choice: starving for support for ID, he was forced to eat his own brain-child, “irreducible complexity” (IC). The meal was fully consumed in Behe’s response to my “The Revenge of Calvin and Hobbes” post.

From EurekaAlert:
A male fly's sexual courtship of a female fly is a complicated business of tapping, singing, wing vibration, and licking, but a single gene is all that is needed to produce this complex behavior, according to new research published in this week's issue of the journal Cell.

The gene encodes the Fruitless protein. Male and female flies carry different versions of the fruitless protein, as a result of sex-specific splicing of the mRNA. The male form of Fruitless is critical for the male courtship ritual and males' preference for mating with females, as previous studies have shown.

Now, Barry J. Dickson and Ebru Demir of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences show just how intimately fruitless is linked to these stereotypically male behaviors. They discovered that female flies with the male version of fruitless behave like males, directing at other females a sexual display nearly identical to their male counterparts.

See also: Ebru Demir and Barry J. Dickson: "fruitless Splicing Specifies Male Courtship Behavior in Drosophila" Cell, Vol. 121, 785–794, June 3, 2005. DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2005.04.027
All animals exhibit innate behaviors that are specified during their development. Drosophila melanogaster males (but not females) perform an elaborate and innate courtship ritual directed toward females (but not males). Male courtship requires products of the fruitless (fru) gene, which is spliced differently in males and females. We have generated alleles of fru that are constitutively spliced in either the male or the female mode. We show that male splicing is essential for male courtship behavior and sexual orientation. More importantly, male splicing is also sufficient to generate male behavior in otherwise normal females. These females direct their courtship toward other females (or males engineered to produce female pheromones). The splicing of a single neuronal gene thus specifies essentially all aspects of a complex innate behavior.
Petra Stockinger, Duda Kvitsiani, Shay Rotkopf, László Tirián, and Barry J. Dickson: "Neural Circuitry that Governs Drosophila Male Courtship Behavior" Cell, Vol. 121, 795–807, June 3, 2005. DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2005.04.026
Male-specific fruitless (fru) products (FruM) are both necessary and sufficient to “hardwire” the potential for male courtship behavior into the Drosophila nervous system. FruM is expressed in ∼2% of neurons in the male nervous system, but not in the female. We have targeted the insertion of GAL4 into the fru locus, allowing us to visualize and manipulate the FruM-expressing neurons in the male as well as their counterparts in the female. We present evidence that these neurons are directly and specifically involved in male courtship behavior and that at least some of them are interconnected in a circuit. This circuit includes olfactory neurons required for the behavioral response to sex pheromones. Anatomical differences in this circuit that might account for the dramatic differences in male and female sexual behavior are not apparent.

The Society for the Study of Evolution, which is ironically based in Kansas, has redone their website: http://www.evolutionsociety.org. The website contains information about evolution and science education, statements from scientific societies on evolution, a white paper on evolution and society, and many more interesting things.

The objectives of the Society for the Study of Evolution are the promotion of the study of organic evolution and the integration of the various fields of science concerned with evolution.

The Society publishes the scientific journal Evolution and holds annual meetings in which scientific findings on evolutionary biology are presented and discussed.

The Society for the Study of Evolution holds its annual meeting with The Society of Systematic Biolologists and The American Society of Naturalists. This conference is simply called “Evolution.” Evolution 2005 is at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and begin June, 10th.

I will be attending the conference and presenting some of my doctoral research on simulating sequence evolution. Prof. Steve Steve will be traveling with me to the conference and will be at my talk (early Sunday morning) if anyone wants to meet him.

Denyse O’Leary reports on the Smithsonian statement

O'Leary on ASA Wrote:

O’Leary assails Darwinbots.

Read more at O’Leary’s Web log.

The irony of Denyse’s comments has not escaped the ASA participants

Michael Roberts observes

Congratulations to Denyse for scoring an own goal. If she had not hyped up the whole story these so-called Darwinbots never would have known.

As noted in comments, creationists are hoping to have PBS play The Privileged Planet after the SI showing. PT has done some investigating and can report the following, straight from the PBS administration: PBS affiliates have been offered the opportunity to broadcast Privileged Planet starting 1 June 2005 and lasting for three years.

Individual PBS affiliate stations have great discretion in setting programming schedules and it is to them that you should direct your inquiries on this matter. You may find your local PBS station’s address at PBS.org.


The Bathroom Wall


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.

Just because this is the bathroom wall does not mean that you should put your #$%& on it.

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

The Tangled Bank

Wow, but this thing has growed and growed…eventually the science bloggers are going to crowd the political bloggers out of the blogosphere, and then we shall be philosopher-kings ruling a blogtopia with our bloggy blogitude…and first thing we're going to do is outlaw that hideous word, "blog".

But I digress. Go read Tangled Bank #29 - The Natural History Museum.

Cristi�n Samper Wrote:

Statement by the Director, National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History recently approved a request by the Discovery Institute to hold a private, invitation-only screening and reception at the Museum on June 23 for the film “The Privileged Planet.” Upon further review we have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution’s scientific research. Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor the National Museum of Natural History supports or endorses the Discovery Institute or the film “The Privileged Planet.” However, since Smithsonian policy states that all events held at any museum be “co-sponsored” by the director and the outside organization, and we have signed an agreement with this organization, we will honor the commitment made to provide space for the event.

In her ‘response’ toOrr’s excellent contribution in the New Yorker, Denyse O’Leary quotes Luskin

Luskin, an apparent enfant terrible, also challenges Orr on a sensitive point:

I publicly invite Allen Orr to explain to us how his Darwinian view of life interfaces with his personal religious beliefs. Public disclosure of Orr’s personal views would go much further towards reassuring people that it is possible to believe in God and evolution than would his mere citation to a statement by a pope who said that God and evolution are compatible. My e-mail address is [Enable javascript to see this email address.].

Any other Darwinist is welcome to do the same, I suppose.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2005 is the previous archive.

July 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter