July 2006 Archives

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Many readers of this blog will be familiar with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. CSHL is the Long Island educational and research institution that hosts some of the most important professional meetings in several biological disciplines. It has for decades been the “home campus” of phage, bacterial and yeast genetics, as well as of computational neuroscience, developmental biology and various branches of genomics, bioinformatics and systems biology.

As a frequent attendee of meetings and symposia at CSHL, I am on their regular mailing list. I recently got an announcement of a meeting to be inaugurated this December that should be of great interest to followers of Intelligent Design. The meeting, “Engineering Principles in Biological Systems” ought to be exactly the kind of forum at which “Intelligent Design” researchers present their conclusions.

One of the standard talking points from ID advocates these days is that us evolution advocates are just plum crazy to even suggest that policies requiring schools to teach “critical analysis of evolution” are a way to get intelligent design into the classrooms. DI shill Casey Luskin even coined a phrase in February when he claimed that those who think this way are suffering from “false fear syndrome” and exhibiting paranoia. I’m going to suggest that this is argument is transparently false and that the ID side knows it and is pushing it anyway. And I have proof in their own words.

Continue Reading at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. And don’t forget the follow up post, where Dembski’s research assistant admits the fraud.

Here I am, minding my own business, reading this editorial opinion piece in The Guardian about fundamentalists and creationism/ID, stem-cell research, The Rapture, etc. It is by Karen Armstrong, author of the 2000 book The Battle for God. I have not read the book, but I had the impression it was a best-selling history of fundamentalism and a comparative study of the fundamentalist phenomenon in various religions. So I figured that Armstrong probably had some idea of what she was talking about.

So I’m reading the editorial. It overviews some history of Christian fundamentalism and the like, and goes into the Scopes Trial. One minor misstep occurs when “creation science” is dated to 1925, which is not quite accurate (“scientific creationism” was a particular expression of creationism that was codified around 1969 according to Ronald Numbers), but this is the kind of detail that may be lost on people who are not creationism nerds.

But then I read this:

The fundamentalists’ rejection of science is deeply linked to their apocalyptic vision. Even the relatively sober ID theorists segue easily into Rapture-speak. “Great shakings and darkness are descending on Planet Earth,” says the ID philosopher Paul Nelson, “but they will be overshadowed by even more amazing displays of God’s power and light. Ever the long-term strategist, YHVH is raising up a mighty army of cutting-edge Jewish End-time warriors.”

As Jon Stewart would say, Whaaa?

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Assuming that none of my readers are perfectly spherical, you all possess notable asymmetries—your top half is different from your bottom half, and your front or ventral half is different from you back or dorsal half. You left and right halves are probably superficially somewhat similar, but internally your organs are arranged in lopsided ways. Even so, the asymmetries are relatively specific: you aren't quite like that Volvox to the right, a ball of cells with specializations scattered randomly within. People predictably have heads on top, eyes in front, arms and legs in useful locations. This is a key feature of development, one so familiar that we take it for granted.

I'd go so far as to suggest that one of the most important events in our evolutionary history was the basic one of taking a symmetrical ball of cells and imposing on it a coordinate system, creating positional information that allowed cells to have specific identities in particular places in the embryo. When the first multicellular colony of identical cells set aside a particular patch of cells to carry out a particular function, say putting one small subset in charge of reproduction, that asymmetry became an anchor point for establishing polarity. If cells could then determine how far away they were from that primitive gonad, evolution could start shaping function by position—maybe cells far away from the gonad could be dedicated to feeding, cells in between to transport, etc., and a specialized multicellular organism could emerge. Those patterns are determined by interactions between genes, and we can try to unravel the evolutionary history of asymmetry with comparative studies of regulatory molecules in early development.

Continue reading "Ancient rules for Bilaterian development" (on Pharyngula)

A Schoolteacher Speaks Out

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Kansas State Board of Education member Connie Morris was one of the anti-science gang of six who railroaded changes to the state standards past the normal processes of curriculum development. In “Reasoning Behind Evolution Vote” (full copy available on the flip side), she attempts to justify that decision. Her article was published in the Hays, KS newspaper, and we here at the Thumb were just cracking our knuckles to respond to it.

Alas, one of the stalwart science defenders in Kansas has beaten us to the punch, but we didn’t mope too long because the response was brilliant. Cheryl Shephard-Adams’s “ID Promoters’ Perpetual Folly” is highly recommended and you can find it at the Garden City Telegram Online.

Of note, Ms. Morris is up for re-election this year. She will be opposed by both a Republican, Sally Cauble of Liberal, and a Democrat, Tim Cruz of Garden City.

If you click through to the flip side, you’ll see the Google Cache version of Morris’ original screed and, in case the same fate befalls Shepard-Adams’ brilliant reply, a full copy of it as well.

BCH

Actually, it’s split into two posts, just as the original post by Casey Luskin was done in two parts. You can have a look at my response to Luskin’s attack on Judge Jones, and then continue with some comments on Luskin’s trashing of the TalkOrigins Archive. Basically, in the first I point out that Luskin’s real problem is with ID advocate Michael Behe, not Judge Jones, since it was Behe’s testimony that Jones relied upon to make the statements that Luskin finds objectionable. In the second, I take a look at the complete irrelevancies and odd reactions Luskin has to the TalkOrigins Archive article cited by John Derbyshire. Enjoy!

The latest on Dr. Dino:

Tax evasion suspect is flight risk, ruling states

Michael Stewart @PensacolaNewsJournal.com Pensacola evangelist and tax protester Kent Hovind won’t be lecturing on creationism in South Africa next month, prompting an irate letter from a sponsor of the trip to the prosecutor.

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers this week denied Hovind’s motion to lift travel restrictions pending his Sept. 5 trial on 58 federal charges that include evading nearly $470,000 in employee taxes.

Hovind, who calls himself “Dr. Dino,” operates Dinosaur Adventure Land, a theme park on North Palafox Street dedicated to creationism.

He believes evolution is a religion and says man did not evolve from dinosaurs but, rather, lived alongside them.

At Hovind’s first federal court appearance July 13, U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis agreed with prosecutors that Hovind posed a flight risk. Hovind was ordered to surrender his passport his travel was restricted to the local judicial district, stretching from Pensacola to Gainesville.

Hovind’s public defender countered with a motion contending travel restrictions violated his client’s constitutional rights to religious freedom.

Rodgers disagreed, pointing to U.S. Supreme Court decisions saying neutral restrictions that incidentally burden religious practices are not unconstitutional.

Hovind was scheduled to travel to seven South African cities between Aug. 12 and Aug. 21 to debate scientists.

Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, gave a talk on “What’s the matter with the Standards” at Johnson County Community College this past Monday. Jack has kindly made the audio available as a set of MP3 format files. Jack’s original post on this is here. If what’s going on in Kansas is of any interest to you, you should check out these files. And these are the direct links to the downloads:

Jack Krebs’s JCCC Powerpoint Text of John Calvert segment. Calvert is the driving force behind the Kansas IDNet and effort to have the antievolution version of the standards stay in place.

MP3 sound files all zipped together (43 MB)

Introduction (MP3) Overview (MP3) The context (MP3) What was added (MP3) The Plan (MP3) Abuse of the process (MP3) The ID movement (MP3)

Calvert’s explanation (MP3) The rest of the audio (MP3)

Today, John Rennie, Editor-in-Chief of Scientific American, put up on the SciAm blog his thoughts on the Kansas election situation. See: Kansas, Undo the Damage. Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute issued an immediate reply in the comments, linking to his longer blog reply…but it was mostly just long quotes of his reply last week to my PT post showing that the current Kansas Science Standards are (a) wrong and (b) creationism/”intelligent design” in a very thin disguise.

So, I can just kill two birds with one stone by posting my reply to Luskin, which I also just put into the comments on Rennie’s blog. Here it is (short and sweet, plus a few edits):

Here is part 3 of James Downard’s autopsy of Ann Coulter’s book. As before, I am only posting this guest contribution by Jim Downard as a courtesy to him, without having myself contributed to it. Further installments from Jim are expected.

The last four chapters of Ann Coulter’s latest bestseller, Godless: The Church of Liberalism (thus a third of her book) are devoted to roasting “Darwiniac cultists” for their evolutionary delusions. As explored in the first two parts, Coulter’s ebullient confidence is inversely proportional to her knowledge. In the third part of an ongoing investigation of how Coulter could come to believe the things she does, James Downard looks into the background for one of her baldest assertions: the supposed bankruptcy of Archaeopteryx as a bird-reptile intermediate.

Continue reading Secondary Addiction, part 3, on Talk Reason

Lakes on Titan!

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Dr. Lori Marino, a colleague of mine at Emory University, sent out a call for action to end the Japanese drive hunts that annually kill dolphins and small whales. I got it relayed from Dr. Brenda McCowan at UC Davis. The short version is that scientists and zoological park professionals have gotten together to condemn Japan’s small cetacean drive hunts and are looking to collect a million signatures on a petition to try to get it shut down before the next scheduled drive hunts this coming October.

The petition site is ActForDolphins.org. Please visit it soon.

I’ve converted the three MS Word documents that I received as attachments to the safer and more portable Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Call For Action Press Release Statements from Scientists

I’m proud to say to two of my committee members, Bill Evans and Sam Ridgway, are on the “Statements” page above.

I’ll append the text of the email I got. Please pass on word of this to your friends and acquaintances. Please also note here or on O.Z. in the comments if you sign the petition.

(Continue reading at Online Zoologists)

Evolutionary biologists sometimes think we microbiology people have it easy. “No one doubts the germ theory!,” they claim.

Au contraire, mes amis:

Do some research Tara. Then you will be ready to start from scratch again, forget the germ theory nonsense and become a real scientist.

And I bet this insult will sound familiar to many used to dealing with the anti-science brigades:

(Continued at Aetiology)

The Dembski Alert

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Once again, this is a guest appearance of Jim Downard, and, once again, I have not contributed to it but only post it here as a courtesy to Jim.

While William Dembski has proudly proclaimed his role as a contributor to the evolution chapters of Ann Coulter’s new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, when push comes to shove it turns out he is singularly unwilling to take responsibility for any of the many mistakes she has made. Follow James Downard as he ventures into the curious world of Dembski/Coulter “scholarship” and learn just how much “descent” one encounters at Dembski’s website “Uncommon Descent.”

Continue reading The Dembski Alert on Talk Reason

The State of ID Research

How bad have things gotten for the ID folks? Well, they used to brag about all of the great discoveries waiting to be made by any biologist willing to take an ID perspective. Since that hasn't quite panned out, to put it kindly, they've lowered their standards a bit. If William Dembski's latest blog entry is to be believed, now you need only use a phrase like “sophisticated design principles” in a biology paper to have the ID folks claim you as one of their own.

I have the full details in this post, over at EvolutionBlog. Comments can be left there.

Myspace

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head.jpg Butterstick, my youngest, was talking the other day about this new website he found, Myspace. After checking out the site and seeing all the cool people I can be friends with, I decided to sign up.

So if you want to become my friend, an official Pandit, you can do so on Myspace.

Darwin writes -I think- above his first notebook sketch of an evolutionary treeDue to the Darwin Correspondance Project, the Darwin Digital Library of Evolution at the American Museum of Natural History Library, modern Darwin scholarship by people like James Moore, the AMNH Darwin exhibition, together with the web, amazing things are now possible if journalists get interested in taking a serious look at Darwin and reactions to Darwin.

An example is an hour-long program entitled “Evolution and Wonder – Understanding Charles Darwin” that is being broadcast on many public radio stations on Sunday and Monday. It is also available for online download in streaming or mp3 format at the program website, which includes a large amount of additional material.

Rather than re-invent the wheel I will quote the summary from NCSE news:

New Judge Jones Interview

There is a new interview with Judge Jones in the July/August edition of the Pennsylvania Lawyer. The article is not available online, but I wanted to share some of the more interesting bits. As he did at the close of the trial and many times since, he offered a great deal of praise to the attorneys, particularly from the plaintiffs team:

In this case, however, it wasn’t simply a matter of everyone just doing their jobs. In Jones’ view, the lawyers performed exceedingly well.

“I think that some of the cross-examination was absolutely fabulous,” said Jones. “It will endure, and I think it will be excerpted for advocacy classes. … I would say, in particular, Eric Rothschild’s cross-examination of Professor [Michael] Behe – the intelligent design proponent – that might be as good a cross-examination of an expert witness as I have ever seen. It was textbook.”

That it was. If you want to read it, it begins here. I said at the time that it was one of the most devestating cross examinations I had ever seen. Aside from the testimony of Barbara Forrest, I thought that the Behe cross was the single most important turning point in the trial. It was during that cross that it was established, beyond a doubt, that ID is primarily an argument from ignorance. Behe continuing to assist that the scientific literature contains nothing to explain the evolution of the immune system even after admitting that he had not read an enormous portion of that literature could not have looked worse.

Continue Reading at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Comments may be left there.

Gallagher gets it?

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The name “Richard Gallagher” may be familiar to some readers. Gallagher is the editor of The Scientist, and last year, somewhat naively suggested that the evolution/creation “debate” was actually a good thing (you can find the text of his editorial at this site). Both PZ and Jason Rosenhouse took him to task for the editorial (and Gallagher replied, and PZ shot back). The next month, New Scientist then published a number of letters responding to the editorial, and Gallagher also wrote a reply (republished here by the Discovery Institute). Gallagher ended that piece with this quote:

Critical thinking has no place in science class? Really? That bodes incredibly poorly for the future of science teaching. We’re shelving our best weapon against intelligent design, and I find it incredibly sad that scientists who support evolution so strongly would have us shield growing young minds from the “dangers” of critical thinking.

If that’s not dogma, I don’t know what is.

…which of course doesn’t really address the arguments PZ and Jason had put forth–no one wants to “shield minds” from critical thinking at all.

So, of course it’s a bit depressing to see an editor of a life science magazine make strawman mischaracterizations of his fellow scientists who approach the issue differently (and, perhaps, have spent a bit more time in the trenches than Gallagher has). But Gallagher’s editorial in the July issue (“Zealots for Science”) makes me think that, maybe, hopefully, he’s starting to get it.

(Continued at Aetiology)

In Chapter 6 of Darwin's Black Box, Michael Behe listed several immune subsystems that he considered irreducibly complex (IC), and therefore (according to him but no one else) unevolvable. One incredibly complex immune subsystem that Behe neglected to mention was the system that genetically modifies antibody genes during the course of an immune response. This system is largely responsible for our ability to generate stronger and faster resistance to subsequent infections, and is integral to why vaccines work. 3 recent papers used concepts in evolution to help characterize one of the most interesting and novel immunological genes discovered since the RAGs in the late 80s, a gene called activation induced deaminase (AID, pronounced as initials), a gene pivotal to antibody modification. Not only did these papers reveal interesting functional insights into AID, but also helped solidify a model for the origin and evolution of this system. Two of the articles come from labs instantly recognizable to most molecular immunolgists, but are totally unknown in ID/evolution circles. The third comes from a lab that most of the regulars here at the Panda's Thumb would immediately recognize, PT's own Andrea Bottaro.

Science and politics

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The conservative pundit Peggy Noonan today published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in which she blames confusion over global warming on – wait for it – climate scientists.

She writes:

…how sad and frustrating it is that the world’s greatest scientists cannot gather, discuss the question of global warming, pore over all the data from every angle, study meteorological patterns and temperature histories, and come to a believable conclusion on these questions: Is global warming real or not?

Yes, how sad. Except that the vast majority of scientists with any credibility have in fact come to the conclusion that global warming is real, and that it has a likely anthropogenic origin.

Coming to Life

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Books from Nobel laureates in molecular biology have a tradition of being surprising. James Watson(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) was catty, gossipy, and amusingly egotistical; Francis Crick(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) went haring off in all kinds of interesting directions, like a true polymath; and Kary Mullis(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) was just plain nuts. When I heard that Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard was coming out with a book, my interest and curiousity were definitely piqued. The work by Nüsslein-Volhard and Wieschaus has shaped my entire discipline, so I was eagerly anticipating what her new book, Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) would have to say.

It wasn't what I expected at all, but I think readers here will be appreciative: it's a primer in developmental biology, written for the layperson! Especially given a few of the responses to my last article, where the jargon seems to have lost some people, this is going to be an invaluable resource.

Continue reading "Coming to Life" (on Pharyngula)

.. and why you should care.

KCFS invites Panda’s Thumber’s from all over to visit us next week and get your fill of discussion of the science standards. Here’s what we’ve got planned so far:

“What’s the Matter With Kansas’ Science Standards, And Why Should You Care?”

A presentation by Jack Krebs President of Kansas Citizens For Science and Member of the Science Standards Writing Committee

Jack Krebs will speak on the meaning of the changes made to the Kansas science standards by the creationist majority on the Board of Education. You’re invited to attend the following talks. All are free and open to the public

If you can help advertise, download the appropriate flier and distribute it in any way that will help. Thanks.

Monday, July 24, 7-9 PM, at Johnson County Community Center, Carlsen Center, Room 211, College Blvd. & Quivira, Overland Park, Kansas flier

Thursday, July 27, 7-9 PM,, at Hutchinson Community College & Area Vocational School, Shears Technology Center, 1300 N. Plum, Hutchinson, Kansas flier

NEW - Friday, July 28, 7-9 PM, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 710 N Main St, Garden City, Kansas flier

NEW - Saturday, July 29, 1-3 PM, at Tomanek Hall, Room 106, Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas flier

Monday, July 31, 7-9 PM at Kansas City Kansas Community College - Performing Arts Center, 7250 State Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas. flier

See here for additional resources associated with these talks.

Sponsored by Kansas Citizens For Science www.kcfs.org

Information: Jack Krebs – 785-840-5113 [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

How do you make a limb? Vertebrate limbs are classic models in organogenesis, and we know a fair bit about the molecular events involved. Limbs are induced at particular boundaries of axial Hox gene expression, and the first recognizable sign of their formation is the appearance of a thickened epithelial bump, the apical ectodermal ridge (AER). The AER is a signaling center that produces, in particular, a set of growth factors such as Fgf4 and Fgf8 that trigger the growth of the underlying tissue, causing the growing limb to protrude. In addition, there's another signaling center that forms on the posterior side of the growing limb, and which secretes Sonic Hedgehog and defines the polarity of the limb—this center is called the Zone of Polarizing Activity, or ZPA. The activity of these two centers together define two axes of the limb, the proximo-distal and the anterior-posterior. There are other genes involved, of course—this is no simple process—but that's a very short overview of what's involved in the early stages of making arms and legs.

Now, gentlemen, examine your torso below the neck. You can probably count five protuberances emerging from it; my description above accounts for four of them. What about that fifth one? (Not to leave the ladies out, of course—you've also got the same fifth bump, it's just not quite as obvious, and it's usually much more tidily tucked away.)

Continue reading "Generic bumps and recycled genetic cascades" (on Pharyngula)

I wrote here that pili–long, filamentous surface molecules involved in adhesion and bacterial “sex”–had recently been discovered in gram positive organisms; pecifically, in group A and B streptococci (Streptococcus pyogenes and Streptococcus agalactiae, respectively), using a genomics approach. Though this publication is quite recent, this is a fast-moving area of research, as evidenced by two new papers which extend this earlier research into pili in the group B streptococcus (GBS).

(Continued at Aetiology)

Tangled Bank #58

The Tangled Bank

The newest, niftiest, most fascinating edition of the Tangled Bank is now available online at Salto Sobrius.

Well, I’ll give Dr. Dino this: at least he is consistent in his wackiness. The latest from the Pensacola News-Journal:

Hovind’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Kafahni Nkrumah, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis at a hearing Monday that his client did not want to enter a plea because he does not believe the United States, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office “have jurisdiction in this matter.”

When pressed by Davis to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty, Hovind said he wished to enter a plea of “subornation of false muster.”

“Subornation,” according to Webster’s Dictionary, means instigating another to do something illegal. “Muster” is an assembly, often for inspection or roll call.

When pressed by Davis, Hovind said he was entering a not guilty plea “under duress.”

First, I would just like to say that everyone here at PT would like to express their sympathies to the public defender assigned to Hovind. I suppose public defenders see all sorts of weird things, but Hovind will be a handful.

I attempted to gain a little more insight on what “subornation of false muster” is supposed to be – the poor reporter was obviously struggling. The Pensacola News-Journal‘s columnist, who was at the hearing, said it was “a defense I haven’t heard in 30 years of hanging around courtrooms.”

Over at Uncommon Descent, Dembski has quoted from a Times of London article titled "How man's best friend overcame laws of natural evolution." Over at Stranger Fruit (where you can leave comments) I wonder what all the fuss is about.

Listeria monocytogenes is a gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium. It can be found in the environment as a soil inhabitant. However, it also can be a frequent contaminant of our food supply. As the latter, the bacterium is a significant public health concern, as it is capable of causing serious infections. Listeriosis (infection with Listeria) causes ~2500 serious illnesses and 500 deaths each year in the United States, and the hardest-hit are those with poor immune systems due to age (the very young and old), other immunocompromsing conditions (such as chemotherapy, organ transplant, or AIDS), and pregnant women. Once ingested, the bacterium is able to cross the intestine and spread throughout the body via the bloodstream, where it can attack organs and cause serious damage.

The very fact that it’s typically an environmental organism (rather than a solely pathogenic agent) likely accounts for some of its virulence and transmission. It’s able to survive a number of environmental stresses, including low temperature and high salt concentrations. Indeed, its ability to grow at relatively low temperatures is one way it evades our efforts to control it: it can grow in food even at refrigeration temperatures.

Listeria is particularly insidious as a cause of fetal death or other complications during pregnancy. Intrauterine infection can lead to preterm labor, spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, or serious–and potentially deadly–infection of the neonate. However, fairly little is known regarding exactly how this condition develops, or the mechanisms that lead to infection of the fetus. It has been thought that the increased susceptibility to infection with Listeria during pregnancy is largely due to a decrease in cell-mediated immunity that occurs as a result of pregnancy. This is a particularly attractive hypothesis for Listeria, which is an intracellular pathogen. A new paper in PLoS Pathogens examines this phenomenon in greater detail, using a guinea pig model of infection.

(Continued at Aetiology)

The primary election for the Kansas Board of Education is coming up on August 1. Everyone is following the election closely, because the creationists currently have a 6-4 majority on the board, but 4 of the creationists are up for reelection, while only 1 of the pro-science candidates is up for relection. Furthermore, in many places in Kansas, the Republicans are so dominant that the real fight is not between a Democrat and a Republican in the general election, but between a moderate Republican and a conservative Republican in the primary.

So, you can expect that the Kansas news will be heating up for the next two weeks. We here at PT will do our best to keep you in the loop, but here are some webpages and blogs based in Kansas that you should follow for the latest firsthand accounts:

Stand Up for REAL Science. This website, which I just found out about, is run by Kansas biology teacher Jeremy Mohn. He appears to be somewhat annoyed at the Discovery Institute’s irony-meter-busting “Stand Up For Science” campaign. It’s a nice looking site, and comes with his blog, An Evolving Creation, where he has already debunked one of the fables that the ID advocates are telling about the group Kansas Citizens for Science.

Earlier this week the Kansas state Board of Education unveiled a glossy pamphlet on the changes made to the Kansas science standards. Even though they claimed to just be including direct quotes from the standards, they in fact did some significant editorializing that supports the Discovery Institute and the Intelligent Design network’s campaign position that Intelligent Design is not included in the standards.

But the Kansas science standards do say that students should learn about ID, and that ID content ought to be in the standards.

If you want to read more about this new KBOE pamphlet, see State BOE aligns itself with Intelligent Design campaign in saying “No ID in standards at KCFS News.

However, here I would like to repost from KCFS News my analysis of the Board’s Rationale statement showing that indeed the Board does call for students to learn about ID. I know Nick Matzke posted on this topic earlier, but I wanted to present my take on the matter also.

Mathematicians and Evolution

Readers of this blog are doubtless familiar with the Discovery Institute's anemic list of scientists who “dissent from Darwinism.” The list is sadly short on biologists, forcing the DI to accept anyone with a PhD in any branch of science as a possible signatory.

Casey Luskin attempts to defend this practice by explaining why mathematicians are supremely well-placed to offer authoritative pronouncements on the merits of evolutionary theory.

Over at EvolutionBlog, I have replied to his desperate sputterings. In Part One I discuss the question of whether mathematicians, or non-biologists generally, have any authority to be discussing evolutionary theory. In Part Two I consider Luskin's thoughts on the matter. Comments can be left there. Enjoy!

Dr. Dino in the dock

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The Pensacola News-Journal is doing fantastic work keeping us up to date on the Hovind story. A longer and more detailed story came out today. Some of the more interesting/scary bits:

Of the 58 charges, 44 were filed against Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo, for evading bank reporting requirements as they withdrew $430,500 from AmSouth Bank between July 20, 2001, and Aug. 9, 2002.

At the couple’s first court appearance Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis, Kent Hovind professed not to understand why he is being prosecuted. Some 20 supporters were in the courtroom.

“I still don’t understand what I’m being charged for and who is charging me,” he said.

Kent Hovind, who often calls himself “Dr. Dino,” has been sparring with the IRS for at least 17 years on his claims that he is employed by God, receives no income, has no expenses and owns no property.

Yet more:

Hovind arrested

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Kent Hovind's scofflaw habits are catching up with him:

A Pensacola evangelist was arrested Thursday and indicted in federal court on 58 charges that include income tax evasion, making threats against investigators and filing false complaints against Internal Revenue Service agents.

Try not to snicker too loudly out there. It's not nice to laugh at the misfortunes of others.

Fortunately, I'm not a very nice person.


New details are coming to light. I don't think Hovind is a very nice person, either.

Scientists…in disagreement!

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Yesterday, I reposted an article on homology within the neck and shoulder, which describes an interesting technique of using patterns of gene expression to identify homologous cellular pools; the idea is that we can discern homology more clearly by looking more closely at the molecular mechanisms, rather than focusing on final morphology and tissue derivation. Trust me, if you don't want to read it all—it's cool stuff, and one of the interesting points they make is that they've traced the fate of a particular bone not found in us mammals, but common in our pre-synapsid ancestors, the cleithrum. They argue from a common cellular origin that this bone has been reshaped into a ridge on our shoulder blade, the scapular spine.

As many readers might know, though, the word "homology," especially when coupled with a novel technique for its determination, is always good for an argument. This one is no exception.

Continue reading Scientists...in disagreement!" (on Pharyngula)

Odontogriphus omalus

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A new report in this week's Nature clears up a mystery about an enigmatic fossil from the Cambrian. This small creature has been pegged as everything from a chordate to a polychaete, but a detailed analysis has determined that it has a key feature, a radula, that places it firmly in the molluscan lineage. It was a kind of small Cambrian slug that crawled over matted sheets of algae and bacteria, scraping away a meal.

Continue reading "Odontogriphus omalus" (on Pharyngula)

It is a truism that creationists such as Jonathan Wells can't get enough of Haeckel's embryos, pictures they see as conclusive evidence that evolutionary biology is a fraud foisted on innocents by liberal, godless, evilutionists. "Informed" commentators on the right such as Ann Coulter hew to that party line. Reading Wells or Coulter one would imagine that it was modern creationists who discovered the fraud. Sadly for their revisionist history, that is not the case.

Read more (and comment) at Stranger Fruit

Free Noodle Soup

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This is a guest appearance of Erik Tellgren (it is his first appearance on the Panda’s Thumb). Again, lest it can be misinterpreted by inattentive readers (as this happened before), Erik is the sole author of this essay to which I (MP) did not contribute in any way except for posting it as a courtesy to Erik.

Those readers who are familiar with Talk Reason archive may recall that Erik was the author of a 2002 essay wherein he provided a rigorous mathematical rebuttal of Dembski’s so called law of conservation of information (see here ).

The original NFL theorem and rugged fitness landscapes are briefly reviewed and it is pointed out that the fact the assumptions behind the former leads to the latter type of fitness landscape. Furthermore, it is stressed that for these fitness landscapes, the absolute performance of evolution is not prohibitively bad, that high-fitness regions tend to be well-connected, and that the difficulty of finding high-fitness regions does not increase with the size of the search space.

Continue reading Free Noodle Soup on Talk Reason.

In an earlier posting on the No Free Lunch Theorems and random search, I stated that

PvM Wrote:

It should not come as a surprise that the “No Free Lunch Theorems” have more unfortunate surprises in store for Intelligent Design. More on that later…

Now it is later and I present: Erik Tellgren, freshly returned from a trip, who has combined the results for random search and the work by Gavrilet to show

Tellgren Wrote:

The original NFL theorem and rugged fitness landscapes are briefly reviewed and it is pointed out that the assumptions behind the former lead to the latter type of fitness landscape. Furthermore, it is stressed that for these fitness landscapes, the absolute performance of evolution is not prohibitively bad, that high-fitness regions tend to be well-connected, and that the difficulty of finding high-fitness regions does not increase with the size of the search space. (PDF format.)

Concluding that:

Tellgren Wrote:

To summarize, the implications of the assumption of a randomly chosen fitness function do not just include Wolpert and Macready’s NFL result, but also the results

  • that the absolute performance of any search for high-fitness genotypes is fairly good and, importantly, independent of the size of the genotype space, and
  • the set of high-fitness genotypes is well-connected and the connectedness ncreases with increasing dimensionality of the genotype space.

More metaphorically, the NFL scenario may deny biological evolution a free lunch, but once the lunch break is over it hands evolution a large free bowl of noodle soup. Acknowledgement:

Read more at TalkReason:Free Noodle Soup

One of the tried and true tactics of creationists of all stripes has long been to equate evolution with atheism, and thus those who accept evolution become atheists. In a society where surveys show that atheists are, for some bizarre reason, among the most distrusted people, this is good political strategy; it’s also false. It is simply a scare tactic, designed (intelligently, perhaps, but also unethically) to exploit the public’s fear and distrust of atheists. Such fears are utterly irrational, of course, but that is precisely why they can be exploited so effectively by demagogues. Those people exploit the fact that the vast majority of people who deny evolution do so not because of the science (which they are almost uniformly ignorant of) but because they have a perception that evolution leads to atheism which, of course, leads to mass chaos and rampant immorality.

Continue Reading at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Comments may be left there.

I know this is just a part of their shameless election strategy for the Kansas Board of Education primaries coming up on August 1, but it is still gratifying to see the Discovery Institute frantically running from ID in an attempt to avoid an election defeat for the “Critical Analysis of Evolution” “intelligent design” crypto-creationist science standards they are attempting to push onto students in Kansas. Check this out:

Critical Analysis of Evolution is Not the Same as Teaching Intelligent Design

A favorite Darwinist conspiracy theory is to claim that education policies requiring critical analysis of evolution are simply a guise for teaching intelligent design (ID). Right now anti-science groups in Kansas are claiming that the state’s new science standards are pushing intelligent design.

The Kansas science standards do not include intelligent design. In spreading this falsehood, opponents of the standards ignore the following clear statement by the Kansas Board of Education in the standards. “We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design.…” (emphasis added) Which part of “do not include Intelligent Design” can’t opponents of the standards understand?

[formatting original]

First, the obvious one-liner: “No, the standards don’t include ‘ID’, they really just include creationism.” But apart from that, I would like to look at the claim that this ID-in-the-Kansas-science-standards idea is a conspiracy theory.

[Note: Some comments have expressed confusion about what I am quoting below, so to be clear: the bits from the Kansas standards that I quote below are in the Kansas Science Standards right now. They were passed into the Kansas Science Standards by the creationists on the Kansas Board of Education on November 8, 2005. The quotes are specifically from the February 14, 2006, version of the standards, which passed minor edits to avoid copyright infringement after the NAS and NSTA denied Kansas permission to use text from the national model standards. However, because it takes a while for school districts to receive the standards and write up science curricula, these new standards are probably not “in effect” anywhere until the next school year starts. Between now and then 4 of the 6 creationists on the Board of Education face reelection this fall, which is why the antievolution groups are gunning up the propaganda.]

Ohio Update

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UPDATE: A summary and MP3 of the relevant part of the Achievement Committee meeting are available here. The first voice is co-chair Father Michael Cochran, one of the two main ID pushers on the State BOE.

By James I. Kirkland, Ph. D.

The National Park Service is requesting comments on the development of a regional paleontological repository facility in Vernal, Utah in a partnership with the Vernal Field House of Natural History (Utah State Parks). The facilty is to be constructed adjoining the newly opened Vernal Field House of Natural History in Vernal and jointly managed.

Please strongly support the development of this facility.

The plan can be accessed here.

We need to strongly support the development of the Uintah Research and Curatorial Center in Vernal, Utah versus the alternative of No Action!

Pamela Winnick’s Science Envy

Pamela Winnick is an attorney and former reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who has written several articles that lean against evolution and in favor of intelligent design. I recently forced myself to read her 2005 book, A Jealous God: Science’s Crusade Against Religion. It wasn’t a pleasant experience…

Read more at Recursivity, and leave comments there.

Once again, I am wrong

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…but luckily, I’m set straight over at Effect Measure, where Revere completely refutes my silly notion of mutations in H5N1 by citing this excellent guest commentary in the Greely Tribune (where their top story today is about a hot dog from 1952). The commentary is titled “Bird flu a lame claim to evolution theory” and written by one Mike Martin, former editor of Ag Weekly Magazine. He certainly demolishes my silly science-y notation of just what “mutations” (such as those discussed in the Nature article I cited use for analysis) are all about:

(Continued at Aetiology…)

by Mark Isaak

One contributor to this board has commented that religion is never addressed critically here. That’s about to change. Below, I define a criterion for bad religion, explore reasons for its prevalence, and suggest means of combating it. I’m sure many people can find much here to disagree with; I hope they can find things to think about, too.

First, let me clarify that there are really at least two battles for evolution. The first battle is science vs. apathy and poor education generally. That battle, though important, is uncontroversial. The same battle exists for mathematics without excessively raising ire. I will not consider it further here.

The second battle is sometimes called science vs. religion, but such a characterization is grossly misleading. Really, the battle is science, religion, and just about everyone else vs. bad religion.

In an updated paper, Dembski discusses alchemy and describes why he believes evolutionary theory, under certain circumstances, is analogous to alchemy. To appreciate his argument, it helps to realize that on closer scrutiny, Dembski is arguing against philosophical materialism, not evolutionary theory. Secondly, I believe that Dembski has made an excellent case for an analogy between alchemy and Intelligent Design: Namely, both are lacking causal specificity.

The term ‘causal specificity’ means “… specifying a cause sufficient to account for an effect in question” and is used by Dembski to describe to what extent one can specify the pathways and processes through which a particular system has arisen.

Dembski Wrote:

Here, then, is the fallacy in alchemy’s logic. Alchemy [ID] relinquishes causal specificity, yet confidently asserts that an unspecified process [design] will yield a desired transformation [complex specified information]. Lacking causal specificity, the alchemist [ID activist] has no empirical grounds for holding that the desired transformation can be effected. Even so, the alchemist [ID activist] remains convinced that the transformation can be effected because prior metaphysical beliefs [Intelligent Design] ensure that some process, though for now unspecified, must effect the desired transformation. In short, metaphysics guarantees the transformation even if the empirical evidence is against it.

Source:: EVOLUTION AS ALCHEMY By William A. Dembski.(Note: I have added my edits in square brackets [.…])

Although Dembski is arguing that there is an analogy between alchemy and evolution (or more accurately materialistic evolution), there seems to be a much stronger similarity with Intelligent Design when it comes to the lack of causal specificity. Take for example the following response by Dembski when Rafe Gutman asked him for some specificity in explaining how Intelligent Design explains a particular system:

Dembski Wrote:

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.”

Source: ID in their own words: Dembski at Panda’s Thumb

Any more questions? Perhaps “No Free Lunch” should more properly be described as “ID’s Free Ride”. ID has a lot to learn from Darwin, including Darwin’s observations that:

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

Charles Darwin, 1871 THE DESCENT OF MAN

This is one more guest appearance of James Downard, continuing his autopsy of Ann Coulter’s ignorant and mendacious screed. For the record, I (Mark Perakh) am posting this essay on PT as a courtesy to Jim Downard, having contributed nothing whatsoever to Jim’s text. This disclaimer seems necessary because some readers in the past erroneously attributed to me essays written by guest contributors (like Mark Frank).

One third of Ann Coulter’s latest bestseller, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, is devoted to assailing “Darwiniac cultists” for promoting what she is certain is the false science of evolution. As explored in the first installment (see Talk Reason, part 1), Coulter’s breezy confidence turns out to be a gooey meringue atop layers of stunning technical ignorance caused by indolence when it comes to investigating the issues, along with a giddy reliance on marginal secondary reading. In the second part of an ongoing analysis of what Coulter (didn’t) know and how exactly she manages (not) to know it, James Downard discovers what can happen when Coulter tries to join two fields about which she knows literally less than nothing: paleontology and biology. Continue reading Secondary Addiction, part 2, on Talk Reason, part 2.

Here follows the guts of my new C++ program for solving Steiner Tree problems with a Genetic Algorithm.

I have eliminated much of the Microsoft Foundation Class support code, focusing mainly on the number-crunching routines. I will be happy to share the complete code with interested parties.

The original FORTRAN version from five years ago is still online at NMSR.

You’ll see that I’ve cleaned up and organized everything quite a bit, and completely re-done the snippet which checks for properly connected solutions.

Dave August 21st, 2006

A couple weeks ago, William Dembski posted an anonymous “edited report” of a talk Ken Miller gave at Texas Tech in March. The “edited report” suggests that Miller should be considered an ID supporter. The only problem is that the “edited report” completely fabricates the question and answer it uses to make its point. Ken Miller has posted a response on his website.

Read Texas Tech – The Real Answer.

Did you ever wonder what was behind that weird amicus brief that a Hindu group filed (with ID advocate Edward Sisson’s help) in support of the evolution warning label sticker in Selman v. Cobb County? You remember, the one that ended by citing a Supreme Court decision, only the Supreme Court in question was the Supreme Court of India? Well, you’re in luck, because I just came across an article by Meera Nanda on Vedic creationists and the alliance they’ve formed with the more traditional conservative evangelical creationists here the U.S. I’d pay good money to see these two groups in the same room with Harun Yahya…

Those of you who have followed creationism/intelligent design literature over the years have probably felt as if you’re living in an alternate universe sometimes. In that literature, many times it seems as if “up” means “down” and “highly supported by the evidence” means “a theory in crisis.”

You may not have been following the comments to this post on AIDS denial (and lord, I can’t blame you), but if you have been, you’ve seen a similar phenomenon, where it’s suggested that mutations found in RNA viruses are just due to sloppy lab work, essentially blowing off an entire field of research.

This, of course, has implications far beyond HIV. Phylogenetic analyses based on genetic mutations are used to determine relationships for all kinds of organisms–including humans. In infectious disease epidemiology, they can be used to pinpoint the origin of a virus, or to track and predict its spread, as I’ve written about previously. A new paper in Nature uses similar methodology to examine the introduction of influenza H5N1 into Nigeria.

(Continued at Aetiology).

Kitzmiller-related recordings

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Folks may find these online videos or recordings interesting:

The DI’s David DeWolf in April, complaining about the Kitzmiller decision and ignoring all of the substantive points made by Judge Jones.

Joel Cracraft, Nick Matzke, Barbara Forrest, and a creationist guy in February at Columbia University in February. See especially my talk, where I give the 20-minute version of the “how I helped out in Kitzmiller” lecture I have given various places.

The American Enterprise Institute Forum that took place last October during the Kitzmiller case, and where TMLC attorney Richard Thompson took the DI to task for changing their tune. These videos were temporarily online at CSPAN but the AEI has a permanent archive and supplemental materials.

An April meeting of the San Francisco Commonwealth Club with a matchup of Casey Luskin and Cornelius Hunter vs. Eugenie Scott and Eric Rothschild, with two other guys providing constant distractions. Listen especially for Luskin’s admission that ID lost big in Kitzmiller, and Eric Rothschild’s dissection of various vague nonanswers by Cornelius Hunter.

An online “webinar” put up by Pepper-Hamilton, the law firm that contributed major pro bono support for the Kitzmiller case. Participants include Eric Rothschild, Steve Harvey, and Kenneth Miller.

Ohio: Here We Go Again

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Regular readers of the Thumb will recall that in February, the Ohio State Board of Education removed the “critical analysis of evolution” standard, benchmark, and lesson plan from the state’s science standards. The matter was referred to the Achievement Committee of the Board, with instructions to consider whether a replacement should be inserted, and if so, what it should be. That was a hammer blow to the creationists on the board and to the Disco Institute.

Now, consistent with the creationist tradition of repackaging old trash, we learn that the creationists on the Achievement Committee of the Ohio State BOE are pushing yet another load of of the same odoriferous garbage, this time extending it to include global warming as well as evolution. This is the Disco Institute’s replacement for its failed “teach the controversy about evolution” tactic, broadening it to include still more pseudoscience.

More below the fold.

One of the twenty-year goals of the Discovery Institute's Wedge was to see the influence of "design theory" in the fine arts. I've often wondered what that could possible mean. And now, thanks to Access Research Network's "ID Arts Initiative" I now know.

Read more at Stranger Fruit.

Nature, one of the top journals for scientific research, published an article today about the most popular science blogs. The Panda’s Thumb came out number two, and Jack Krebs was quoted about our success:

Being a group blog is key, says contributor Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science. “We have some of the most well-informed observers and critics of the ‘intelligent design’ and creationist movements.” The nature of the topic helps too, he adds. “There is an interest, a hunger even, for thoughtful analysis of the issues related to evolution and creationism.”

In addition, PT contributor, PZ Myers, found his personal blog, Pharyngula as the most popular science blog.

Over all, six of the top fifty science blogs were personal blogs of PT contributors.

Rank Authorship Blog
1 Paul Myers Pharyngula
2 Group Blog The Panda’s Thumb
7 Tara Smith Aetiology
18 John Lynch Stranger Fruit
21 Jason Rosenhouse EvolutionBlog
26 Mike Dunford The Questionable Authority
30 John Wilkins Evolving Thoughts

This entry provides a link (at the bottom of the entry) to the full text of my chapter (chapter 11) in the anthology Why Intelligent Design Fails: The Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (WIDF, edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis, © Rutgers Univ. Press, 2004) posted on Talk Reason website. The publisher has granted permission to post this material online with the proviso that the posted text would not be either printed or otherwise downloaded without permission from Rutgers Univ. Press. The full title of the chapter is “There Is a Free Lunch After All: William Dembski’s Wrong Answers to Irrelevant Questions.”

The reason for posting this chapter right now becomes clear if we notice that many points discussed in that chapter have recently been revisited by several writers, in particular on the Panda’s Thumb (PT) weblog (for example, see this and this ). The points in question include

* distinction between “targeted” and “targetless” search algorithms,

* the merits and shortcomings of Dawkins’s evolutionary algorithms,

* Dembski’s misuse of the No Free Lunch theorems,

* his contrived “displacement problem,” etc.

Many points discussed in this chapter have also been briefly addressed in my article published in the Skeptic magazine (vol. 11, No 4, 2005). The text of that article is available online ( see here ). Moreover, the NFL theorems and their application to evolutionary algorithms have been briefly discussed online as well ( see this ).

It has to be pointed out that the discussion of Dembski’s “displacement problem” in this chapter as well as in the article in the Skeptic only covers the initial version of that “problem” as it was rendered by Dembski in his No Free Lunch book. More recently, Dembski had modified the “displacement problem,” and this newer rendition naturally was not yet discussed either in chapter 11 of WIDF or in the article in the Skeptic. The new version of that “problem” has been though briefly addressed here .

Read There Is a Free Lunch After All on Talk Reason .

Genetic Algorithms are simplified simulations of evolution that often produce surprising and useful answers in their own right. Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents often criticize such algorithms for not generating true novelty, and claim that these mathematical recipes always sneak the “answer” into the program via the algorithm’s fitness testing functions.

4steiner.gif

There’s a little problem with this claim, however. While some Genetic Algorithms, such as Richard Dawkin’s “Weasel” simulation, or the “Hello World” genetic algorithm discussed a few days ago on the Thumb, indeed include a precise description of the intended “Target” during “fitness testing” on of the numerical organisms being bred by the programmer, such precise specifications are normally only used for tutorial demonstrations rather than generation of true novelty.

In this post, I will present my research on a Genetic Algorithm I developed a few years ago, for the specific purpose of addressing the question Can Genetic Algorithms Succeed Without Precise “Targets”? For this investigation, I picked a math problem for which there is a single, specific answer, yet one for which several interesting “quasi-answers” - multiple “targets” - also exist.

PT readers, you are about to enter the Strange and Curious world of “The MacGyvers.” Buckle up your seat belts, folks - our ride through Fitness Landscapes could get a little bumpy.

Tangled Bank #57

The Tangled Bank

There is a new edition of the Tangled Bank at e3 Information Overload.

Discovery Institute co-founder and investment strategist George Gilder has written an article appearing in the new issue of the prominent conservative magazine National Review. The DI has the article available here, which is convenient for those of you who don’t have 5 subscriptions to the National Review like I do.

Would you believe that the article is terrible? In looking at reactions to Gilder’s previous articles, the most consistent criticism is that his writing is abstruse, incoherent, and filled with terminology that he either doesn’t understand or intentionally misuses (or worse, invents on his own). This piece continues that time-honored tradition.

First of all, very little of it has anything to do with evolution, whether by Darwinian means or any other. (He even spends several paragraphs plugging his own books, which have no clear relevance, but I guess the guy needs all the royalties he can get.) Staying true to the Discovery Institute’s tactics, he associates things with evolutionary biology that have little or no association at all, and in every case these just happen to be things that are disliked by right-wing ideologues such as George Gilder. People like him apparently need an all-purpose boogyman to make sense of the world, but it’s a poor substitute for genuine understanding. And in this case it has resulted in an article that consists mostly of disjointed ramblings with no coherent thesis. Secondly, Gilder has an bad habit of throwing in random quotes from noteworthy scientists, most of whom would probably have a very low opinion of George Gilder. In virtually no case do these quotes have any real relevance to whatever point, if there is one, that Gilder is trying to make. They appear to serve as the literary equivalent of name-dropping, lending a façade of authority to an otherwise nonsensical piece. And then there is Gilder’s favorite tactic, which is to wax profound about one scientific advance or another (with no indication that he knows what he’s talking about), and pretend as if this alone somehow constitutes an argument. There is just painfully little that rises up to the level of coherence.

Below the fold I will try to address the few claims that are on-topic and comprehensible enough to address. That’s not many, but it’s worth clearing a few things up.

This is a guest appearance of Mark Frank. It is his first appearance on the Panda’s Thumb. Mark Frank offers his take on the concepts of specification and design inference. In certain aspects Frank’s ideas seem to jibe with the appoach adopted by Elliott Sober, but also seem to add some substantive nuances.

The Intelligent Design (ID) movement proposes that it is possible to detect whether something has been designed by inspecting it, assessing whether it might have been produced by either necessity or chance alone, and, if the answer is negative, concluding it must have been designed. This means there is no need to make any commitments about the nature of the designer.

This approach relies heavily on the concept of specification. The proponents of ID have made various attempts to define specification. A recent attempt is in a paper written by William Dembski in 2005 which is clearly intended to supersede previous attempts. This essay examines this revised definition of specification and highlights some issues in Dembski’s paper. It also proposes that our intuitive understanding of when an outcome is implausible is much better explained by a comparison of the likelihoods of different hypotheses. Finally the essay considers some of Dembski’s objections to the comparison of likelihoods and Bayesian approaches in general.

Continue reading Detecting Design: Specification versus Likelihood on Talk Reason

Those of you who use Google News Alerts for phrases like “intelligent design” and “evolutionary biology” have probably noticed that the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints Division (aka “Evolution News and Views”) turns up with depressing regularity. More recently, I was amazed to find that “Uncommon Descent” weblog posts were also being treated as news sources.

So, it seemed to me that it couldn’t be so difficult to get a source listed in Google News. And it wasn’t. It is in the Google News FAQ:

What if I don’t see my favorite news source in Google News?

We’re as shocked as you are! If we’re missing a publisher that we should be covering, please send us your ideas. While we can’t guarantee that we’ll heed your recommendation, we do promise to review all the suggestions we receive without regard to political viewpoint or ideology.

I sent in a suggestion that they pick up the National Center for Science Education main page as a news source, and within a week got notice that they were adding it to their list. Recent News Alerts have included NCSE front page items, so that particular suggestion is complete.

Now that you know how it is done and that it works, I’d like to ask the PT readership to take a moment to nominate various pro-science sources to the fine folks at Google News. You may find the list here on the PT right-hand sidebar useful to find candidates. Check out the links at the TalkOrigins Archive, too. Please leave a message in the comments for each site that you do nominate.

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