September 24, 2006 - September 30, 2006 Archives

Preview graphic of chart showing hominin cranial capacity over time. Different taxa shown by color/symbol. Summary: fossil hominid brain size over the last 3 million years. Data from De Miguel and Henneberg, 2001, chart by Nick Matzke of NCSE.  Free for nonprofit educational use.Due to popular demand I have made some more charts that are slightly more complex than the hominin cranial capacity chart from yesterday’s post.

In the first chart, I have taken the “favored” taxonomic labels for each specimen from De Miguel and Henneberg (2001). Many specimens have been put in different species or different genera by different taxonomists, but these are supposed to represent something like the consensus, as the authors judged it in 2000. Australopithecus fossils are in red with various symbols, early Homo fossils (Homo habilis and others just labeled “early Homo” or “Homo”) are in orange, H. erectus is in green, and the asundry variations on Homo sapiens are in blue.

New webspace for KCFS

Kansas Citizens For Science is happy to announces the re-design of the KCFS webste and the KCFS News and Resources weblog, as well as the grand opening of our new discussion forums (which have actually been running for a few weeks.)

Many thanks go to Jeremy Mohn for doing the redesign work. The KCFS Website and the KCFS News weblog now have coordinated themes that are bright, clear and quite aesthetically pleasing, in our opinion. We invite you to take a look:

Also, you might want to visit Jeremy’s personal site, An Evolving Creation.

KU Students for Science

KCFS is also pleased to announce the formation of KU Students for Science. Laura Murphy, a graduate student in anthropology who recently moved here from Ohio, has formed KU Students for Science at the University of Kansas. KCFS Board members Chris Hauffler and Phil Baringer have agreed to be faculty sponsors, and KCFS is looking forward to working with KUSFS in any way we can.

Laura hopes to build an organization that will serve as a model for similar organizations at universities around the country, perhaps working in collaboration with the many Citizens for Sciences groups that have formed. Please visit the KUSFS website.

Hox complexity

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Here's a prediction for you: the image below is going to appear in a lot of textbooks in the near future.


That's a technical tour-de-force: it's a confocal image of a Drosophila embryo, stained with 7 fluorescent probes against different Hox genes. You can clearly see how they are laid out in order from the head end (at the left) to the tail end (which extends to the right, and then jackknifes over the top). Canonically, that order of expression along the body axis corresponds to the order of the genes in a cluster on the DNA, a property called colinearity. I've recently described work that shows that, in some organisms, colinearity breaks down. That colinearity seems to be a consequence of a primitive pattern of regulation that coupled the timing of development to the spatial arrangements of the tissues, and many organisms have evolved more sophisticated control of these patterning genes, making the old regulators obsolete…and allowing the clusters to break up without extreme consequences to the animal. A new review in Science by Lemons and McGinnis that surveys Hox gene clusters in different lineages shows that the control of the Hox genes is much, much more complicated than previously thought.

Continue reading "Hox complexity" (on Pharyngula)

Preview graphic of chart showing hominin cranial capacity over time. Summary: fossil hominid brain size over the last 3 million years. Data from De Miguel and Henneberg, 2001, chart by Nick Matzke of NCSE.  Free for nonprofit educational use.For some time I have been annoyed that charts of the changing cranial capacity of fossil hominin skulls are not more common. There is this chart online at the Talk.Origins Fossil Hominids FAQ, derived from this 1994 PNAS paper, but that is about it. I wanted to make my own chart, but there was no easy way to get all of the relevant data. Then, this week, I ran into this amazing paper (De Miguel and M. Henneberg 2001*), which conviently included a 29-page Appendix listing every known published measurement of a hominin skull older than 10,000 years old.

While killing my brain cells by listening to the radio broadcast of the ID movement presenting cutting-edge research in the USF Sun Dome conducting an old-fashioned creationist revival in the USF Sun Dome,** I schlepped all 602 measurements and metadata into Excel.

As most of you probably know, there’s been a bit of discussion over the question of whether or not the pro-Intelligent Design textbook Of Pandas and People qualifies as a “challenged” or “banned” book as a result of the ruling in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover lawsuit. A few things have happened since my first two posts about the “banning.” In this post, I’m going to summarize the recent events, and explain what I’ve learned about the ALA’s views on this situation.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

Via Dean and Science, Just Science comes this story about a new group trying to get ID into class in the UK:

Parents are being encouraged to challenge their children’s science teachers over what they are explaining as the origins of life.

An organisation called Truth in Science has also sent resource packs to all UK secondary school science departments.

It promotes the idea of intelligent design - that there was an intelligence behind the creation of the universe.

On their website, Truth in Science notes that they’ve already sent “ a mailing to all Secondary School and College Heads of Science in the United Kingdom.” Busy little bees, aren’t they?

And boy, doesn’t this sound familiar:

It quotes the Edexcel examining board as explaining that students “need to adopt a critical, questioning frame of mind, going ‘behind the scenes’ to understand the workings of science and how it impacts on society and their lives”.

The Truth in Science website says: “We consider that it is time for students to be permitted to adopt a critical approach to Darwinism in science lessons.”

Something sure has evolved: the anti-evolution catchphrase. “Critical analysis” and its kin are obviously being positively selected!

(Continued at Aetiology).

Tangled Bank #63

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Tangled Bank #63 The Tangled Bank

The Indian Cowboy has put up Tangled Bank #63.

There are days when I simply cannot believe how dishonest the scoundrels at the Discovery Institute can be. This is one of them. I just read an essay by Jonathan Wells that is an appalling piece of anti-scientific propaganda, an extremely squirrely twisting of some science news. It's called "Why Darwinism is doomed", and trust me, if you read it, your opinion of Wells will drop another notch. And here you thought it was already in the gutter!

Continue reading "Wells: “Darwinism is Doomed” because we keep making progress" (on Pharyngula)

Monday, I posted an entry here that discussed, in part, a Discovery Institute blog article claiming that the Dover ruling qualifies the cdesign proponentsists textbook Of Pandas and People as a “banned book.” As I explained at the time, the claim is complete and total nonsense, so I suppose I really should have guessed that the anti-evolution movement would get behind it in a hell of a hurry.

That appears to be just what’s happening. The latest twists involve the Uncommon Descent blog and the Wikipedia entry for banned books.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

Last week, both PZ Myers and I posted about some anti-evolution candidates running for the school board out here in Hawaii. The state primary election was Saturday, so I thought an update on this election might be a good idea.

There’s good news, not-too-bad news, and bad news. Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

Two recent posts over at the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints Division blog have me ready to break out the world’s smallest violin. Their new (well, newish, anyway - it’s popped up from time to time before) argument is that they are being discriminated against. In the first of the two articles, Rob Crowther argues that “Darwinists” are trying to “censor” academic freedom in Michigan. In the second, John West starts by suggesting that “Of Pandas and People” should be the “Banned Book of the Year,” and concludes with the outrageous and insulting claim that the “ultimate goal here is to ban ideas.”

The two posts, unsurprisingly enough, are jam packed with statements that are in gross conflict with reality. I’m not going to go into those here, although there are one or two I’m considering taking a swing at later. Instead, I’m going to focus on their root claim that objecting to what they want to do in the classroom constitutes some sort of “censorship.”

Read more (at the Questionable Authority):

Well, it’s only Monday, but I think I’ve already got the Silliest Thing I’ve Heard All Week: that the creationist/cdesign proponentsist/intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People is banned from libraries.

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