October 2006 Archives

South Park

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It looks like tomorrow’s South Park is going to include a challenge on the teaching of evolution.

Cartman’s plan to propel himself into the future goes horribly wrong in an all-new “South Park” premiering Wednesday, November 1 at 10:00 p.m. on Comedy Central. South Park Elementary faces strong opposition to the topic of evolution being taught to the 4th graders. The most vocal protests are from Ms. Garrison who has to teach it. Eric Cartman can’t be bothered with what’s going on in class. He’s busy manipulating his own personal time-line to align with the precise release date of the newest, hottest game.

I hope Colorado Citizens for Science and Colorado Evolution Response Team are ready to defend science eduction for the students of South Park, Colorado.

PNAS has published an article by Soyer and BonHoeffer titled Evolution of complexity in signaling pathways

Abstract: It is not clear how biological pathways evolve to mediate a certain physiological response and why they show a level of complexity that is generally above the minimum required to achieve such a response. One possibility is that pathway complexity increases due to the nature of evolutionary mechanisms. Here, we analyze this possibility by using mathematical models of biological pathways and evolutionary simulations. Starting with a population of small pathways of three proteins, we let the population evolve with mutations that affect pathway structure through duplication or deletion of existing proteins, deletion or creation of interactions among them, or addition of new proteins. Our simulations show that such mutational events, coupled with a selective pressure, leads to growth of pathways. These results indicate that pathways could be driven toward complexity via simple evolutionary mechanisms and that complexity can arise without any specific selective pressure for it. Furthermore, we find that the level of complexity that pathways evolve toward depends on the selection criteria. In general, we find that final pathway size tends to be lower when pathways evolve under stringent selection criteria. This leads to the counterintuitive conclusion that simple response requirements on a pathway would facilitate its evolution toward higher complexity.

Read on for some of my thoughts.

Dr. Dino case resumes

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According to the Pensacola News-Journal story, the Hovind tax evasion trial was delayed last week because his attorney, Jerry Barringer, was ill. See also this earlier story.

Hovind and his wife, Jo, are accused of tax evasion, including failure to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes at his Creation Science Evangelism Ministry, which inlcudes Dinosaur Adventure Land on North Palafox Street.

Hovind, a tax protester, makes a substantial amount of money. But he believes he and his employees work for God, are paid by God and, therefore, aren’t subject to taxation.

Schneider testified this morning that Jo Hovind requested financial help for her bills from Baptist Health Care, claiming that she had no income.

Schneider also said the Hovinds wrote checks to their children from their Christian Science Evangelism account. They also withdrew money from that account for cashier’s checks.

On one day, a $9,000 check was withdrawn for their son, Eric. That same day, another $9,000 check was withdrawn for Eric’s wife, Tanya.

Schneider said Kent Hovind refused to give a tax identification number to the First Baptist Church of Satsuma in Alabama, where he spoke. The church paid him a $738 fee. The tax ID number would have been used on a tax-reporting form.

Here it comes…EuroScopes!

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Well, if you needed any more evidence that creationists are doing their best to drag Europe down to America’s level, here you go:

Owens-Fink vs. Kenneth Miller

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Last week I announced that Kenneth Miller, Deborah “[The NAS is] a group of so-called scientists” Owens-Fink, and Tom “No, not from Mark Twain” Sawyer were doing a radio debate. ID guy Chris Williams was evidently the anti-Kenneth Miller guest, although for some reason they never realize that Ken Miller knows all their talking points.

Listening to it is like listening to the DI versus PT, actually. Owens-Fink really knows her DI talking points – although according to her, Icons of Evolution is not an ID book, and she thinks that it should have been left in the “critical analysis” lesson plan (the reference, but not the content, was deleted after scientists complained). And she is still defending the “critical analysis” lesson plan and claiming it isn’t creationism or ID. Chris Williams tries to say that evolution equals atheism, citing the recent cover story of Wired – and of course Ken Miller cheerily points out that he himself is a counterexample. For extra fun, board member Martha Wise called in to dispute claims that Owens-Fink made about board procedure. The radio guy’s introduction is pretty good also.

The show is online here (mp3 direct link, 22 MB).

PS: There is also a great bit where Chris Williams claims that evolution held back the discovery of small interfering RNA – and Kenneth Miller replied by pointing out that Craig Mello, who won the Nobel Prize 3 weeks ago for his work on RNA interference, was a student in the first biology class Ken Miller taught. Bam!

In what looks like “News of the Weird”, we have a report from Monroe County, Michigan of an antievolution activist taking up arms against the system. What sort of “intelligent design” weapons technology might the modern antievolutionist use? According to the report, Mark A. Wood entered the school offices of Monroe Middle School asking if people thought he looked like an ape while holding onto… a brick.

A man waving a brick barged into Monroe Middle School and ranted about the teachings of evolution before being arrested by police Tuesday morning.

[…]

“The best part is, no students were in danger,” Mr. McLeod said. “Fortunately for us, he came right into the office. It’s pretty obvious he was kind of disturbed.”

In Iowa’s ongoing saga, yesterday’s Ames Tribune, the paper that originally carried Republican lieutenant governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats’ comments supporting the teaching of intelligent design in schools, contained an article noting Republican governor candidate Jim Nussle’s dismissal of Vander Plaats’ idea:

(Continued at Aetiology)…

Yet another false positive for ID

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Remember how Dembski, despite common sense, argued that the design inference was free of false positives. And yet, history has shown countless examples of false positives. Nevertheless, IDers seem to get a lot of mileage from their Mount Rushmore example. So here is a another example of ‘design’

indian_face_google_earth.jpg

The feature can be studied in more details on Google Maps

Perhaps ID activists can explain why this example would not count as yet another false positive? Hat tip to Jim Armstrong on the ASA Reflector. Also noticeable is how the ‘Indian’ seems to be listening to what may very well have been the world’s first iPod.…

Iowa/Vander Plaats update

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I mentioned the situation with Lieutenant Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats and his support of intelligent design last week (posts here and here). A group of us have put together an editorial discussing Vander Plaats’ position and why it matters to Iowa voters (letter and signatories can be found here at the Iowa Citizens for Science site). Yesterday, a columnist for the Des Moines register also wrote up the story, and our response to it:

(Continued at Aetiology).

Ken Miller in Ohio – UPDATED

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UPDATE: Ken Miller will be on Ohio Public Radio tomorrow, on 90.3 WCPN, 9 a.m. eastern. The program will also feature a face-off between Ohio State Board of Education candidates Deborah Owens-Fink and Tom Sawyer. The program, “Evolution’s Effect on Voters,” will start at 9 am Eastern Time on Thursday, and the station has live streaming. Questions can be asked at (216) 578-0903, or the show email, [Enable javascript to see this email address.].

Ken Miller speaking in Ohio: An announcement from Patricia Princehouse of Ohio is below. Kenneth Miller is evidently trying to break some sort of record – he is speaking seven times in three days, starting Thursday at Case Western Reserve University, in a talk which will be webcast.

Ken Miller in Ohio! Oct 26-28 Science, God, & Intelligent-Design: Why all three matter in the 2006 Ohio elections

As seen on the Colbert Report & YouTube!!!

Akron, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Kent, and Oberlin.

**FREE & OPEN to the PUBLIC** Details at http://ohiohope.homestead.com/miller.html

Webcast Thurs 11:30 am!

Over on the hopefully-named “ID the Future” podcast website run by the Discovery Institute, Casey Luskin has posted a short interview with Michael Behe – evidently recorded in-studio rather than over the phone, although, for some reason, Behe sounds like he is sitting in a cave.

Anyway, the topic of the interview is Behe’s response to the Pallen and Matzke (2006) article on flagellum evolution in Nature Reviews Microbiology. As I pointed out on PT last month, among other things, the NRM article showed that the ID advocates didn’t know what they were talking about on the topics of (1) number of required flagellum parts, and (2) number of “unique”, i.e. non-homologous, flagellum parts. These points are obviously important, since the ID advocates themselves have emphasized them repeatedly – almost in hypnotically repetitious fashion, actually – as major reasons that the flagellum could not have evolved gradually.

Obama for President!

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OK, maybe I’m jumping the gun, and The Panda’s Thumb is not a politics blog.

But it is really refreshing to hear a national politician say forthrightly that “Evolution is more grounded in my experience than angels.”

For more about Barack Obama, visit here.

fossil_embryos_tease.jpg

There is a treasure trove in China: the well-preserved phosphatized embryos of the Doushantuo formation, a sampling of the developmental events in ancient metazoans between 551 and 635 million years ago. These are splendid specimens that give us a peek at some awesomely fragile organisms, and modern technology helps by giving us new tools, like x-ray computed tomography (CT), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), thin-section petrography, synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM), and computer-aided visualization, that allow us to dig into the fine detail inside these delicate specimens and display and manipulate the data. A new paper in Science describes a survey of a large collection of these embryos, probed with these new techniques, and rendered for our viewing pleasure…that is, we've got pretty pictures!

Continue reading "Dissecting embryos from half a billion years ago" (on Pharyngula)

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More Zaniness From Poland

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Thank God for Kent Hovind. Otherwise, the USA might have to relinquish its title as home of the world’s looniest creationist crazybags.

Neanderthal man walks among us, Poland’s far-right says

Poland’s far-right League of Polish Families (LPR), which is part of the coalition government, claims Darwin’s theory of evolution is all wrong, that humans lived alongside dinosaurs and that Neanderthal man is still among us.

Last week, Poland’s deputy education minister Miroslaw Orzechowski, a member of the LPR, bluntly rejected British naturalist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and his postulate that man is descended from apes. […]

This weekend, Orzechowski was given some high-level support when European lawmaker for the far-right party, Maciej Giertych – the father of LPR leader Roman Giertych – told a seminar that Neanderthal man still roams the planet, notably in the United States where examples can be spotted in a boxing ring. “A scientist showed me a picture of an American boxer. He had all the traits of Neanderthal man. These people are among us. They are part of the human race, probably more prevalent once upon a time, but who still exist,” Giertych, who has a doctorate in biology, told the seminar.

Taking up the mantra of creationists – who have a strong following among Christian fundamentalists in the United States, but whose theory that God created all living creatures at the same time has not won a huge following in Europe – Giertych also propounded that man and dinosaurs roamed the earth together.

“Research shows that dinosaurs and man were contemporaries. In every culture, there are indications that we remember (dinosaurs). The Scots have Loch Ness, we Poles have Wawel dragon (in Krakow), Marco Polo spoke of an imperial carriage in China which was pulled by a dragon,” Giertych said.

I… just don’t know what to say.

Server Changes

We’re making some changes to the server to increase performance and decrease downtime. We’ve migrated from Apache to Lighty. We’re still tuning things so expect random behavior of the server for a bit.

Long term goals involve getting a more powerful server and getting a fatter connection to the internet.

If you are motivated to donate, there is a link on the sidebar.

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

In chapter eight Wells recapitulates the standard “intelligent design” mantra that design can be established via an eliminative process. That is, if it can be established that a particular phenomenon is not the result either of natural laws or chance, then design emerges as the only remaining possibility. Readers familiar with ID will recognize this as the same, tired argument that “intelligent design” activists have been offering for more than a decade. Indeed, Wells merely parrots the assertions of William Dembski, giving neither acknowledgement of nor consideration to any of the numerous refutations of Dembski’s work produced over the years.

The Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions at the Indiana University in Bloomington has a whitepaper on Intelligent Design titled Intelligent Design, Science Education, and Public Reason

Crouch, Miller and Sideris express their concerns with “growing challenges to science and science education across the United States over the past several years”. They point out that:

Many of these efforts have been driven by religious believers and express theological convictions about the origins and development of human and non-human life. Whatever the ultimate outcome of these antievolution measures, the mere fact that such efforts are so frequent across so much of the United States is something that has engendered a legitimate worry among educators at both the secondary school and university levels. We write to address educators, policy makers, and the interested public with an eye to clarifying basic concerns regarding the scientific, religious, educational, and legal dimensions of this recent challenge.

The authors continue to give a good overview of the roots of Intelligent Design, the vacuity of its claims and address the often heard claim “teach the controversy”. As the authors observe “But describing the “teach the controversy” slogan in this way distorts what is at issue.”

This is a guest appearance by Peter Olofsson. I have not contributed anything to this essay and am posting it as a courtesy to Peter. Professor of mathematics Olofsson is the author of two excellent books on probability and related subjects, of which one is a textbook used by universities.

Here starts Peter’s text:

William Demsbki’s “explanatory filter” is a proposed method to infer intelligent design in nature. While it has been criticized from many points of view, there seems to have not yet been a comprehensive treatment within the framework of mathematical statistics. In this article I argue that even if many of Dembski’s assumptions are accepted, the filter still runs into serious trouble when it comes to biological applications.

Continue reading A troubled alliance at Talk Reason

Shocking news: Panda bites thumb

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In a shocking development news sources have revealed that a Panda cub has bitten of part of a visitor’s thumb.

The rumors are that the Panda’s actions were an act of revenge for the actions of a drunk Chinese tourist who had bitten a Panda.

The latest on the Hovind trial: Workers testify in ‘Dr. Dino’ trial. That should be “‘Dr.’ Dino”, of course.

Apparently he has sued the IRS at least 3 times. Not exactly the best way to get them on your good side…

Gogonasus andrewsae

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Here's another tetrapodomorph fish to consternate the creationists. These Devonian/Carboniferous animals just keep popping up to fill in the gaps in the evolutionary history of the tetrapod transition to the land—the last one was Tiktaalik.

gogonasus_skull_sm.jpg

This lovely beastie is more fish than frog, as you can tell—it was a marine fish, 384-380 million years old, from Australia, and it was beautifully preserved. Gogonasus is not a new species, but the extraction and analysis of a new specimen has caused its position in the evolutionary tree to be reevaluated.

Continue reading "Gogonasus andrewsae" (on Pharyngula)

Silly Billy on Silly books

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In a recent article on UcD William “Billy” Dembski writes the following:

Bill Dembski Wrote:

George Levine has a new book, Darwin Loves You. The book is silly and superficial, and would not be worth notice except that it serves as Exhibit A for the fact that Darwinism has become a religion, or at least, a “comprehensive doctrine” in the sense of Rawls (John, not Lou), and hence NOT something that a liberal democracry ought to impose on its citizens by force, as is happening now.

For a preview of Chapter 1 of this ‘silly book’ see this pdf

So why would Bill call the book silly and superficial? Various plausible hypothesis come to mind:

1. Publisher Weekly mentions that “it’s a difficult read for non philosophers”

2. The book ranks higher than most of Dembski’s books

3. Amazon ranks the book with Dembski’s works under social Darwinism

Darwin texts online

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This week’s Nature reports on the expansion of John van Wyhe’s massive online archive of Darwin writings, hosted by the University of Cambridge. I believe it now includes all of Darwin’s books and articles (yes, Virginia, Darwin wrote journal articles), except maybe the second edition of Insectivorous Plants. The first edition was published in 1875, but was revised in 1888 by Francis Darwin. So maybe that is a grey area, but I can still whine about it.

Carl Zimmer has a post up about his new article in the November 2006 issue of National Geographic. The article surveys recent research on the origin of multicellularity, segmentation, the vertebrate head, eyes, limbs, feathers, flowers, and the new kid on the block…the flagellum! And he even bases it on Pallen and Matzke 2006. Mark Pallen is interviewed – unfortunately there is nothing about the Genomic Dub Collective, but I’m sure that’s destined for ReggaeTimes.

Famed flagellum researcher Howard Berg is also interviewed. Sadly, there is nothing about the ID movement’s frequent claim that one of the spiffy design features of the flagellum is that it is “water-cooled” – a claim which they usually attribute to Berg (googling “water-cooled flagellum” brings up only ID/creationism websites). In my humble opinion, a fish has a far stronger claim to being “water-cooled”, given that the heat-retention capabilities of nanometer-scale molecular system are essentially nil (I read once that the heat energy radiates away dissipates in picoseconds at that scale). Someone should ask him about that some day.

Dr. Dino in the Dock

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The Pensacola News-Journal is once again giving everyone a front-row seat to the trial of Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, for tax fraud. See:

Evangelist’s trial begins

But rather than accepting his responsibility as an employer, Hovind hid behind terminology, Heldmeyer said.

He called his employees “volunteers,” “missionaries” or “ministers,” she said. Wages were referred to as “gifts” or “love offerings.”

Love offerings? That must look interesting on the tax forms.

Unexpected consequences

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Salvador Cordova (YEC) wrote a triumphant piece on Uncommon Descent that Allen MacNeill had declared Neo-Darwinism to be dead. Most of us are quite familiar with IDers or YECers declaring that Neo-Darwinism is dead, which to them (via the application of the logical fallacy of a false duality) means that ID must of course be right. Since ID has no positive evidence to provide or to rely on, one should not be too surprised by such desperate measures.

As expected, the announcement backfired when Allen responded

IDers and YECs who hail the “death of Darwinism” are like the poor benighted souls who hailed the death of the “horseless carriage” and the return to “normal equine transportation” in 1905 or thereabouts: they are either ignorant of the most basic principles of current evolutionary theory, or they see the onrush of the juggernaught and close their eyes to avoid witnessing the impending impact.

Dembski on Groupthink

William Dembski recently posted this amusing post on the subject of Groupthink. He provided a list of eight indicators that people are showing evidence of Groupthink, and said, “Read the following and ask yourself which side in the ID vs. Darwinism debate exhibits the groupthink syndrome:”

Since I had some free time today, I decided to take him up on his challenge. My findings are posted here. Comments can be left over at EvolutionBlog. Enjoy!

I have heard some weird reasons why we should reject Darwinian theory but this one seems to offer quite a new perspective:

Orzechowski said that the theory was a feeble idea of an aged non-believer, who had come up with it perhaps because he was a vegetarian and lacked fire inside him

Source

The story continues:

The deputy minister is a member of a Catholic far-right political group, the League of Polish Families. The league’s head, Roman Giertych, is education minister in the conservative coalition government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Giertych’s father Maciej, who represents the league in the European Parliament, organised a discussion there last week on Darwinism. He described the theory as not supported by proof and called for it to be removed from school books.

The far-right joined the government in May when Kaczynski’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party, after months of ineffective minority government, formed a coalition including LPR and the populist Sambroon party.

Roman Giertych has not spoken out on Darwinism, but the far-right politician’s stance on other issues has stirred protest in Poland since he joined the government.

A school pupils’ association was expected to demonstrate in front of the education ministry on Saturday to call for his resignation.

Let’s hope that the school pupils will get an opportunity to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the leadership of their country.

This is a guest appearance by Gert Korthof. I have not contributed a single word to this essay and post it as a courtesy to Gert.

Despite the title of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God - A Scientist presents evidence for belief, Collins delivered a superb defense of evolution based on data from genomics and an unambiguous rejection of YEC and ID. He does not claim a supernatural origin of life. His Theistic Evolution is a more science-friendly form of religion then YEC and ID, because it reduces supernatural intervention to a minimum. However Collins still has strong disagreements with the Darwinian explanation of altruism. He needs to rethink his Moral Law argument, which is not a coherent argument and ignores animal behaviour research.

Continue reading Francis Collins on evolution and altruism on Talk Reason.

Tangled Bank #64

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The Tangled Bank

The latest Tangled Bank is online (a little bit late) at Neurophilosophy. My notice is a little bit late, too, but in one of those odd coincidences, it's because I'm in London…as is this week's host, and I met him at the natural history museum yesterday.

Better late than never, and just in case you haven't read it already, head on over.

Worse than I thought in Iowa

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As one commenter at Aetiology pointed out, support for Intelligent design/creationism is included in the Republican Party of Iowa State Platform:

3.4 We support the teaching of alternative theories on the origins of life including Darwinian Evolution, Creation Science or Intelligent Design, and that each should be given equal weight in presentation.

What I don’t know is if this is typical of other Republican platforms in other states, or how frequently each candidate uses these points in their own campaign. I’ve still not heard back either from Nussle or Culver regarding Intelligent Design, either…

Vander Plaats supports teaching intelligent design

“If we are going to teach evolution, there is another viewpoint and one that holds pretty good too (evolution) in regards to creation,” Vander Plaats said. “I think that is something that I would want to visit further along with Jim Nussle in regards to ‘Where are you at on that?’ But my viewpoint is I would like to give both of these (time in the classroom).”

For those of you unfamiliar wth Iowa politics, Jim Nussle is the Republican candidate for governor, opposed by Democrat Chet Culver. Bob Vander Plaats, as noted, is Nussle’s running mate.

(Continued at Aetiology).

World’s Smallest Genome

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It clocks in at just under 160 kilobases. To put that into perspective, the human genome is over 3 gigabases.

And it has all of 182 genes.

How small can a genome get and still run a living organism? Researchers now say that a symbiotic bacterium called Carsonella ruddii, which lives off sap-feeding insects, has taken the record for smallest genome with just 159,662 ‘letters’ (or base pairs) of DNA and 182 protein-coding genes. At one-third the size of previously found ‘minimal’ organisms, it is smaller than researchers thought they would find. […]

This is encouraging news for synthetic biologists who are hoping to make designer bacteria from scratch, which could perform useful functions such as synthesizing pharmaceuticals or fuels.

Sounds like fun. And this discovery gives us some insights into the evolution of larger, eukaryotic cells as well:

C. ruddii seems even more extreme. “Its gene inventory seems insufficient for most biological processes that appear to be essential for bacterial life,” write Atsushi Nakabachi at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Masahira Hattori at the University of Tokyo, Japan, and their colleagues. At the moment, the researchers are not sure how C. ruddii copes, although they speculate that some of the necessary genes may have been transferred over evolutionary time to the genomes of the host.

That is precisely what is thought to have happened during the evolution of the compartments called mitochondria in our own cells, which are responsible for energy production. These are believed to have once been symbionts that lost all autonomy by relinquishing most of their genes to the host (mitochondria still have their own DNA).

Andersson says that C. ruddii might be analogues of mitochondria, caught in the process of changing from separate but dependent organisms into structures that will be engulfed and incorporated into the host cells.

In spite of the fact that creationists like to bring up the hypothesized endosymbiosis of mitochondria or chloroplasts as a problem for evolution, the fact is that we find intermediates between fully autonomous prokaryotes and full endosymbionts all over nature. (My favorite example is Wolbachia.) It appears that they go through an intracellular parasitic stage and, like with many parasitic relationships, both the parasite and the host evolve to cope with each other. In the case of endosymbionts, they become increasingly more cooperative until they become inseparable.

Wins in Michigan and Ohio

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Yesterday turned out to be a pretty good day for science education.

The State Board of Education on Tuesday approved public school curriculum guidelines that support the teaching of evolution in science classes – but not intelligent design.

Intelligent design instruction could be left for other classes in Michigan schools, but it doesn’t belong in science class, according to the unanimously adopted guidelines.

“The intent of the board needs to be very clear,” said board member John Austin, an Ann Arbor Democrat. “Evolution is not under stress. It is not untested science.”

Source

Shermer in Virginia

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Skeptic Magazine publisher Michael Shermer will be in Oakton, Virginia this Thursday, October 12, to discuss his new book Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design. The talk is being cohosted by The Alliance for Science and the National Capitol Area Skeptics. Regrettably, I will be unable to attend. Having heard Shermer speak several times previously, I can say with some confidence that will be an interesting and informative talk. If you're anywhere near Oakton, I strongly encourage you to attend.

The talk will be from 7:30-9:30, but Shermer will be signing copies of his book before the talk. Click here for more information.

The Ohio BOE “Achievement” Committee Skates (again!)

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UPDATE MP3 of the Board Debate on Ohio Citizens for Science.

Promoted from the comments:

Though the Achievement Committee skated, dipped and twirled, the full Board finally took it out of the Committee’s hands. This is promoted from the comments.

At today’s board meeting, under new business:

Motion by Martha Wise, second by Rob Hovis.

RESOLVED, That the Achievement Committee of the State Board of Education, having recommended no response to Board Resolution 31 referred to it in February 2006, is hereby discharged from further consideration of Resolution 31 and anything arising therefrom, including the template for teaching controversial issues.

As new business the resolution would normally have to wait 30 days before it could be considered by the board. There was a motion to consider the resolution immediately, as an emergency measure. That passed 13-4.

The motion itself passed 14-3. Cochran, Ross and Westendorf voted No. Owens-Fink and Baker were absent.

This kills Resolution 31 and the template. It effectively answers the question whether anything should replace the deleted lesson plan, benchmark and indicator with a resounding NO.

The remainder of my original post is below the fold, but it’s moot now. The Disco Institute took it in the teeth yet again. As one of our people remarked leaving the meeting, “This is the first time in years that the Disco Institute doesn’t have its hooks in the Ohio State BOE.”

Today the magazine The Lutheran has made its interview with Judge Jones freely available on its website. October’s cover story is on science and religion, and includes a series of stories on the Lutheran perspective on the evolution/creationism issue. My parents get The Lutheran, so now my strange job has landed in their mailbox. There is no escape!

The Jones interview is notable for including some details on Jones’s experience in becoming a judge – quite an involved process – and on his religious upbringing, which has not been treated in depth elsewhere. We also get some more on his views on the relationship between the judiciary and politics, which Jones has made into a bit of a personal quest following the post-decision claim that Jones had “stabbed in the back” his political allies.

Reference: Mark A. Staples (2006). “‘Not science’: Judge John E. Jones: Lutheran tells about his history-making, intelligent design decision.” The Lutheran, October 2006.

Ohio BoE still stalling

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The word out of Ohio today is that the Ohio Board of Education is still stalling on its prior commitment to have an up-or-down vote on a “replacement policy” for the ill-fated “Critical Analysis of Evolution” benchmark and lesson plan which were defeated back in February. This is in marked contrast to a recent report in the press in which a board member claimed the debate template was “dead”.

Several people have suggested that I factor out body size to produce a chart just showing the relative increase in brain size over time. This is not as simple to do as it sounds, because most of the fossil skulls are not found with bodies, and vice versa [1]. So even if I had the paper with the body size data (De Miguel and Henneberg (1999). “Variation in hominid body size estimates: Do we know how big our ancestors were?” Perspectives in Human Biology, 4(1), pp. 65-80), one could not just do a regression. So we have to improvise.

CERT

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Coming on the heels of the newly formed Scientists and Engineers for America, those of us in Colorado have a new organization to help fight the good fight, Colorado Evolution Response Team, or CERT. Friday’s online edition of the Denver Post has an article about the organization:

Finally, scientists are fighting mad.

In a state where public educators are afraid to put the word “evolution” in science aptitude tests and where the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor thinks biblical creationism counts as science, the Colorado Evolution Response Team has its work cut out.

CERT, as the new group refers to itself, seems ready for the fight.

“There is a cultural attack against science,” said David Pollock, a genetic researcher at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. “The president taking intelligent-design propaganda as gospel is not good.”

Neither is having a lieutenant governor who wants creationism taught in schools. […]

They won’t have to look far. Last summer, a member of the Colorado Board of Education called evolution “one of those loaded phrases.” So Colorado doesn’t print the word in statewide science aptitude tests. Instead, kids see the less controversial term “adaptation.”

“They’re trying to avoid controversy,” not teach science, said James DeGregori, a CU cancer biologist. “That’s exactly what this organization (CERT) should respond to.”

Scientists “profess evolution as the foundation of the biosciences,” said Kieft, a Christian who squares his scholarship with his faith. “If you test students on biology, you have to deal with it.”

By not doing so, added Pollock, you are “erasing a portion of human knowledge that is critical. You’re crippling people.”

You also force the creation of groups like CERT, which is independent of, but akin to, another new organization, Scientists and Engineers for America. SEA is a national group dealing with national issues. Pollock belongs to both. They are part of a movement by scientists to reclaim their disciplines from religion and politics. CERT was the brainchild of DeGregori, honed with Pollock and Kieft. […]

“They’re taking religious beliefs and pretending they can make them science,” School of Mines physicist Matt Young said of folks who think creationism constitutes science. “I hope that CERT will be able to support teachers and parents in situations where science is being distorted.”

If you are from Colorado, especially if you are in the sciences, please consider joining CERT. The website still needs some tweaking, so you might want to bookmark it and then check back later once more formal means of joining or donating are available.

Full disclosure: One of the scientists quoted in the Post article, David Pollock, is my PI. Two of the others, DiGregory and Kieft, are both faculty in my department. (Don’t I work in a cool place?) And the fourth, Matt Young, is just some old nobody who I’ve never heard of, but strangely enough, he’s listed as a PT contributor.

Evo-devo is not the whole of biology

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Sometimes a plan just comes together beautifully. I'm flying off to London tomorrow, and on the day I get back to Morris, I'm supposed to lead a class discussion on the final chapters of this book we've been reading, Endless Forms Most Beautiful. I will at that point have a skull full of jet-lagged, exhausted mush, and I just know it's going to be a painful struggle. Now into my lap falls a wonderful gift.

There was a review in the NY Review of Books that said wonderful things about Carroll's work, and in particular about the revolutionary nature of evo-devo. This prompted Jason Hodin, an evo-devo researcher himself (whose work I've mentioned before) to write a rebuttal and send it off to NYRB…which they chose not to publish. So he sent it to me, with permission to post it.

(If Pharyngula is going to be second choice to the NY Review of Books, I'm not going to complain.)

Anyway, I'm almost as guilty as Carroll of hawking the wares of the evo-devo bandwagon and traveling roadshow, so this is a welcome balancing corrective. The complete text is below the fold.

Continue reading "Evo-devo is not the whole of biology" (on Pharyngula)

More on ID Research

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I started writing a little something on my blog mentioning Ed’s critique of the latest DI “we’ve blown 4 million with nothing to show for it” spin. I was just going to link to it and then make one little tiny extra point, but before I knew it, it had balooned into a long-winded essay. So I thought I’d share it with a broader audience.

How to Waste Four Million Bucks

Enjoy!

Flock of Dodos in Raleigh

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Since Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus has now found a distributor, Documentary Educational Resources, institutions, like libraries and universities, can now buy a copy for $345, which includes public performance rights.

I have asked the NCSU Library to acquire a copy, which they’ve agreed to do. (Coturnix did so as well.)

When the DVD comes in, the library is going to hold it for me. When I get it, I plan on having a screening, putting those public performance rights to good use. I still have to work out the details, but if you are in the research-triangle area and want information regarding the showing, post a comment with your contact email address. Whenever the details get worked out, I’ll drop y’all a line.

DI’s Claims on ID Research

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The Discovery Institute appears to be getting a bit sensitive over us nasty old Darwinists demanding actual scientific research to justify the “revolutionary paradigm shift” they keep talking about. Silly scientists, expecting actual results! So they’re trying to answer those demands by claiming first that there is real research going on, but it’s under double secret probation at a secret lair, and they’d tell us about it but they know we’d send in Agent Smart to burn down the lab. And second, by sending out a press release claiming to have spent $4 million on “scientific and scholarly research”, loosely defined to include their ongoing work in the quote mines (never forget: send the canary in first or the methane might get ya). I’ve got full responses to both sad attempts to deflect attention from their utter lack of research to confirm ID, at Dispatches from the Culture wars. The first is here, the second is here. Comments may be left there.

Scientists of the World, Unite!

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Chris Mooney’s article in the November issue of Seed is up on the Seed website. It is about the new group Scientists and Engineers for America (SEforA) which made a splash in the New York Times last week.

Science 2006

For too long scientists have approached politics with one hand tied behind their backs. This November, Chris Mooney says, that’s going to change.

He also has a blog post up, “Scientists of the World, Unite!

The Nerf Flagellum

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I want one of these for Christmas. Courtesy of Display #1: The Bacterial Flagellum, at the Creation Science Museum of Canada. Watch out, evolutionists, you have been judged on the Hogwash-O-Meter and found wanting! If that doesn’t convince you, just look at the tracks of humans found with dinosaur tracks at Paluxy.

Some bloggers in North Carolina have organized a Science Blogging Conference. It is going to be held all day, Saturday January 20th on the UNC Chapel Hill Campus. The conference is free to attend. So go and register if you can make it. I promise that Prof. Steve Steve will be on hand if you want to share a beer with him.

Our conference will address a variety of issues and perspectives on science communication, including science literacy, the popularization of science, science in classrooms and in homes, debunking pseudoscience, using blogs as tools for presenting scientific research, writing about science, and health and medicine.

The conference is sponsored by ibibilo and UNC Medical Journalism program. (It is looking for additional sponsors as well.)

Go Visit the Homepage!

Well, this is probably a slight to revolutionary minds everywhere, but Seed magazine has seen fit to include me in their “Revolutionary Minds” series that they are starting in the October issue which just hit the newsstands. See the NCSE writeup for more. Here is Seed‘s description:

Revolutionary Minds: Portraits of young, visionary iconoclasts who operate in a world in which cross-pollination and the synthesis of ideas are the norm.

Check out the introduction to the “Nine Revolutionary Minds” article:

Every generation has its salon, its emblematic gathering of emergent thinkers. The 20s saw the likes of Matisse, Pound, Hemingway gathered in Gertrude Stein’s Paris apartment. The 50s saw Paul Bowles’ “Tangerinos,” with giants Allen Ginsberg, Truamn Capote, and William Burroughs taking up resident in Tangiers. In the 60s there was Andy Warhol’s Factory, the studio where his iconic silk screens were produced and where Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and so many others could be found on any given New York night.

OK, OK, just what the heck is a guy like me doing here? Well:

Nick Matzke will gladly give a quick tutorial about evolution and history of creationism – even if it means lecturing at 3 a.m. while strolling along the banks of the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, PA. It was there, last November, that Matzke helped the plaintiff’s lawyers cream for their final corss-examination of intelligent design (ID) proponents.

This is, in fact, a true story.

Michael Shermer will be speaking at the Cato Institute on Oct. 12 (noon Eastern) about his book, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design. Jonathan Wells, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism And Intelligent Design, will present briefly in response, followed by comments from the audience. The event is open to the public, or and you can watch it online here.

Where’s the ID Research?

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Wondering what ever happened to all that ID inspired scientific progress that was supposedly just around the corner? Here’s Bruce Chapman explaining why it hasn’t materialized:

Friends of ID know the cases of a number of ID-friendly scientists who have lost their lab privileges or otherwise been discriminated against at universities here and in the UK. We are not trumpeting very many cases because the situations of several such scientists remain difficult. It is an appalling commentary on the state of academic freedom that ID-friendly scientists should have to work in an atmosphere of fear, but it’s true. We just want friends of ID who wonder why we don’t publicize work in progress more than we do to take a moment and reflect about that!

As for foes and critics who pester us for information about research now underway and who insinuate that, unless we oblige them, we must accept their opinion that such research is not happening, we owe them nothing. Since when does a scientist have to “report” on his work to the public before he is ready? The opposite is almost always the case.

There’s lot’s of ID research, but a conspiracy of censorship prevents us from telling you about it. Lot’s of people are being oppressed by Darwinists, but we can’t tell you who they are.

RIght. And people who deny the existence of robots are themselves robots.

I’ve posted some further comments over at EvolutionBlog. Enjoy!

Students are often overwhelmed by the number of species concepts cited in the literature. Here is a working list of species concepts presently in play. I quote “Concepts” above because, for philosophical reasons, I think there is only one concept - “species”, and all the rest are conceptions, or definitions, of that concept. I have christened this the Synapormorphic Concept of Species in (Wilkins 2003).

Read the rest on Evolving Thoughts.

Here at PT, we have recently had several posts on banned books and Nazis.

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler asks, "whether the teching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy, student achievement in science, and (by extension) the scientific research and discovery in the nation as a whole"?

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