January 7, 2007 - January 13, 2007 Archives

Science magazine has just published a graph of data taken from a general social survey of Americans that quantifies what most of us assume: a well-educated liberal who is not a fundamentalist is much more likely to accept evolution than a conservative fundamentalist with only a high school education. You can see the trend fairly clearly: here we see the percent believing in evolution vs. fundamentalism, amount of education, and self-reported political views.

(click for larger image)

The percentage of respondents believing in human evolution is plotted simultaneously against political view (conservative, moderate, liberal), education (high school or less, some college, graduate school), and respondent's religious denomination (fundamentalist or not). Belief in evolution rises along with political liberalism, independently of control variables.

Continue reading "American political conservatism impedes the understanding of science" (on Pharyngula)

I have used the analogy before comparing the ID movement to the movie Weekend at Bernie’s, where two guys drag a dead body around pretending it’s alive to keep the party going a little longer. But nowhere is that analogy more accurate than in the IDers constant flogging of the protein research of Douglas Axe, now with the Biologic Institute that the DI is funding. This work has been shredded time and and time again and shown conclusively not to support ID in the slightest, yet they keep dragging it out and propping it up with a drink in its hand, hoping no one notices the embalming fluid. and the eyes sewn shut.

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

The weblog of William Dembski is called “Uncommon Dissent Descent” (UD). It has a reputation for banning unwanted commenters (read: “evolution defenders”), but generally on the grounds that they’re obstreperous and disruptive. However, it’s becoming clear that it’s not just disruptive behavior that gets one banned: It’s also merely disagreeing, calmly and lucidly, with DaveScot.

Recently Dembski posted some remarks about ID in the United Kingdom and invited comment from UK residents. One UK resident, “Febble”, accepted the invitation. Febble remarked that she had no objection to intelligent design being taught in the UK, since under Dembski’s definition of “intelligent”, Darwinian natural selection is intelligent. She wrote

I am happy to accept “Intelligent Design” as a scientific hypothesis to account for the development of life, as proposed by yourself, Dr Dembski, as long as you stand by this definition of intelligence:

‘ by intelligence I mean the power and facility to choose between options–this coincides with the Latin etymology of “intelligence,” namely, “to choose between” ‘

From Intellligent Design Coming Clean

However, such a hypothesis need not (and should not) be presented as an “alternative to evolution” as it is described in the Truth In Science materials. Far from rejecting an agent “with the power and facility to choose between options”, this is exactly what the Theory of Evolution postulates as the agent of evolutionary change - a process of_selection_ (aka “choice”) between options.

That did not go over well. DaveScot, Dembski’s bouncer, first responded with sarcasm:

Survival of the survivors. Brilliant!

I guess we can all go home now. Case closed.

and then within minutes moved on to the core ID argument: ‘Computers are really complex and they’re designed, and cells are really really complex so they must be designed too’.

Over at Uncommon Descent, Gil Dodgen asks the question of why so many engineers reject evolution. Dave Scot then asks a similar question about doctors. Not surprisingly, their answers to these questions are self-serving and backed up only by wishful thinking. Dodgen quotes Stephen Meyer as saying that because engineers know all about “design”, they are therefore in a unique position to know about biology. (As a corollary, I suppose biologists must have special insight when it comes to designing bridges.) Even more amusing is Dave Scot’s explanation for why doctors supposedly reject evolution. They are risk adverse. I’ll let others ponder the logic of that one. But all of this begs the question: How many doctors (or engineers) reject evolution, and why do they do so? I think the question is worth looking at, even if just for fun. So let’s do something that the denizens of UD would consider totally alien – let’s look at some data.

Back in November I was interviewed and photographed by the San Francisco Chronicle for the “Facetime” section of their Sunday newsmagazine. A month or two went by without anything coming out, so I figured I’d been dropped as an uninteresting nerd or some such. Well, I figured wrong, the article is out and my soul is laid bare, including my two cents on religion if anyone’s interested, and the influence of my dear beloved grandmother, college roommates (but see below), and this very group of Panda’s Thumb bloggers on my somewhat strange life. The reporter, Sam Whiting, conducts the “Facetime” interview by asking rapid-fire questions for 20 minutes, and then they excerpt the juiciest bits, resulting in a short piece that really cuts to the chase. Mission accomplished, I’d say.

Interesting choice of headline. Prof. Steve Steve is pleased:

Baby pandas! Baby pandas! Baby pandas! POSTED: 10:07 a.m. EST, January 3, 2007

BEIJING, China (AP) – A mini-baby boom last year has pushed up the number of pandas bred in captivity in China to 217, state media said Wednesday.

Some 34 pandas were born by artificial insemination in 2006 and 30 survived – both record numbers for the endangered species, Cao Qingyao, a spokesman for the State Forestry Administration, was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency.

The previous record was the 21 baby pandas born in China’s zoos and breeding centers in 2005.

National Geographic a photo of them all lined up a few months back…

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