November 2008 Archives

Shame on the Cincinnati Zoo

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The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and the Creation Museum have made a joint marketing agreement and are selling "combo tickets" to get into both attractions for one price.

The Cincinnati Zoo is promoting an anti-science, anti-education con job run by ignorant creationists.

Unbelievable.

Here's a little bit about the Cincinnati Zoo. I've highlighted a few key words and phrases.

Part of the public school system in Cincinnati since 1975, the Zoo hosts a four-year college prepatory program - Zoo Academy. The Cincinnati Zoo is proud to serve as the leading non-formal science educator in Southwest Ohio. Over 300,000 students participate in the Zoo's educational programs annually.

The Zoo has long been successful at captive breeding, starting with trumpeter swans and sea lions back in the 1880s. The Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) was founded in 1986 to strengthen the tradition. The research conducted here has made the Cincinnati Zoo an international leader in the protection and propagation of endangered animals and plants around the world.

Rated by peer zoological parks as one of the best zoos in the nation, the Cincinnati Zoo continues to set the standard for conservation, education and preservation of wild animals and wild spaces. Over 1.2 million people visit the Zoo annually. The Zoo features more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species, making it one of the largest Zoo collections in the country.

I believe the Cincinnati Zoo has betrayed its mission and its trust in a disgraceful way, by aligning themselves with a creationist institution that is a laughing stock to the rest of the world, and a mark of shame to the United States. I urge everyone to contact the zoo; write to their education and marketing and public relations departments in particular and point out the conflict between what they are doing and what their goal as an educational and research institution ought to be.

While you're at it, it might be even more effective to contact the newsroom at the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati weekly, City Beat. Let's raise a stink and give these guys the bad PR they deserve.


Good news! Upon discovering this embarrassing news this morning, the Cincinnati Zoo has moved with commendable swiftness to remove the combo tickets offer from their website. The Creation Museum, however, has not done so just yet.

Professor Gross reviews Berlinski

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University Professor (emeritus) Paul Gross, who has co-authored with Barbara Forrest (of the Dover trial fame) the well-known book (2004) about the ID “movement,” has now reviewed the recent book by the notorious anti-evolutionist David Berlinski. This review will soon appear in the Free Inquiry magazine, but it can already be read in full in this post.

Egnor shoots! He scores!

(another own goal, of course.)

There he goes again. Creationist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s latest post over at the Discovery Institute’s Why’s Everybody Always Picking On Me blog may have actually reached a new standard for missing the point. And, as both my loyal regular readers know, that’s not an easy mark for Egnor to hit.

The current contender is his latest post in a back-and-forth that he’s been having with PZ and Orac. Once again, Egnor is attempting to argue that evolutionary biology has not provided any useful insights to the field of medicine. That much is familiar ground. What’s new this time is the hypothetical that he’s dredged up in an attempt to prove his point. His hypothetical is long and involved, which should provide you with your first warning that the argument is perhaps not as sound as he believes:

What I’m arguing is that the truth or falsehood of Darwinian stories is of no tangible value to medicine. Consider the following example.

I would suspect that careful epidemiological studies of the British population would show that the prevalence and incidence of spina bifida increased following World War One. To my knowledge, this has not been investigated, but it would make sense if it were true, for the following reasons:

Britain suffered enormous casualties during the Great War, as did many other European nations. (I’m just using Britain as an example). It has been said, with asperity, that Britain lost a generation of men on the Western Front. Britain suffered 2,300,000 war casualties – forty four percent of mobilized men, with 703,000 men killed in battle or by disease. On just one day – July 1,1916 – 19,240 British soldiers died in the battle of the Somme. The young men who died were the best of their generation – healthy, and by definition capable of meeting the rigorous physical standards required for military service.

Of course, other British men with debilitating genetic disorders, such as men with spina bifida (which renders the afflicted congenitally paralyzed), were not in the trenches that day, because they were physically unfit for military service, or at least service on the front lines as infantrymen. It’s safe to say that military age British men without spinal bifida were at greater risk of death in the war than were military age British men with spina bifida. Whatever the impediments faced by people with spina bifida – and they face many impediments – they were not called to serve and die in the trenches.

Spina bifida would then be a fine example of an environmental adaptation; it was protective against “acute lead poisoning” – protective against being mowed down by German machine gun fire on the Western Front. So, assuming for argument’s sake that my hypothesis about the post-war epidemiology of spina bifida is true, the genes that give rise to spina bifida conferred a selective advantage on young British men in the period 1914 to 1918, and the differential survival (and reproduction) of that age cohort would explain a (hypothetical) increase in the incidence and prevalence of spina bifida in England in the post war period.

Where to begin?

Read more at The Questionable Authority, where comments may be left:

Ebonmuse on ‘Teaching the Controversy’

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Ebonmuse has an excellent short piece on the Disco Dancers’ “teach the controversy” ploy. The money paragraph:

The problem with “teaching all sides” is that it can give fringe ideas a credibility they have not earned. Excessive concern for “balance” leads to presenting the speculations of cranks and crackpots as if they were on equal footing with the positions defended by vast majorities of qualified experts. (The media has a similar problem.) And this is very useful to advocates of pseudoscience, who often do not need to win the rhetorical battle outright; they can triumph merely by muddying the waters and preventing a consensus from forming around the truth. This is the same strategy employed by tobacco companies, as we can see from the second excerpt above, as well as by oil companies seeking to forestall regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

To Ebonmuse’s list of movements employing the same tactic one can add HIV denial (cf. Phillip E. Johnson and Jonathan Wells).

And Ebonmuse adds a nice touch:

But with all that said, the idea of teaching the controversy isn’t an intrinsically bad one. There are plenty of subjects that have legitimate controversies where this commendable call for fairness could be better applied.

For example, how about sex ed? A great many religious conservatives - many of the same ones who call for teaching the controversy on evolution, I don’t doubt - change their tune when it comes to public-school health classes, demanding that students be taught an “abstinence-only” program that omits contraception, or mentions it only to discuss its failure rates. How strange. Whatever happened to fairness? Whatever happened to learning about all sides? Why can students make up their own minds about evolution, but not about how to protect themselves from STDs?

Just so.

Odontochelys, a transitional turtle

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Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

Now this is an interesting beast. It’s a 220 million year old fossil from China of an animal that is distinctly turtle-like. Here’s a look at its dorsal side:

odontochelys_fossil.jpeg

a, Skeleton in dorsal view. b, Skull in dorsal view. c, Skull in ventral view. d, Body in dorsal view. Teeth on the upper jaw and palatal elements were scratched out during excavation. Abbreviations: ar, articular; as, astragalus; ca, calcaneum; d, dentary; dep, dorsal process of epiplastron; dsc, dorsal process of scapula; ep, epiplastron; fe, femur; fi, fibula; gpep, gular projection of epiplastron; hu, humerus; hyo, hyoplastron; hyp, hypoplastron; il, ilium; ipt, interpterygoid vacuity; j, jugal; ldv, last dorsal vertebra; m, maxilla; n, nasal; na, naris; op, opisthotic; p, parietal; phyis, posterolateral process of hypoischium; pm, premaxilla; po, postorbital; prf, prefrontal; q, quadrate; sq, squamosal; st, supratemporal; sv1, 1st sacral vertebra; ti, tibia; ul, ulna; vot, vomerine teeth; I, V, 1st and 5th metatarsals.

Notice in the skull: it’s got teeth, not just a beak like modern turtles. The back is also odd, for a turtle. The ribs are flattened and broadened, but…no shell! It’s a turtle without a shell!

Creationist Essay Competition

Pseudoscience isn’t just fun; it can also bring you big money. Turkish creationist Harun Yahya is running a creationist essay competition, and the prize is 100,000 Turkish lira.

Professor Peter Olofsson is a prominent mathematician, expert in probability, mathematical statistics and related fields (in particular, he has recently authored an outstanding textbook on probability and statistics). In a new essay Olofsson offers a devastating critique of Dembski’s and Behe’s mishandling of probabilistic and statistical concepts in their attempts to utilize these powerful mathematical tools to support intelligent design “theory.” Olofsson provides a superb analysis of the fallacy of Dembski’s treatment of the Caputo case, reveals Dembski’s distortion of Bayesian approach, and offers strong mathematical arguments against Behe’s latest book. The full text of Olofsson’s essay is available at Talk Reason.

(This essay was also printed in the Chance magazine, 21(3) 2008,)

Meleagris gallopavo

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By Eric Rosenberg, http://www.flickr.com/gimlack

turkey.jpg

Meleagris gallopavo — Wild Turkeys, Rancho San Antonio, CA

Egnor loses it, again

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Creationists must live on a different planet. I just summarized this symposium I attended (it was a conference on the history and philosophy of evolutionary theory); I posted the schedule last week, which included well-known figures in this field like Janet Browne, Jane Maienschein, Rasmus Winther, and John Beatty. In between, Michael Egnor takes this scrap of information and spins out a weird tale. He actually put up a post titled, "Is P.Z. Myers Attending a Conference on Eugenics?". To which one can only mutter, "WTF?"

Here's his "reasoning":

I'm having trouble finding the program Myers is referring to (why wasn't I invited!?), but Claudia Cohen Hall is on the medical campus at Penn, so I surmise that the presentations will be on eugenics (apologies for it, I hope), which is Darwin's only legacy to medicine.

But of course eugenics won't be mentioned, except perhaps brief exculpations ("Eugenics was the misuse of Darwin's theory by a few rogue geneticists…"). No doubt the talks will be 'Children Hate Vegetables Because of Ancestral Reproductive Advantage of Avoiding Toxins' or 'We Will Evolve Oiler Skin Because of Frequent Bathing' or 'X-Linked Color Blindness Evolved to Help Paleolithic Male Hunters See Camouflage.' Believe it or not, these are actual cutting-edge evolutionary "theories."

Do we need any further demonstration that creationists are divorced from reality, have no interest in pursuing the truth, and will make stuff up on the airiest of whims? No, it wasn't a conference about eugenics, pro or con. No, it wasn't about medicine. No, none of those very silly talks were given. No, since evolution contributes substantially to basic biology, all that stuff about how cells work and interact and change, evolution has contributed significantly to modern medicine — Egnor's ignorance of the mechanistic underpinnings of what medicine does is no excuse.

Oh, and Dr Egnor, I can guess why you weren't invited. It's because you're a babbling chowderhead.

A WTF Moment in Texas: Yup. It was a quote mine.

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OK, what I quoted below from Homeroom: an education blog is a quote mine. It takes two sentences, well separated in Saenz’s testimony, and pastes them together to make it look like they were part of the same stream of testimony. They weren’t.

The first sentence of the purported quotation is from the MP3 that 386sx linked at 07:25. It is “And by the way, all this talk about status and people not being from Texas, Darwin was from England and Einstein was from Germany.” That was an out of context comment made in passing. I.e. it had no specific motivation in what preceded, but was thrown in at the end of comments he was making in response to a question from Ms. Dunbar about lawsuits on the basis of the policy and how they get paid for.

The second sentence of the purported quotation comes from four minutes later, around 11:30, and had reference to some derogatory comments apparently made about people testifying on the creationist side, when he said “The eliticism and arrogance that has been going on is really not what Texas is about.”

So that was in fact a quote mine, and I withdraw my remarks that assumed it was a representative quotation from Saenz. Saenz says a good deal that I disagree with, but he was not that stupid.

I’ve just started reading Kenneth Miller’s Only A Theory in which he is attempting to make the case that the current assault on science, orchestrated by organizations like the Disco ‘Tute, is a “threat to our ‘scientific soul’ – the healthy skepticism and rational respect for truth that has fueled our remarkable scientific advances” (from the dust cover copy).

One might imagine that Miller is being alarmist, but then one encounters this. At the current hearings of the Texas State Board of Education on its new science standards, Jonathan Saenz, a functionary in an affiliate of Family in Focus, made this extraordinary remark:

Darwin was from England and Einstein was from Germany. The elitism and arrogance that has been going on is not what Texas is about.

That’s the kind of abject stupidity that could convince me that Miller is right. How many Pastor Ray “We’ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture” Mummerts are there?

From Homeroom: An education blog, via John Pieret.

The plant kingdom is many things - the basis of agriculture and civilization, a natural laboratory with a stupefying capability in organic synthesis, a source of untold numbers of pharmaceuticals, antimicrobials, herbals, and other chemical playthings, a fascinating range of biological form and function, and an eminently accessible subject for studies of evolution. Along the lines of the last two bullets, one of the more interesting aspects of plants is the range of growth habits that may be adopted. Among these are two sets of contrasting characteristics - annual or perennial, and herbaceous or woody. Differences in these characteristics are among the bases for classification of plant species. For this reason, but also because accompanying morphological differences can be quite considerable, evolutionary changes that involve transitioning between these states are macroevolutionary. Thus, it stands to reason that studying the means by these characteristics evolve amounts to experimental analysis of macroevolution, and understanding the underlying mechanisms constitutes an explanation of macroevolutionary processes.

It is in this light that a recent report deserves some attention. This report, by Melzer et al., describes studies of the functioning of two regulators of flowering in the herbaceous annual Arabidopsis thaliana. These proteins, called SOC1 and FUL, had been known for some time to be involved in the regulation of flowering. Melzer et al. constructed double mutants deficient in the expression of these two proteins, with the intent of understanding the physiological significance of interactions between these two proteins, associations discovered using the so-called yeast two-hybrid assay. Amazingly, soc1 ful double mutants were dramatically different - they had a more woody growth habit, and they behaved like perennials when it comes to reproduction. The abstract from the paper follows this paragraph. The bottom line that is in keeping with the title of the essay - not only can this particular macroevolutionary process be studied experimentally, it can be understood and the corresponding macroevolutionary process recapitulated in a controlled setting.

Once again, the Discovery Institute is playing word games with educational systems, trying to give legal protection to religion-based incompetence. I refer, of course, to the ongoing debate about standards in Texas, and the insidious influence that the DI is wielding.

As Wesley Elsberry notes in his summary of the alleged weaknesses of evolutionary theory, an oft-repeated mantra rears its head yet again. This ID tenet holds that macroevolution is either not possible, or cannot be observed, or cannot be studied (or any combination of the these). Apparently, Board of Education member Ken Mercer is of the opinion that macroevolution has not been observed.

Wes Elsberry has a good summary post with links on the hearings that the Texas State Board of Education held yesterday on the crypto-creationist “strengths and weaknesses of evolution” language in some drafts of the new standards. The overwhelming public testimony was in favor of teaching the best science available, i.e. evolution as a well-confirmed, central theory of modern biology, without the presence of crank creationist propaganda. But many members of the board are fundamentalist creationists and just can’t bear the thought that Texas science classes should teach standard science. Instead they repeatedly launched into traditional, hackneyed, long-refuted, ignorant creationist/ID talking points. A short list from Wes (I can confirm that I heard all of these while listening to the live audio):

Piltdown man (Ken Mercer)

Haeckel’s embryos (Ken Mercer)

Macroevolution not observed (Ken Mercer)

Argument from authority (Terri Leo)

Evolution is only a theory (various)

“Academic freedom” (Ken Mercer)

Evolution is not a fact (witness)

Eminent scientists are rejecting evolution (Cynthia Dunbar) [this was largely waving around the Discovery Institute “Dissent from Darwin” list…no discussion of the statement’s incredible vagueness, the dubious expertise/scientific status/noncreationist status of many on the list, or of how many Steves were on it – Nick]

When does a theory become a law? (Don McLeroy)

Evolution critics are censored (Ken Mercer)

Polystrate fossils/Lompoc whale (Gail Lowe)

…so those are the folks determining science education in the second biggest population state in the country. What century is it again?

Charlie’s Playhouse

The Charlie in question is Darwin, tho I have my doubts that anyone ever called him that, at least, not after he was 10 or 12 years old. According to an e-mail from the developer, Kate Miller, Charlie’s Playhouse is a

Fregata magnificens

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JuvFrigate Bird.jpg

Fregata magnificens — Juvenile frigate bird, Galápagos Islands

Only two weeks remain, and there is a lack of nominations from the Panda’s Thumb. Your mission, readers, is to find our best articles from the last year and nominate them from the Panda’s Thumb. The rumor I’m hearing is that anti-anti-evolution blog posts are going to get the shiv this year, so try to focus on posts that are not responses to the stupidity that is (“intelligent design”) creationism.

Just click the image to nominate some posts of ours.

Tangled Bank #118

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The Luskin Follies, Part MCMLVIII

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Last month PvM posted on Casey Luskin’s misconceptions based on some remarks reportedly made by Catherine Boisvert in a news story on the resolution of the distal radials of Tiktaalik.

However, as PvM pointed out, Boisvert’s research using MicroCT scans, discussed in that news article, actually resolved those elements of a Tiktaalik:

The disposition of distal radials in Panderichthys are much more tetrapod-like than in Tiktaalik,” Boisvert wrote. “Combined with fossil evidence from Tiktaalik and genetic evidence from sharks, paddlefish and the Australian lungfish, it is now completely proven that fingers have evolved from distal radials already present in fish that gave rise to the tetrapod.

Now Chris of A Free Man, a geneticist in Australia, has interviewed Boisvert about Luskin’s misuse of her remarks and her work with the specimens. The money quote:

As you know, the “Discovery” Institute tactic is not to go to the primary literature in order to understand it but rather to use quotations from secondary, even tertiary sources, reorganise or use them out of context opportunistically to their own convenience. In this case, they used an article where the journalists unfortunately misunderstood me. Tiktaalik’s material is in fact exquisite, it is very well preserved, basically uncrushed and can be prepared out to be examined in three dimensions. I never said the quality was poor. I have simply explained that the morphology of the fin of Panderichthys is more tetrapod-like than that of Tiktaalik, which has nothing to do with the quality of the material.

That pretty much settles it, I’d say.

As a follow-up to P.Z.’s post on evolution and entropy, I have added some context to the thermodynamics argument in this post over at EvolutionBlog (comments may be left there.)

Oberlin College physicist Daniel Styer has published a brief, but very useful, article in The American Journal of Physics showing that even under very conservative assumptions the change in entropy of the biosphere as the result of evolution is negligible compared to the entropy flux of the Earth that results from the Sun’s heating. Sadly, I know from personal experience that this sort of thing tends to leave creationists unimpressed. This is because their arguments use only the language, but not the substance, of thermodynamics. Their assertion that evolution violates the second law is not really an invitation to carry out entropy calculations. Rather, it is just another incarnation of ye olde argument from incredulity, in which they express the difficulty they have in believing that fully naturalistic processes can explain the growth in complexity in organisms over time.

I provide some details in my post. Enjoy!

Congratulations to Dan Phelps, Kentucky scientist and activist

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Daniel J. Phelps is President of the Kentucky Section of the American Institute of Professional Geologists and Chairman of the Geology Section of the Kentucky Academy of Science. He is also founder and President of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, a well-respected amateur paleontological organization.

Dan is also among the most active scientists in debunking Answers in Genesis’ Creationism Museum, to the point that AIG whines about it. Dan has been tireless in critiquing the museum and the faux “science” it promotes.

Now Dan has been named Distinguished Professional Scientist in a Non-academic Position by the Kentucky Academy of Science. Congratulations to a committed supporter of science and honest science education!

Sula nebouxii

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by Mike Zerella, University of Colorado

BF_Boobies.jpg

Sula nebouxii — Blue-Footed Booby, Galápagos Islands.

Entropy and evolution

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Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

One of the oldest canards in the creationists' book is the claim that evolution must be false because it violates the second law of thermodynamics, or the principle that, as they put it, everything must go from order to disorder. One of the more persistent perpetrators of this kind of sloppy thinking is Henry Morris, and few creationists today seem able to get beyond this error.

Remember this tendency from order to disorder applies to all real processes. Real processes include, of course, biological and geological processes, as well as chemical and physical processes. The interesting question is: "How does a real biological process, which goes from order to disorder, result in evolution. which goes from disorder to order?" Perhaps the evolutionist can ultimately find an answer to this question, but he at least should not ignore it, as most evolutionists do.

Especially is such a question vital, when we are thinking of evolution as a growth process on the grand scale from atom to Adam and from particle to people. This represents in absolutely gigantic increase in order and complexity, and is clearly out of place altogether in the context of the Second Law.

As most biologists get a fair amount of training in chemistry, I'm afraid he's wrong on one bit of slander there: we do not ignore entropy, and are in fact better informed on it than most creationists, as is clearly shown by their continued use of this bad argument. I usually rebut this claim about the second law in a qualitative way, and by example — it's obvious that the second law does not state that nothing can ever increase in order, but only that an decrease in one part must be accompanied by a greater increase in entropy in another. Two gametes, for instance, can fuse and begin a complicated process in development that represents a long-term local decrease in entropy, but at the same time that embryo is pumping heat out into its environment and increasing the entropy of the surrounding bit of the world.

It's a very bad argument they are making, but let's consider just the last sentence of the quote above.

This represents in absolutely gigantic increase in order and complexity, and is clearly out of place altogether in the context of the Second Law.

A "gigantic increase in order and complexity" … how interesting. How much of an increase? Can we get some numbers for that?

ribozyme.png Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase ribozyme, an example of the RNA-based catalysts that may have preceded protein enzymmes during the origin of life.

The Museum of Science at Boston has a fantastic interactive web resource on the origins of life. Exploring Lifes Origins has a timeline of lifes evolution (with sliders), and pages on understanding the RNA world and building protocells, with a nice animation of protocell replication. The pages have been made in collaboration with ribozyme guru Jack Szostak and his laboratory, and there is a handy resources page for educators.

If you are interested in our current understanding of the origin of life, this is a very handy starting off point. You can explore ribozymes in more detail with proteopedia.

(Hat tip to Sandra Porter, biology educators should not miss her blog)

We Are SVP - the Movie

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The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology has come up with a very well-produced video introduction to the Society.

The Society’s website says

WE ARE SVP is a 33-minute video that tells the inside story of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology – who we are, what we do, and why our work is important for science and society. The video is introduced and narrated by Sam Waterston, the long-time star of “LAW & ORDER.”

While the whole video is worthwhile, some of you may want to go straight to Chapter 4, “Evolution Vs. Creationism.” It’s got Kevin Padian and more., Go ahead - you know you want to.

Cheers, Dave

Innovative Teaching of Evolution

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I made reference to this in a comment, but thought I’d promote it. The Guardian has a video up on innovative approaches to teaching evolution to secondary school students in Great Britain. It also interviews Martin Reiss, the recently resigned/ousted Education Officer of the Royal Society.

Added in edit: John Pieret has a post on a survey associated with the show. (Though I apparently can’t send a trackback there.)

IDists are from Mars…

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Over on UD Denyse O’Leary is complimenting Alfred Russel Wallace for his 1907 critique of Percival Lowell’s claims that Mars was inhabited by intelligent, canal-building Martians. She says:

What made Wallace so unpopular compared to Darwin is that he insisted that in science, evidence matters. Carl Sagan-style proclamations like “They’re out there! How could we be so arrogant as to think we are all alone!” do not become science just because they are proclaimed by scientists.

First, the idea that Wallace was ever wildly unpopular is ridiculous, he was a grand old man of evolution and British science when he died. Second, if Wallace insisted that evidence matters and O’Leary likes this, then I guess she considers this a strong vote for common ancestry and natural selection, both of which Wallace defended as vigorously as anyone. We evolutionists win I guess. Third, let’s have a look at what Wallace actually said about Lowell’s hypothesis that intelligent designers were the best explanations for the patterns he thought he saw on Mars:

Equus asinus

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donkey.jpg

Equus asinus — Donkey

The site of Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia has produced four superb hominid skulls ranging in size from 600 cm3 to 780 cm3. These sizes range from the lower end of Homo erectus downwards into the Homo habilis range. The fossils contain a mixture of anatomical features from erectus and habilis. They could arguably be considered to belong either to primitive H. erectus (or H. ergaster), or to a new species, Homo georgicus. Vekua et al 2002 concluded:

The Dmanisi hominids are among the most primitive individuals so far attributed to H. erectus or to any species that is indisputably Homo, and it can be argued that this population is closely related to Homo habilis (sensu stricto) as known from Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, Koobi Fora in northern Kenya, and possibly Hadar in Ethiopia.

These skulls are intermediate in both anatomy and size between Homo erectus and H. habilis, and as a result are exceedingly difficult for creationists to classify. Creationists therefore either ignored them (the usual reaction), or were forced into the absurdity of claiming that the biggest skull is human but the smallest two are apes (Lubenow 2004), or the almost equally implausible suggestion that all of them are human (Line 2005).

In 2007, further light was thrown on the Dmanisi hominids with the announcement that a substantial number of bones from below the skull had been discovered (Lordkipanidze et al 2007). These included a right femur, tibia and kneecap (the most complete known lower limb of early Homo); an ankle bone, part of a shoulder blade, three collar bones, three upper arm bones, five vertebrae, and a few other small bones. Some of these bones were associated with some of the previously discovered skulls.

Analysis of the bones shows that the Dmanisi hominids definitely walked bipedally and upright. However, the bones show a number of differences from modern humans and have some features associated with Homo habilis. The upper body differences lead the authors to suggest, with some caution, that “the Dmanisi hominins would have had a more australopith-like than human-like upper limb morphology”.

Their final conclusion was:

Freshwater Day 6: Another student, another cross

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Day 6 of the Freshwater administrative hearing was on October 31, 2008. Testifying were Paul Souhrada, an editor of the Columbus Dispatch and the parent of a student in Freshwater’s class; Souhrada’s son Simon; Richard Cunningham, chairman of the high school science department; Katie Beach, a middle school intervention specialist; Kerri Mahan, a middle school special education teacher; and Katherine Button, a former student in Freshwater’s 8th grade science class.

Important note: I did not get to the hearing in time to get a seat for the morning session. My summary of the morning (Paul and Simon Souhrada, Cunningham, and Beach) is based on an hour-long interview later that day with two people who were at the morning session and who took notes. So it’s second-hand information to me and third-hand to you. I did have a seat for the afternoon session (Mahan and Button). For another view on that morning’s testimony see the Columbus Dispatch story. I’ve used that story and the Mount Vernon News story as additional sources for the Friday morning session. Reporters Dean Narcisco (Dispatch) and Pam Schehl (News) were at the morning session.

More below the fold.

Freshwater Hearing Day 5: Only from Freshwater’s students

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The last two days of this installment of the hearing on John Freshwater’s appeal of the decision of the Mt. Vernon City Board of Education were on October 30 and 31. Once again I’ll summarize rather than try to present a sequential account of questions and answers. This post is Day 5; the next will be Day 6. I hope to have Day 6 written and posted sometime tonight.

Previous posts on the hearing: Days 1 & 2 and Day 3 and Day 4.

See also the coverage of Day 5 in the Mount Vernon News.

Day 5 saw the completion of cross examination of Bill White, Principal of the middle school in 2007-2008, and the testimony of Kathy Kasler, the high school Principal; David Levy, M.D., an expert witness; and Bonnie Schutte, a high school science teacher.

More below the fold.

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