Happy Darwin Day!

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Get out and celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important scientists of all time, Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of one of the most important books in biology, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It's that day!

I'm in Minnesota, and you have a couple of options here. The Bell Museum in Minneapolis is having a party!

Darwin Day Party
Thursday, February 12, 2009, 7 to 9 p.m.
Bell Museum Auditorium
$10/ free to museum members and University students

The speakers will present in the auditorium from 7 to 8 pm. Birthday cake and refreshments are served after the presentations.

Celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birthday! Part of a world wide celebration, the Twin Cities' version is at The Bell Museum of Natural History this Thursday night. Join in the fun with cake, drinks and presentations by U of M scientists and educators. They will present funny, outrageous and controversial rapid-fire, media-rich presentations about Darwin and evolution. From the big bang to the human genome, hear the newest research and controversy on evolution and Darwin.

I'm rather far from Minneapolis, unfortunately — if you live in the west central part of the state, or the eastern part of the Dakotas, we're having an open lecture here at the University of Minnesota Morris. Nic McPhee of the computer science discipline and PZ Myers of biology will be talking about "Paths to Complexity: How Biology and Computation can Build Intricate Processes and Systems" — it's a kind of anti-intelligent-design talk that focuses on the amazing stuff we do know about how chance and selection can build complex systems and efficient solutions.

We'll be on the UMM campus in HFA 6, at 5pm this evening. No charge, but come early — we expect to fill the joint up. If you can't make it, it is going to be recorded and a podcast made available later.

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Claire Hope Cummings, author of Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds, ponders the false dichotomy between science and religion that still roils American classrooms two hundred years after Darwin's birth. Read More

36 Comments

Happy 200 Chuck!

And if you are in Georgia please join us for Darwin Day at UGA

www.uga.edu/darwinday

Happy Birthday to an amazing man!

If you are near Grayslake, IL (40 mi. N of Chicago) please consider joining the Darwin’s Bulldogs in celebration of Chuck’s 200th.

Date: February 12, 2009 Time: 7:00 PM Admission: FREE Location: The Byron Colby Barn, Grayslake, IL. The Byron Colby Barn is located at 1561 Jones Point Road in Grayslake,1/2 mile south of Rt. 120 on the west side of Rt. 45.

This event is unique, because Darwin “himself” will appear, played by storyteller and science teacher Brian “Fox” Ellis.

Ellis is renowned across the U.S. and internationally for his portrayals of Darwin, who was surprisingly droll and self-deprecating, and who possessed an entirely British sense of humor. Ellis’s research is impeccable, and his depth of knowledge about Darwin and his times is unparalleled. He wears period dress, and brings an extensive show-and-tell display. The fossils, insects, plants and animal skins provide a hands-on experience for the audience. Ellis has been a frequent featured speaker at regional and international conferences on environmental concern

Survival of the fittest.

well if we go by Darwin we must ask the question whether his theory would survive the times when every one is after one single question http://controversial-affairs.blogsp[…]/darwin.html

shishir said:

Survival of the fittest.

well if we go by Darwin we must ask the question whether his theory would survive the times

Why, yes it has. The fact that everyone still talks about him should have clued you in - after all, nobody celebrates Lysenko day.

Happy posthumous birthday to two great men!

In a survey just released by Gallup poll, and confirmed by PEW, only about 39% of Americans “Believe in Evolution”. At least, that is the report from Fox News. That depresses the heck out of me. I can’t help but feel we’re losing the cultural wars…

I wonder what percentage “believe in” quantum mechanics, relativity, the periodic table of the elements, the “big bang”, etc.

Most probably don’t know a thing about Quantum Mechanics, little about Relativity, accept the Periodic Table because it seems like a nice “hard” fact and uncontroversial. Many, in my own experience, reject the Big Bang for the same reason they reject Evolution. Goddidit.

Many, in my own experience, reject the Big Bang for the same reason they reject Evolution. Goddidit.

Except for those that use the Big Bang theory as evidence that the universe was created. :)

Henry

P.S. For some reason, the spell checker here doesn’t like “Goddidit”.

What the title leaves out is that there are still more Americans that believe in evolution than dont. 36% of Americans are undecided. http://www.gallup.com/poll/114544/D[…]olution.aspx

What is encouraging is that in those ages 18-34, 49% believe in evolution.

The polls also show that as education increases, so does acceptance of evolution. Of course a post at Uncommon Descent tries to make a claim that the more education you have, the more you are indoctrinated in the secular education system. http://www.gallup.com/poll/114544/D[…]olution.aspx

So no, we are not losing the culture wars.

Farcall said:

In a survey just released by Gallup poll, and confirmed by PEW, only about 39% of Americans “Believe in Evolution”. At least, that is the report from Fox News. That depresses the heck out of me. I can’t help but feel we’re losing the cultural wars…

Henry J said:

P.S. For some reason, the spell checker here doesn’t like “Goddidit”.

Aren’t spell checkers intelligently designed?

In reply to Casey Luskin’s inane commentary about “Darwin Day” published in the latest online edition of US News and World Report, I posted this:

IDiots (Intelligent Design advocates) like Casey Luskin have had twenty years to demonstrate that Intelligent Design is valid science. However, we have not seen any valid research programs from leading Intelligent Design advocates like mathematician and philosopher William Dembski and biochemist Michael Behe. We have not seen any testable predictions made by IDiots demonstrating how Intelligent Design does a better job than contemporary evolutionary theory - which admittedly is still quite imperfect - in explaining the origins, history and current composition of Earth’s biodiversity. Instead, all we get from the likes of Dembski and Behe and Luskin are gross distortions, serious omissions, and abysmal errors which demonstrate not only their woeful ignorance of biology, but also, of mathematics, especially probability and statistics, and indeed, much of science too. Since Intelligent Design advocates like Luskin devote their time to ample lying and dissembling, then we ought to view them correctly as mendacious intellectual pornographers who excel in successful promotion of the mendacious intellectual pornography known as Intelligent Design creationism.

We live in a most remarkable time in which ample data from sciences unknown to Darwin like genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and evolutionary developmental biology (better known as “evo - devo”) are strongly supporting every day, the predictions made by Darwin and Wallace when they developed independently the theory of evolution via natural selection back in the mid 19th Century. But you would never know that to be true from the inane commentary written by Luskin and his fellow Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers. Moreover, these new sciences offer the promise of yielding an “Extended Modern Synthesis” which may allow us to understand extinction, especially the role of mass extinctions in radically reshaping Earth’s biodiversity not just once, but at least seven times in the past 550-odd million years, and the importance of long-term evolutionary stasis.

US News and World Report should be ashamed of itself for becoming a platform for the gross lies and exaggerations written by a mendacious intellectual pornographer such as Casey Luskin. I strongly doubt this fine magazine would provide a similar platform to an unrepentant Nazi or Communist. Then why should Luskin be granted this opportunity?

Did anyone see the article in the Washington Post’s opinion section today? I didn’t know that mutations were part of Darwin’s “revelation,” as the article’s author Rick Weiss puts it. More shoddy work going out to an already under- and misinformed public.

Farcall said:

In a survey just released by Gallup poll, and confirmed by PEW, only about 39% of Americans “Believe in Evolution”. At least, that is the report from Fox News. That depresses the heck out of me. I can’t help but feel we’re losing the cultural wars…

I saw the same numbers over at Think Progress. I am always skeptical of these polls because I think that most people do not have even a rudimentary understanding of evolution - and that includes the intelligent and/or well educated. I’m not even sure if the numbers would be better or worse if people DID have a better understanding.

I celebrated by watching Ray Comfort explain the theory of evolution on the 700 club this morning. It don’t get any better than that, folks.

I am celebrating by having lunch at my favorite midtown Manhattan Indian restaurant and attending a talk later this evening that will be presented by eminent Columbia University philosopher of science Philip Kitcher.

Matt G said:

I saw the same numbers over at Think Progress. I am always skeptical of these polls because I think that most people do not have even a rudimentary understanding of evolution - and that includes the intelligent and/or well educated. I’m not even sure if the numbers would be better or worse if people DID have a better understanding.

Ditto on the skepticism. My perception is that it’s rare to find anyone who cares about the matter one way or another. Typically the answer to a poll is going to be less than casual, given without any serious consideration and then forgotten. Most folks just have other things to do with their time.

I’m not saying there’s no real fight here, there is, but it’s between two groups of the interested among a public that otherwise is not interested. The disinterest is sort of a shrug – the struggle goes on nonetheless.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Happy Darwin day everybody. Cool article at http://worldismycountry.org/?p=93 saying how right he was and mocking ID into the bargain

In a survey just released by Gallup poll, and confirmed by PEW, only about 39% of Americans “Believe in Evolution”.

It’s not that bad.

1. 50% of the population have IQ’s less than 100.

2. 20% of the population thinks the sun orbits the earth, 400 years after Copernicus.

This tells you that 20% of the population will believe anything, no matter how weird or wrong it is.

And they are irrelevant concerning the progress of mankind or anything that requires “thinking”. Just subtract them and that 40% looks a bit better.

John Kwok said:

I am celebrating by having lunch at my favorite midtown Manhattan Indian restaurant and attending a talk later this evening that will be presented by eminent Columbia University philosopher of science Philip Kitcher.

I’m partial to the Baluchis at 56th and 8th. Where were you?

I was at Spice Fusion Indian Bistro over on 8th near 47th. The head chef is IMHO one of the very best Indian chefs in the city, having worked before at Utsav and another prominent Midtown Indian restaurant.

Matt G said:

John Kwok said:

I am celebrating by having lunch at my favorite midtown Manhattan Indian restaurant and attending a talk later this evening that will be presented by eminent Columbia University philosopher of science Philip Kitcher.

I’m partial to the Baluchis at 56th and 8th. Where were you?

raven Wrote:

2. 20% of the population thinks the sun orbits the earth, 400 years after Copernicus.

This tells you that 20% of the population will believe anything, no matter how weird or wrong it is.

Surely some fraction of that 20% would change their mind if they had the interest to learn. But that’s the biggest problem IMO. Our culture hates science. Not the products of science of course, and not “sciency stuff” like science fiction, but science itself. Admitting my bias as a chemist I think the most appalling fact is that ~90% cannot describe a molecule. Of those who can, the acceptance of evolution is surely much higher.

Nevertheless, when it comes to evolution, estimates I have seen range from 23 to 30% that will not concede it no matter how much evidence they are shown. Yet - and here comes my “equal time” complaint to “my side” - most defenders of science obsess over that 23-30% (and fundamentalists in general) instead of the other 30-50% that can change its mind if presented with evidence and reasoned explanations.

A Mumbo Jumbo Gallop Poll re Darwin’s 200 finds just 39% of Americans ‘believe’ in evolution

http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/arch[…]1791814.aspx

The language and terms of this Gallup poll is a glaring example of…meaningles mumbo-jumbo…

A proper poll would present a brief scientific definition-description of Life’s Evolution, summarized in numbered sentences or paras, and solicit YES-NO- ACCEPT of each of them.

Dov Henis

(Comments From The 22nd Century) http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-P81p[…]BbHgtjQjxG_Q–?cq=1

Life’s Manifest http://www.the-scientist.com/commun[…]112.page#578

Frank J said:

raven Wrote:

2. 20% of the population thinks the sun orbits the earth, 400 years after Copernicus.

This tells you that 20% of the population will believe anything, no matter how weird or wrong it is.

Surely some fraction of that 20% would change their mind if they had the interest to learn. But that’s the biggest problem IMO. Our culture hates science. Not the products of science of course, and not “sciency stuff” like science fiction, but science itself. Admitting my bias as a chemist I think the most appalling fact is that ~90% cannot describe a molecule. Of those who can, the acceptance of evolution is surely much higher.

Too true. I’m sure books could be written on this subject. For the last few years I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with the various logical fallacies. Now that I know their names, I see them everywhere. Science is about rigorous thinking, and for some people, that just isn’t possible. They see the world as they want to see it, and will interpret and adjust (and ignore) the facts accordingly.

Dov Henis Wrote:

A proper poll would present a brief scientific definition-description of Life’s Evolution, summarized in numbered sentences or paras, and solicit YES-NO- ACCEPT of each of them.

Yes, especially using “accept” instead of “believe in.” I would leave out all reference to God, and force them to think about specific issues like common descent and when certain events occurred.

Those who pick “humans created in their present form in the last 10000” years don’t necessarily think that the earth is that young, nor do they necessarily think that those early humans lacked biological ancestors. Some (though probably a small minority) are theistic evolutionists thinking more in terms of souls than cells. But mostly, the respondents just have not given it enough thought to know what they accept. Or what they don’t accept. It’s no coincidence that anti-evolution arguments increasingly avoid making clear statements on the age of the earth, the age of life, or whether those “gaps” indicate a break in biological continuity.

A post script and slightly off topic. I was very disappointed in the television selection last night. PBS – Nothing (But the did do Lincoln) Networks – Nothing (No real surprise here) History – Nothing History International – 1 show on Scopes Discovery – Nothing The Learning Channel – Nothing

Only the Science Channel ran a series of programs. “Galapagos – Beyond Darwin” (part 1 and 2) and “What Darwin Didn’t Know” which was better than I thought it would be.

If this was 197 or some such number I would have understood, but it wasn’t – this was 200 and 150.

Matt G said:

Science is about rigorous thinking, and for some people, that just isn’t possible. They see the world as they want to see it, and will interpret and adjust (and ignore) the facts accordingly.

Slightly off topic of Darwin, but on topic for science:

Just recently in a conversation with a student in my Earth Science class, talking about her lack of “belief” in Global Warming, she said, “But it’s so cold” (last week it was in the teens in the mornings here in north central Florida). When I responded with something along the lines of “So if we have a hot summer, will you acknowledge that global warming DOES exist?”.

Her answer, with outrage in her voice: “NO!”

Aside from the fact that one cold winter or one warm summer is not evidence one way or another for global CLIMATE change, her refusal to apply her own logic to contrary evidence was astonishing.

More on the latest Gallup poll: The 36% that say “unsure” is alarming. I’m not sure if the wording is the same (or if was even Gallup) but I reacll a poll from ~3 years ago that showed the % unsure increasing from 7% to 21% in the previous ~20 years. That contrasts to the fairly constant results when not given the option of “unsure.” If that 36% can be compared to the previous results, that tells me that ID’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” strategy might be working.

I was very disappointed in the television selection last night. PBS – Nothing (But the did do Lincoln) Networks – Nothing (No real surprise here) History – Nothing History International – 1 show on Scopes Discovery – Nothing The Learning Channel – Nothing

All is not lost.

My local PBS outlet reran the complete 2 hour “Judgement Day” episode of Nova twice on Tuesday (and this is central Texas, “Evolution” is fightin’ words.)

Animal Planet broke out of their usual dog whispering rut to run a couple of hours of “Before Dinosaurs”, and I also seem to remember the National Geographic did some Evolution themed programming last night.

As for the History Channel, sadly, the quality of their lineup has deteriorated greatly.

Once upon a time, their documentaries were excellent, but of late their programming is full of cheaply produced pseudoscience crud like “Monster Quest” and “UFO Hunters” - long on breathless interviews along the lines of “I definitely believe I saw something and the government is covering it up”, but sorely lacking the will to critically examine the miserable “evidence” they turn up.

I also hate the use of the word “believe” when describing views of evolution, but I use it myself when I’m not being careful. One of our (scientists) biggest problems in communicating with the public is poor word choice. We also give ammunition to creationists by being careless.

Tardis said:

A post script and slightly off topic. I was very disappointed in the television selection last night. PBS – Nothing (But the did do Lincoln) Networks – Nothing (No real surprise here) History – Nothing History International – 1 show on Scopes Discovery – Nothing The Learning Channel – Nothing

Only the Science Channel ran a series of programs. “Galapagos – Beyond Darwin” (part 1 and 2) and “What Darwin Didn’t Know” which was better than I thought it would be.

If this was 197 or some such number I would have understood, but it wasn’t – this was 200 and 150.

PBS in Chicago played the Dover trial episode of NOVA

I just want to remind everyone that they can weigh in with comments after Luskin’s latest example of breathtaking inanity here:

http://www.usnews.com/articles/opin[…]oly-day.html

I hope others will join me in recounting their Darwin Day experiences, so I am starting off with this terse summary of a Darwin Day celebration - which was held actually yesterday - at Queens College of the City University of New York. Ample thanks are due to assistant professor of biology John Dennehy for organizing it. His symposium, which was held in a state-of-the-art concert hall at the Queens College School of Music (If you want an idea as to how good the sound quality is, then buy a copy of pianist Jonathan Biss’s recent recording of two Mozart piano concerti with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, since it was recorded in this very hall.), was quite popular. More than one hundred people heard talks presented by ecologist Peter Chabora, ecologist Susan Foster, biologist anthropologist Jeffrey Schwartz, microbial ecologist Paul Turner, and evolutionary developmental biologist Patricia Wittkop; not just the general public, but primarily Queens College undergraduates and an Intel Research class from neighboring Townshend Harris High School, taught by a former high school teacher of mine, who is now that school’s assistant principal of science.

Dennehy’s Queens College colleague, Professor Chabora, began with a terse introduction of the basic principles of natural selection and recounting Darwin’s five year-long voyage aboard HMS Beagle. Professor Foster (Clark University) discussed adaptive radiation, using her research on the post-Pleistocene history of the stickleback in North America, demonstrating repeated instances of species radiations that produce the same types of ecological specializations for each radiation (e. g. surface and bottom feeders) from the same morphologically conservative marine ancestral stock. Professor Schwartz (University of Pittsburgh) presented a rather fascinating history of evolutionary developmental biology prior to the advent of the Modern Synthesis, making a most persuasive case that at least some of the German researchers, most notably invertebrate paleontologist Otto Schindewolf, may have been on the right track.

Paul Turner (Yale University), gave a brilliant overview of evolutionary medicine as seen from the perspective of infectious diseases. He gave a rather lucid exposition describing how natural selection works to produce antibiotic-resistant bacteria and drug-resistant HIV/AIDS retroviruses (Among his many important points was noting that viruses exhibit the fastest mutation rates seen, in contrast to metazoans like ourselves, but did not try to infer that we have a much better understanding of evolution by studying viruses.). He closed with some unpublished work describing how he and his lab is trying to find potential virulent diseases.

Patricia Wittkopp (University of Michigan) may be familiar to some of those here at Panda’s Thumb, since one of her papers was recently cited by Nature as among its fifteen “gems of evolution”. She is interested in pigmentation in North American Drosophila (fruit fly) species, as the experimental system to try to understand the evolution of pigmentation from the perspective of evolutionary developmental biology, with special emphasis on the molecular mechanisms controlling gene expression.

John Kwok Wrote:

I hope others will join me in recounting their Darwin Day experiences…

John, First I want to thank you for alerting me that Ken Miller and Jerry Coyne would be speaking in Phila.

Coyne gave a great talk on speciation. I missed the beginning because they rescheduled his talk to an earlier time. Several of the other talks emphasized plants - unlike creationists who nearly ignore plants. One presenter noted how Rev. Paley once wrote that plants might be a problem for his design argument. Miller went even further and suggested what I have thought for years, that if Paley were alive today, he’d probably accept evolution.

Miller’s keynote talk was less technical than the others. It interspersed a summary of “Kitzmiller v. Dover” with some very compelling examples of evidence for evolution - and of the games that anti-evolutionists play. The almost-packed auditorium (on U. of Penn. campus) seemed to include a lot of University students and professors, so I was surprised that only ~1/4 of the audience had heard of the fusion that led to human chromosome 2.

In a separate comment I’ll try to summarize some interesting poll results that one presenter gave at the end of his talk.

All in all it was what you would expect from scientists and not from creationists - results of painstaking research, and no attempt to cover-up unanswered questions or internal disagreements. Even Darwin was not treated as an idol to be worshipped, but as a scientist who did a lot of hard work and provided the only framework (apologies to Dobzansky) by which all subsequent work in biology makes any sense.

The symposium continued on Friday but I had to work, so I missed what seemed from the titles to be more excellent presentations. If anyone else was there, I’d like to hear your comments.

Matt G -

This is a bit off topic, but in lieu of Baluchi’s, I’d have to recommend instead, Purnima, which is located on 54th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue, almost directly across the street from the theater where the musical “Pal Joey” is playing. The head chef there, Vikas Khanna, is a long-lost friend of mine, and quite good. I was there the other day with a relative for a second time, and we were overwhelmed by both the quality and presentation of the food. Both this little restaurant and Spice Fusion Indian Bistro, are IMHO two of the very best Indian restaurants in Midtown now.

Regards,

John

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on February 12, 2009 7:38 AM.

Google.ca Celebrates Darwin, Google.com? Not So Much was the previous entry in this blog.

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