Recently in Announcements Category

What we got from NCSE:

We’re gearing up for this month’s webinar, which will cover how to use online petitions as an organizing tactic, and how to make the most of them. We’ll demo some of the software people use, talk about how to write a great petition, and talk about how to use the resulting list of supporters to grow your groups and fight science denial. We’ll talk a bit about building and maintaining email lists, and converting those contacts into more active participants.

You can find more info and register here.

It’ll be Wednesday, at 2PM Eastern, 11 Pacific. I hope you can join, or watch online afterward. And please do share that information with your groups.

While searching for the source of this cartoon, I ran across the website of Samuel Varg, a Swedish magician and skeptic. Mr. Varg has posted an interview with Kenneth Miller on YouTube and promises interviews with Candida Moss and John Safran.

Mr. Varg and his colleague Anders Hesselbom were unusually well prepared. Professor Miller, in turn, was an excellent spokesperson for theistic evolution, though I had to take issue with his claim that the universe is “overflowing” with the possibility for life. His position seems to me to be very close to deism, but you can listen to the interview and decide for yourself.

The National Center for Science Education will host a webinar, “Debunking and confronting science denial,” Wednesday, May 28, 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT. Josh Rosenau of NCSE will moderate a panel that includes

Shauna Theel from the climate and energy project at Media Matters for America, John Cook of SkepticalScience.com and the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, and be moderated by NCSE’s Josh Rosenau. Shauna will discuss her work addressing media misstatements and how citizens can correct the record. John will describe the debunking resource SkepticalScience.com and the Debunking Handbook he co-authored, and Josh will talk about the experience he’s gained debunking science denial at NCSE.

More here; register here.

It’s a 3-part series with Neil Shubin, the paleontologist who discovered Tiktaalik. The series begins tomorrow, Wednesday, April 9, at 10 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. You can see a preview here.

Rocky Mountain PBS says about the series

Anatomist and paleontologist Neil Shubin sees evidence of our ancient past in our anatomy and in our DNA. Join him as he journeys to meet our ancient animal ancestors, while revealing the impact those animals have had on our bodies

and they have an interactive webpage here.

The second and third episodes are called “Your Inner Reptile” and “Your Inner Monkey.”

Update, April 9: An AP release yesterday afternoon notes that PBS will also premiere a 3-part Nova series tonight. Tonight’s episode: “Inside Animal Minds.” These 2 series, along with Nature, exemplify PBS’s new “Think Wednesday” schedule, which AP characterizes as “a three-hour prime-time block of nature, science and technology programs” anchored by Nature and Nova.

NCSE webinar, “Talking to the media about science education,” tomorrow, February 27, at 11:00 PST. You may register here or view the webinar, along with earlier webinars, here.

According to NCSE’s announcement,

The panel will include: Robert Luhn, Director of Communications for NCSE; Liz Craig, a freelance writer and board member with Kansas Citizens for Science, and David Wescott, director of digital strategy at APCO Worldwide. Luhn leads NCSE’s media outreach efforts, and has been a journalist for 40 years for technology, environmental, and medical publications. Craig led KCFS’s media strategy through the 1999 and 2005 battles over creationism before the state board of education and is a freelance writer covering a range of topics. Wescott, formerly a staffer for Sen. Kennedy, develops and implements online outreach strategies on topics including education, science, and the environment for an international clientele. Moderator Josh Rosenau is a programs and policy director at NCSE.

Don’t hold your breath, but Ken Ham, who is in Nashville for a religious broadcasters’ conference, plans an announcement about the Ark Park.

I have a few media interviews lined up over the next couple of days to discuss the debate [with Bill Nye] and also to share something about the Ark Encounter.

Dare we speculate?

Debate tonight

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Sorry about the late notice, but we just heard about this from a commenter known as “eric”. Tonight, at 7:00 Central Standard Time (or 8:00 Eastern Standard Time), Sean Carroll will debate William Lane Craig on the subject, God and Cosmology. Professor Carroll is a physicist and cosmologist working on dark energy and dark matter at Caltech; Professor Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and a well known Christian apologist. You may see their biographies at the link above.

The debate is part of a forum sponsored by the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It will be streamed live here. Professor Carroll has announced the debate here. I may report on the debate after it is over, but I will leave comments open here in any case. The amnesty on certain trolls will not be extended, however.

Nye-Ham debate an hour away

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And you may watch it here on NBC or here on WCPO, Cincinnati.

Piers Morgan will interview the debaters on CNN at 9:45 EST, and MSNBC will interview Bill Nye during the 10:00 hour, EST. C-Span will rebroadcast the event Wednesday, February 19 at 8 p.m. EST, according to WCPO.

If you cannot wait till the end of the debate, you may leave comments below at any time. I suggest that we allow comments from (many of) our creationist trolls, as long as they are coherent. I will not allow comments that are merely insulting.

Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, will participate in an “extended interview” with Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis. The participants will discuss the question, “Is teaching creationism harmful to children, society?” at 11:00 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, Thursday, January 30, on WEKU of Richmond, Kentucky. It looks like you can get it streaming. I will refrain from noting that modern journalism thinks there are two sides to every question, even when there are not.

Does any reader know of any other, similar warm-ups or “extended interviews”?

Evolution Weekend

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The Clergy Letter Project has announced the ninth annual Evolution Weekend, February 7-9, 2014. Their theme this year is Different Ways of Knowing/Asking Different Questions, and they say,

Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. An ongoing goal has been to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic, and to show that religion and science are not adversaries. Rather, they look at the natural world from quite different perspectives and ask, and answer, different questions.

They go on to note that many religious people recognize evolution as “sound science” and furthermore that “mischaracteriz[ing] evolution for partisan gain” has real (and I would add, uniformly negative) “consequences for society.” Read their statement for yourself, and by all means bug your clergyperson to address evolution from the pulpit or to develop some special program for that weekend – even if you have to prepare that program yourself! I certainly intend to bug my rabbi, who last year very graciously helped me put together a program on the trolley problem, and see what we can do this year.

NCSE has just announced the second webinar in its ongoing series, to be held on December 18, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. PST. The webinar will focus on “[s]topping bad legislation and encouraging policymakers to support strong science education…,” according to NCSE.

The webinar will be led by Josh Rosenau, Programs and Policy Director for NCSE; Vic Hutchison, professor emeritus at the University of Oklahoma, and founder and past president of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education; and Dena Sher, legislative counsel at the ACLU’s national office. You may register for the webinar here.

We reported on NCSE’s earlier webinar here.

The National Center for Science Education has just announced a webinar on what to do when science comes under attack. Details below the fold.

Genie Scott has announced her retirement, and Ann Reid will take over as new Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education. Congratulations to both Dr. Scott and Dr. Reid! Dr. Reid is a research scientist whose team sequenced the 1918 influenza virus at the Air Force Institute of Technology. One colleague credited her with the additional ability to herd cats. See the NCSE press release here.

Congratulations, Dr. Matzke

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Guest post by Josh Rosenau.

Cross-posted from the NCSE blog, “Science League of America.”

When I started work at the National Center for Science Education six years ago, I was known as “the new Nick.” Nick Matzke was heading off to grad school in evolutionary biology after a productive tenure at NCSE. I had big shoes to fill.

Things To Do This Weekend

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zacknote.jpg As a public service, here are a few suggestions on how to entertain yourself this weekend, and support science education at the same time! If you are in the New Mexico area, come out the the annual meeting of the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE), which is hosting Louisiana’s spunky young Zack Kopplin (now a student at Rice in Houston). Time: 1:00 PM Saturday, June 29th. Place: Room 122, Northrop Hall, on the UNM campus. There is a map and a flyer. Zack’s topic is “Why we need a Second Giant Leap.”

Secondly, you can act on Genie Scott’s suggestion to support the excellent indie film “The Revisionaries” by voting for it at the PBS website. Genie writes “I know which one I’m voting for: The Revisionaries – the film about Don McLeroy and the Texas Board of Education. I give it 5 stars. It’s so well done and deserves to win.” Vote here.

Finally, here’s a petition at the White House to Ban Creationism and Intelligent Design in the science classroom as federal law. As my cousin wrote me offline, there’s a fat chance such a law will ever pass, but if the petition gets 100,000 signatures, Obama will have to publically address the request.It’s about a third of the way there, but the July 15th deadline looms. If you’re so inclined, add your voice to the petition here

The National Center for Science Education announced that its executive director, Eugenie Scott, will retire at the end of the year:

NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott announced on May 6, 2013, that she was planning to retire by the end of the year, after more than twenty-six years at NCSE’s helm. “It’s a good time to retire, with our new climate change initiative off to a strong start and with the staff energized and excited by the new challenges ahead,” she commented. “The person who replaces me will find a strong staff, a strong set of programs, and a strong board of directors.”

Stephen Dilley’s new book, Darwinian Evolution And Classical Liberalism: Theories in Tension, is now available, at least on Kindle. Chapter 12 is by me; it’s entitled, somehwat dully, “Classical Liberalism And Evolution.” In it, I argue that evolution, far from undercutting the premises of classical liberalism, is at least compatible with them, and, as I think, provides a stronger foundation for them than any variety of creationism. But, as I contend at the outset, it doesn’t much matter, because evolution is true. So if it’s incompatible with libertarianism, then so much the worse for libertarianism.

Chapter 11 is by my friend Shawn Klein; it’s called, somewhat more interestingly, “Volitional Consciousness and Evolution.” Other contributors include Roger Masters and Michael J. White.

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As we reflect upon the amazing body of work left behind by this giant of the movie scene, readers of the Thumb should know (if they don’t already) that Roger Ebert was a passionate defender of science, and of evolution in particular.

His passion was not un-noticed by creationists (of both young-earth and intelligent design categories). William Dembski had this to say about Ebert in an Uncommon Descent blog from 2006:

Roger Ebert: Film Critic, Expert on Evolution, ID Basher, and Overall Supergenius .….. Or is Ebert just another clueless bonehead whose imagined expertise is in exact disproportion to his actual knowledge …

Here are some memorable comments by Ebert on creationism, evolution, and religion.

Win Ben Stein’s mind, December 3, 2008

The more you know about evolution, or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film. No one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three minutes without becoming aware of its tactics. It isn’t even subtle. Take its treatment of Dawkins, who throughout his interviews with Stein is honest, plain-spoken, and courteous. As Stein goes to interview him for the last time, we see a makeup artist carefully patting on rouge and dusting Dawkins’ face. After he is prepared and composed, after the shine has been taken off his nose, here comes plain, down-to-earth, workaday Ben Stein. So we get the vain Dawkins with his effete makeup, talking to the ordinary Joe.

I have done television interviews for more than 40 years. I have been on both ends of the questions. I have news for you. Everyone is made up before going on television. If they are not, they will look like death warmed over. There is not a person reading this right now who should go on camera without some kind of makeup. Even the obligatory “shocked neighbors” standing in their front yards after a murder usually have some powder brushed on by the camera person. Was Ben Stein wearing makeup? Of course he was. Did he whisper to his camera crew to roll while Dawkins was being made up? Of course he did. Otherwise, no camera operator on earth would have taped that. That incident dramatizes his approach throughout the film. If you want to study Gotcha! moments, start here.

How I believe in God, April 17, 2009

During in all the endless discussions on several threads of this blog about evolution, intelligent design, God and the afterworld, now numbering altogether around 3,500 comments, I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist–which I am. If I were to say I don’t believe God exists, that wouldn’t mean I believe God doesn’t exist. Nor does it mean I don’t know, which implies that I could know.

Let me rule out at once any God who has personally spoken to anyone or issued instructions to men. That some men believe they have been spoken to by God, I am certain. I do not believe Moses came down from the mountain with any tablets he did not go up with. I believe mankind in general evidently has a need to believe in higher powers and an existence not limited to the physical duration of the body. But these needs are hopes, and believing them doesn’t make them true. … No, I am not a Buddhist. I am not a believer, not an atheist, not an agnostic. I am still awake at night, asking how? I am more content with the question than I would be with an answer.

Darwin survives as the fittest, February 11, 2009

The True Believers. Found in both parties. One side declares God without any doubt does exist, and created the universe and everything in it. A much smaller subset of this group is convinced that God did this in fairly recent times–as little as 6,000 years ago, or in any event too recently for Darwin’s evolutionary process to have had enough time to take place. The other side declares that God without any doubt does not exist, and it is equally certain. Both sides frequently quote the Bible, on the one hand citing its truth, on the other side citing its falsity. Christianity is the only religion involved; my blog has readers from all over the world, but apparently those from elsewhere find Intelligent Design a uniquely American notion.

The longest thread evolves, September 4, 2009

The zealots of Creationism are indefatigable. Even now there are attempts to legislate that the pseudo science of Intelligent Design must be taught in school systems as a “debate” with Evolution. In common sense terms, that debate was over a century ago. Yet there are votes out there for politicians who support such legislation, and at the 2008 GOP presidential debate, no less that three candidates said they do not believe in evolution. I suppose I should be gratified that there weren’t more.

New Agers and Creationists should not be President, December 2, 2009

My only purpose today is to state early and often that if a Presidential candidate believes early humans used saddles to ride on the backs of dinosaurs, as they are depicted at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, that candidate should not be elected President.

And if a candidate counts among close friends and advisors anyone in communication with the spirit world, that candidate should not be elected President.

And if a candidate accounts for the fact that humanoid and dinosaur bones are never found at the same level in the fossil record by evoking the action of sediment after the Great Flood, that candidate should not be President.

And if a candidate has a spirit guide, consults his or her Chart and takes more than a passing amusement in the horoscope, that candidate should not be elected President.

There’s a category page linking these and other blogs, appropriately titled “Darwin My Hero”.

Comments about Roger Ebert are welcome. Comments that are nonsequiters, religious rants, or are otherwise irrelevant, will be tossed onto the Bathroom Wall.

Project Steve’s 10th Anniversary

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Today is the 10th anniversary of NCSE’s Project Steve:

“Project Steve” is a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of “scientists who doubt evolution” or “scientists who dissent from Darwinism.”

Conceived in discussions amongst NCSE staffers and members of the old TalkDesign group (several of whom went on to be founding contributors to Panda’s Thumb), the Steve-O-Meter currrently shows 1,239 scientists whose first name is Steve or a cognate, including the two eligible living Nobel winners (Chu and Weinberg), who have signed on to this statement:

Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to “intelligent design,” to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.

Since “Steve” and cognates comprise roughly 1% of first names, that corresponds to over 120,000 scientists concurring with the statement.

Compare that to the wishy-washy Scientific Dissent from Darwinism statement maintained by the Disco ‘Tute:

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

Free MOOC course: Introduction to Complexity

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In association with the Santa Fe Institute, Melanie Mitchell will teach a free online course called Introduction to Complexity starting on January 28, 2013. Mitchell has been working in complex systems research for years. Her Ph.D. advisors were Doug Hofstadter of Gödel, Esher, Bach fame and John Holland, a towering figure in the study of complex adaptive systems, which is the title of his influential 1975 book. According to the intro video and the course FAQ, it’s is aimed at non-specialists:

This course is intended for anyone with an interest in complex systems. For this introductory course, there are no prerequisites, and no science or math background is necessary. The level will be similar to that of an interdisciplinary undergraduate class, though the topics are broad enough to be of interest to people ranging from high school students to professionals.

To register to earn a certificate of completion, go here. One can watch the course videos without registering, though one won’t take the final nor be able to participate in the student forum.

Hat tip to Sean Carroll.

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