Recently in Conferences Category

csiconlasvegas.jpg If you don’t know about this year’s CSICON, check it out! There are several evolution-related talks, including Richard Dawkins (4:00 Friday Oct. 28th), Eugenie Scott (9:00 AM Saturday, Oct. 29th, “Sins of Evolution Education”) and Bertha Vazquez (9:30 AM Sat., “The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES)”).

There is a paper session on Sunday, October 30th. At 9:45 AM I’ll be presenting “ War of the Weasels: An Update on Creationist Attacks on Genetic Algorithms,” which I’ve discussed previously several times here on the Thumb (most recently here.)

If you are in the area, come on by! Here follows my abstract. I am looking forward to this latest salvo in the ongoing discussion with Ewert, Dembski and Marks.

Since Genetic Algorithms (GAs) are a class of computer programs that use evolutionary principles to “evolve” answers to difficult problems in math, physics, engineering, and biology, they are a prime target of creationists of all varieties. This talk will trace the evolution of creationist attacks on GAs, from saying that they all need the final answers fed to them at every step (like Dawkins’s Weasel experiment), to claiming that “active information” is being secretly introduced into GAs, and finally to the preposterous definition of “Specified Complexity,” the claim that examples of evolving complexity don’t even count unless they meet the absurd criterion of being as uncommon as tossing a fair coin heads up 500 times in a row. The game is rigged from the very start: evolution can never win under the rules adopted by “intelligent design.”


Dan Phelps, President of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, invites us to watch a YouTube presentation of a paper he and his colleagues, Kent Ratajeski and Joel Duff, presented at the recent national meeting of the Geographical Society of America. Watch it and, as Professor Ratajeski says, you can save the $40 admission fee, plus the $10 parking fee. And you will also find certain creationist myths debunked by these scientists, two of whom, Professors Ratajeski and Duff, are themselves evangelical Christians and can talk to creationists on their own terms. Here is what we received from Mr. Phelps:

Since I am a long-time critic of creationism and the Ark here in Kentucky and had visited the park on opening day, I was invited to give a talk on the Ark Park at a special session at the Geological Society of America national meeting in Denver late last month. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the meeting because I had used a number of vacation days on my recent trip to Svalbard, Norway. Therefore, I teamed up with Dr. Kent Ratajeski, a geologist and (evangelical Christian) from the University of Kentucky Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He presented the Ark talk at GSA and put together on the attached YouTube video after he returned from the meeting. Although I am not religious, it was great to work with Drs. Ratajeski and [Joel] Duff on alerting the geological community about the remarkable non-science and anti-science being promoted with the aid of tax incentives here in Kentucky. It is very important to work with members of the religious community that are aghast at what Ken Ham and his fellow young earth creationists do to misrepresent not only science, but also religion. The attached YouTube video is Dr. Ratajeski reading his talk and showing the PowerPoint slides. This isn’t him at the meeting itself, since rules prohibit GSA talks from being recorded at meetings.

Carnival of Evolution

The Proceedings of the 44th Carnival of Evolution are up on Atavism. The Proceedings include

Session 1. Symposium on the evolution of novelty

Session 2. Evolutionary ecology and life history evolution

Session 3. Philosophy and evolution

Session 4a. Experimental Evolution

Session 4b. Timing and tempo of evolution

Session 5. Outreach and anti-creationism

and a Poster session.

Webcast: The Evolution of Religion


Another in an annual series of discussions of science and religion at Ohio State is scheduled for October 5. The announcement:

*The Evolution of Religion*
Wednesday, October 5, 7-9pm
[Enable javascript to see this email address.] Studios, 333 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215

Where do our religious beliefs come from? Have religious beliefs served an evolutionary purpose? Join us in the [Enable javascript to see this email address.] Studios for a spirited panel discussion on the intersection of science and religion, followed by a question-and-answer session. Scheduled speakers include:

- Moderator Neal Conan, host of NPR’s *Talk of the Nation *
- Nicolas Wade, New York Times science writer and author of *Before the Dawn* and *The Faith Instinct*
- Lionel Tiger, Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus at Rutgers University, and author of *God’s Brain*

The event is free but reservations are required. To register, visit this site or call 614.228.2674 for details. Supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

The series is sponsored by public TV station WOSU, by the Center for Science and Industry in Columbus, and by the Department of Entomology at the Ohio State University. I wrote about one such on the Thumb four years ago. They have had a distinctly “accommodationist” flavor, and given the Templeton Foundation’s funding of the series (via Susan Fisher of the Department of Entomology at Ohio State), I suspect this one will carry on that theme. I know little of Tiger’s or Wade’s views on that, so I may be wrong. The entire series of webcasts is archived at this site.

Tom Baillieul, a member of Ohio Citizens for Science, has a background essay on the evolution of religion available here (PDF).

(I can’t resist noting that the Department of Entomology is also home to one of the creationist “scientists,” Glen Needham, who played a significant role in the Bryan Leonard affair at Ohio State.)

vertuvian_colour_small.jpgFellow Oregonians – this looks like a great series! I’ve seen Bustamante talk before, he does amazing research. So it should be great, if you can stand hanging out with the Ducks, that is…

(And, by the way, evolutionary theory is literally the warp and woof of genomics. If you took genomics and somehow deleted all of the methods and analyses derived from evolutionary theory, the whole field and industry would crumple into a quivering pile of meaningless digital goo. There are areas where ID people are wrong and can at least state arguments of some sort – but then there are vast areas like population genomics where ID people don’t even know enough to realize that there is a vast, hugely successful enterprise that is entirely built upon principles they would disagree with.)

OK, end of rant.

Subject: Upcoming Seminar Series at University of Oregon Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2011 19:10:30 -0700 From: Roo Vandegrift


I’m a graduate student at the Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (CEEB) at the University of Oregon. Our graduate student group within CEEB has put together a public seminar series for the spring that you and some of your readers might find interesting. It’s titled The Individual in the Genomics Era. Here’s some information on the dates and topics:

*What genomics means for our past, present, and future * April 5 Dr William Cresko University of Oregon

*The Personal Genome Revolution * May 3 Dr Lee Silver Princeton University Supported by the Oregon Humanities Center Endowment for Public Outreach in the Arts, Sciences and Humanities

*Reconstructing the great human diasporas from genome variation data* May 23 Dr Carlos Bustamante Stanford University

Further information can be found on the website, including the exact location on the University of Oregon campus the talks will be held, the press release, etc. Additionally, I’ve attached a copy of the flier for the series.

I hope some of you in the Pacific Northwest might consider attending! And if not, if you know of anyone who might benefit from this series, please let them know.

Peace, Roo

Roo Vandegrift CEEB - University of Oregon

Einstein rings, a spectacular prediction of relativity, taken from Hubble (Image credit Hubble/NASA)

You may remember a little while back I wrote about a conference of modern Geocentrism (Galileo was Wrong). Geocentrism is the belief that Earth is the centre of the Solar system, nay the entire Universe and everything revolves around it.

Todd Wood attended the conference, and you can read the about his growing sense of incredulity in his posts (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5).

It turns out that these folks are relativity deniers.

My colleague Gary Hurd has spent much of the last 3 days virtually attending a virtual workshop on the origin of life. The workshop will conclude at 5 p.m. eastern standard time today. Here is Mr. Hurd’s report, which he filed at about noon eastern time:

Blogging Live from Darwin / Chicago 2009


Ingrid Laas and I, members of Wisconsin Citizens for Science and Madison Science Pub, will be blogging from the Darwin / Chicago 2009 event from October 29 - 31 in Chicago. You can find the posts at Madison Science Pub. Follow us and intrepid advisor Flightless Frank as we cover the talks, sample the food, and go behind the scenes of the vast, worldwide Darwinian conspiracy and report on its seedy underbelly… and Frank’s.

2009 Skepticamp in Denver


Now that my grades have been submitted on time, I can admit to you that I spent all day Saturday, May 9, attending the annual Skepticamp in Denver. Skepticamp is the brainchild of Reed Esau, and the 2009 Skepticamp is the third so far. Since their inception, there have been a half-dozen other Skepticamps in the US and at least one abroad. The 2009 Skepticamp lasted from 9 in the morning till 7 at night and was the shortest 10-hour conference I have ever attended.

Steve Steve in London

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Steve Steve is having the time of his life at the Nature Network conference. Right now, he’s slumped over on the podium, recovering from yesterday’s festivities. A picture is found below.

The question for you is this: Who is Steve Steve explaining evolution to?

View image

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Laurence Moran at Sandwalk comments on a video excerpt with Bill Dembski, recently touted by the Discovery Institute’s Robert Crowther. What is fascinating that despite more than a decade of Intelligent Design ‘research’ this is the best ID has to offer.

Ironically, Dembski starts of by stating that “what darwinists have done is hidden behind complexities of living systems”. How ironic can this be… While science, as I have shown in several examples, deals in explanations, pathways and hypotheses, Intelligent Design has contributed exactly zero to our scientific understanding of these systems. Worse, while Dembski mentions some complex systems, he also avoids some examples of complex systems science understands quite well how they may have evolved.

My thanks to Robert Crowther for presenting the “best’ response ID has to offer. You be the judge.

Mind Your Businesses


The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, William Dembski’s current employer, has something rather curious on its website. If you look at their page of upcoming conferences, here is what they have listed in the left-hand sidebar:

  • The Practice of Biblical Counseling
  • Certification in Biblical Counseling
  • The Family: Reclaiming a Biblical View
  • Intelligent Design in Business Practice

Can you spot the one that appears out of place? Me neither.

But anyway, yes, they really are having a conference called, Intelligent Design in Business Practice. The flier for the conference comes complete with an obligatory ape-typing-at-keyboard graphic. Unfortunately, it does not say which of the speakers this is intended to represent.

If you’re wondering what the heck ID could have to do with business practice, when it doesn’t even have anything to do with science, then you’re thinking what I’m thinking. All the pretense about ID being some dispassionate scientific theory – not exactly believable to begin with – is rather hard to maintain with them holding conferences that try to apply ID to things that have little or nothing to do with science. (Not to mention that even their supposedly “scientific” conferences tend to resemble tent revivals.) As the Wedge Document has promised us, ID is supposed to have “cultural implications” for “sex, gender issues, medicine, law, and religion”. Business isn’t listed there, but once you’ve declared that your theory makes sweeping dictates over all facets of human society, it’s hardly a stretch to add business practices to the list.

Nevertheless, one has to wonder, given the history of the ID movement, exactly what useful advice the ID movement could possibly have to offer business. As luck would have it, I’ve gotten my hands on a preliminary schedule – the only copy in existence as a matter of fact – which I will post below the fold.

by Bora Zivkovic


As the 2007 Science Blogging Conference was such a great success, we are already in full swing in organizing the 2008 conference and hoping to make it even bigger and better than the first one.

Our beta-version wiki is up—check out the homepage and the first, rough outlines of the program (feel free to edit the page and add your idea at the bottom or in the comments). At this point we are trying to get more sponsors so if you and your organization/company/magazine is interested, let us know soon.

Check out out blog for updates.


Last time, almost in time for the conference, we edited and published the first-ever science blogging anthology, the Open Laboratory 2006, which was an instant hit. Thus, we are already collecting nominations for the next years’ edition. Send us your best posts (or best posts written by others) of the year by using this submission form and help us spread the news by adding this code to your blog or website.

Nothing to do this weekend?


Just a reminder that there will be a symposium this weekend discussing evolution and intelligent design at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa (and featuring PT-er Wes Elsberry). The event is geared toward those interested in matters of faith or science; teachers; principals; college students majoring in education, science and religion/philosophy; clergy; and parish educators. Scholarships are available for the first 200 K-12 educators, board of education members, school administrators, etc. who apply–still plenty of those left, so if you know anyone who’d be interested, point them in our direction. I’m including the text of one press release below the jump; all the information (including registration and hotel) can be found at the symposium website.

Convention Draw?


The Cincinnati Post has a story about the possibility that AiG’s creation science museum will encourage religious groups to hold conventions in the Cincinnati area. No word yet on whether it will discourage the realty base community from coming to Cincinnati as well.

But I guess that, with Kent Hovind in jail, AiG is going to have to pick up the slack in the mis-education of America.

Prof. Steve Steve at AAAS 2007


Prof. Steve Steve and his trusty sidekick Nick Matzke plan to be at the NCSE booth at the AAAS Annual Meeting at the Hilton in downtown San Francisco from 10-5, Saturday, February 17. I know many PT people and ScienceBloggers are at the meeting, so stop by and see us! (transport info)

Prof. Steve Steve, and perhaps Nick, will also be in attendance on Sunday and Monday. It looks like Saturday and Sunday have free Exhibit Hall admission on account of 2007 Family Science Days.

As with every AAAS meeting, the true goal is to get invited to the Science Journalists’ Party, which I hope is Saturday night. They always throw quite a bash, although it will be hard to trump the molten chocolate fountain from the DC meeting a few years back.

It’s a new year, and it will be a busy one here in Iowa when it comes to evolutionary biology. I want to highlight two upcoming events: Iowa City’s first annual Darwin Day celebration featuring a lecture by Massimo Pigliucci, and an upcoming symposium on evolution and intelligent design, featuring John Haught and Wesley Elsberry. These events will be held in February and March, respectively; more information on both of them can be found over at Aetiology. Hope to see some readers there!

My day was spent in the Twin Cities attending the inaugural public meeting of the Minnesota Citizens for Science Education (MnCSE), and I can safely say now that Science Education Saturday was a phenomenal success: a good turnout, two top-notch talks, a stimulating panel discussion, and an involved audience that asked lots of good questions. You should have been there! I expect that, with the good response we got today, that there will be future opportunities to attend MnCSE events.

I'll just give a brief summary of the main points from the two talks today. I understand that outlines or perhaps even the powerpoint files will be available on the MnCSE page at some future date, but give the organizers a little time to recover from all the effort they put into this meeting.

Continue reading "A summary of the MnCSE Science Education Saturday" (on Pharyngula)


Many readers of this blog will be familiar with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. CSHL is the Long Island educational and research institution that hosts some of the most important professional meetings in several biological disciplines. It has for decades been the “home campus” of phage, bacterial and yeast genetics, as well as of computational neuroscience, developmental biology and various branches of genomics, bioinformatics and systems biology.

As a frequent attendee of meetings and symposia at CSHL, I am on their regular mailing list. I recently got an announcement of a meeting to be inaugurated this December that should be of great interest to followers of Intelligent Design. The meeting, “Engineering Principles in Biological Systems” ought to be exactly the kind of forum at which “Intelligent Design” researchers present their conclusions.

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