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Have you ever noticed how boring Creationism and/or Intelligent Design are? How many times must we endure hackneyed claims like “The Flagellum proves Intelligent Design,” or “The Cambrian Explosion Defies Darwinism” ?
Science, however, is continuously being refined and improved, and new discoveries are the order of the day. Here are a few current stories that have relevance to the creationism-versus-evolution “debate.”
- Darwin’s Dilemma Resolved: Evolution’s ‘Big Bang’ Explained by Five Times Faster Rates of Evolution
- Functioning ‘Mechanical Gears’ Seen in Nature for First Time
- DNA Double Take
More below the fold.
Lou Dubose reported in the Washington Spectator the other day that Eastman Chemical prevailed in a lawsuit against two small companies, and Dubose thinks that decision could have far-ranging consequences. I am not certain whether science was on trial, but as it turned out in vitro assays may have been.
I cannot find much interesting material that postdates the decision, but you can find a slightly gloating press release by Eastman Chemical here.
I recently acquired the new book “The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood” by David Montgomery. It’s a splendid read, and very much applicable to the readership of Panda’s Thumb. The book has some excellent pictures and discussions regarding Siccar Point in Scotland, “…celebrated as the place where Scottish farmer James Hutton discovered geologic time..” Siccar Point graces the cover of Montgomery’s book.
Just last Thursday, I cited Siccar Point in a lecture on the Flood for our new social studies class at New Mexico Tech in Socorro. (See slides 56-58). I have resolved to visit Siccar Point - it’s on my bucket list.
That’s why I found this announcement from the Facebook group “Save Siccar Point” to be quite disturbing. They are alarmed that developers are “ruining the geological mecca of Siccar Point, the location of Hutton’s unconformity.”
More info here:http://www.savesiccarpoint.co.uk/
From the site comes this urgent plea:
The deadline for objections has been extended to 23 September 2012 - the day before the application is considered. If you want to lodge an objection you have some time to do it. Please don’t forget! …
It still not too late to object…keep them coming.
You can object by email if you want. Here’s how:
- In the Subject Line put “12/00929/FUL Objection Comment”
- Add your comment in the email body
If you want to CC anyone else into your email, you might want to consider:
I have sent along my objections - will you?
(Don’t forget to be polite!)
Well, this is interesting! Pseudo-historian David Barton, whom we last heard from here on the Thumb declaring that America’s Founding Fathers had considered evolution, and rejected it for creationism, has had his newest book examined and rejected by a group of conservative authors headed by the Discovery Institute’s Jay W. Richards.
Last month the History News Network voted David Barton’s book “The Jefferson Lies” the “least credible history book in print.” Now the book’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, has decided to stop publishing and distributing it.
The book, which argues that Thomas Jefferson was an enthusiastic orthodox Christian who saw no need for a wall of separation between church and state, has attracted plenty of criticism since it appeared in April, with an introduction by Glenn Beck. But the death knell came after Jay W. Richards, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author, with James Robison, of “Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family and Freedom Before It’s Too Late,” began to have doubts and started an investigation.
The Times blog refers to a detailed August 7th, 2012 article by Thomas Kidd at World Magazine, which notes
Richards says in recent months he has grown increasingly troubled about Barton’s writings, so he asked 10 conservative Christian professors to assess Barton’s work.
Their response was negative. Some examples: Glenn Moots of Northwood University wrote that Barton in The Jefferson Lies is so eager to portray Jefferson as sympathetic to Christianity that he misses or omits obvious signs that Jefferson stood outside “orthodox, creedal, confessional Christianity.”
More on the story in an August 10th report by Tim Murphy of Mother Jones, “The Right’s Favorite Historian Comes Apart at the Seams” :
Barton has turned the study of America’s Christian roots into a lucrative business, hawking books and video sermons, speaking at churches and political confabs, and scoring a fawning New York Times profile and interviews on the Daily Show. He’s got friends in high places: “I almost wish that there would be like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced–at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message,” Mike Huckabee told an Evangelical audience in March of 2011. “I never listen to David Barton without learning a whole lot of new things,” Newt Gingrich told conservatives in Iowa that same month.
That’s probably because much of what David Barton writes seems to have originated in David Barton’s head.
On Thursday, Barton’s publisher announced that it was recalling Barton’s newest book, The Jefferson Lies, from stores and suspending publication because it had “lost confidence” in the book’s accuracy. That came one day after NPR published a scathing fact-check of Barton’s work, specifically his claim that passages of the Constitution were lifted verbatim from the Bible.
Wow. We know how much the Discovery Institute needs to feed on disinformation and polemics. That one of their leaders had to reject Barton’s book is a strong indication that the book must be really, really, really bad!
I had the displeasure of personally experiencing Kan Ham’s vitriol, applied to scientists at the time, way back in 1995, when he brought his creation seminar to Albuquerque. Time has passed, but Ham is still dispensing the vitriol. What’s changed is that now, he’s railing against his fellow Creationists!
Ken Ham, the man behind the Creation Museum and the future Ark Encounter amusement park, has been disinvited from a homeschool convention in Cincinnati next week because he made “ungodly, and mean-spirited” comments about another speaker, according to the convention’s organizers.
Ham also will be excluded from future conventions, according to a statement by Brennan Dean of Great Homeschool Conventions.
“The board believes that Ken’s public criticism of the convention itself and other speakers at our convention require him to surrender the spiritual privilege of addressing our homeschool audience,” Dean said in the statement.
At issue are criticisms by Ham of Peter Enns of the Biologos Foundation, who has said the fall of Adam and Eve can be construed as a symbolic story of Israel’s beginnings, rather than a literal description of human beginnings.
On his blog and in other statements, Ham takes issue with this view and Enns’ homeschool curriculum.
“In fact,” Ham wrote in a recent blog post, “what he teaches about Genesis is not just compromising Genesis with evolution, it is outright liberal theology that totally undermines the authority of the Word of God.” …
On the Web: Answers in Genesis Explains the Rift
Flew is of interest to PT readers in part because of his supposed conversion to deism a few years ago. You may find a detailed obituary here. The National Center for Science Education has also run a brief obituary here.
We covered Flew’s conversion to deism here, with an update here. Flew was an influential philosopher and was an atheist for the bulk of his career. His essay Theology and Falsification was widely read and translated into 40 languages. You may see my take on it here. The paper is also available here, with an introduction by Flew, but without the discussion with R. M. Hare.
In later years, evidently influenced by Gerald Schroeder and the intelligent-design creationists, Flew “converted” to deism and was badly misused by creationists. He later admitted that Mr. Schroeder had “mistaught” him, but he continued to believe that life could not have begun without some intelligent or purposeful creator.
According to NCSE, Flew published 2 monographs on evolution, but they say that these works were “arguably marred by a fondness for claims of genetic linkage between intelligence and race.” I do not know anything about these monographs and so will not comment further. I will remember Flew for the essay in which he showed just how foolish it is not just to believe without evidence, but more, to prop up your belief with untestable speculations.
Some big stories came out this week.
A fossil that was celebrated last year as a possible “missing link” between humans and early primates is actually a forebearer of modern-day lemurs and lorises, according to two papers by scientists at The University of Texas at Austin, Duke University and the University of Chicago. In an article now available online in the Journal of Human Evolution, four scientists present evidence that the 47-million-year-old Darwinius masillae is not a haplorhine primate like humans, apes and monkeys, as the 2009 research claimed. They also note that the article on Darwinius published last year in the journal PLoS ONE ignores two decades of published research showing that similar fossils are actually strepsirrhines, the primate group that includes lemurs and lorises. ‘Many lines of evidence indicate that Darwinius has nothing at all to do with human evolution,’ says Chris Kirk, associate professor of anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin. ‘Every year, scientists describe new fossils that contribute to our understanding of primate evolution. What’s amazing about Darwinius is, despite the fact that it’s nearly complete, it tells us very little that we didn’t already know from fossils of closely related species.’ ..
And, the BBC reports on March 4th that
An international panel of experts has strongly endorsed evidence that a space impact was behind the mass extinction event that killed off the dinosaurs. They reached the consensus after conducting the most wide-ranging analysis yet of the evidence. Writing in Science journal, they rule out alternative theories such as large-scale volcanism. The analysis has been discussed at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in the US. A panel of 41 international experts reviewed 20 years’ worth of research to determine the cause of the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) mass extinction, around 65 million years ago. The extinction wiped out more than half of all species on the planet, including the dinosaurs, bird-like pterosaurs and large marine reptiles, clearing the way for mammals to become the dominant species on Earth. Their review of the evidence shows that the extinction was caused by a massive asteroid or comet smashing into Earth at Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula…
While creationists are sure to glom onto these stories as evidence that any change of opinions over time means entire disciplines are simply nonsense, both of these stories show science incorporating new information, and improving with age.
Contrast that with creationism or “intelligent design,” for which nothing becomes clearer or better understood over time. Hmm - what is the actual mechanism by which the Designer infuses new designs into actual, living organisms? Search me!
Science Daily reports today that
For 80 years it has been accepted that early life began in a ‘primordial soup’ of organic molecules before evolving out of the oceans millions of years later. Today the ‘soup’ theory has been over turned in a pioneering paper in BioEssays which claims it was the Earth’s chemical energy, from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, which kick-started early life.
“Textbooks have it that life arose from organic soup and that the first cells grew by fermenting these organics to generate energy in the form of ATP. We provide a new perspective on why that old and familiar view won’t work at all,” said team leader Dr Nick lane from University College London. “We present the alternative that life arose from gases (H2, CO2, N2, and H2S) and that the energy for first life came from harnessing geochemical gradients created by mother Earth at a special kind of deep-sea hydrothermal vent – one that is riddled with tiny interconnected compartments or pores.”
The soup theory was proposed in 1929 when J.B.S Haldane published his influential essay on the origin of life in which he argued that UV radiation provided the energy to convert methane, ammonia and water into the first organic compounds in the oceans of the early earth. However critics of the soup theory point out that there is no sustained driving force to make anything react; and without an energy source, life as we know it can’t exist. …
Exactly one-hundred and fifty years ago, on November 24, 1859, On the Origin of Species was published. Ever since then, some have been predicting the imminent demise of the theory of evolution. But it’s still here, and better than ever! Let’s make this an open thread, post links to the best Origin-related resources you’ve found, or whatever else you think is a milestone in the 150 years since 1859.
I’m back from field work, and have finally gotten enough time to get my photos web-ready after returning from Batholiths Onland. (see Blogging Batholiths: Part 1 for a summary of the 1st 8 days of the adventure, and a description of the scientific goals of the project; the part 1 photo essay is here.)
The updated photo tour includes reactions to the activist who tried to sabotage the project, finally getting some data, splendid photos from team members, and more. Part 2 starts off with a hike up to the gorgeous falls in Hagensborg, BC, and can be found here.
Comments may be left here or there, but nowhere in between.
Update: a piece about the failed attempt to sabotage the project, “Eco-warrior trashes seismic experiment” by Rex Dalton, appears in the 23 July 2009 issue of Nature.
Update, Aug. 5th, 2009: Forest fires have come to the region. More below the fold.
NCSE’s Project Steve, now with 1,097 signers, includes an array of notable scientists including the two eligible living Nobel Prize winners, Steven Chu (U.S. Secretary of Energy) and Steven Weinberg. Another notable signer is Stephen Hawking, who holds the Lucasian Professorship in Mathematics at Cambridge University, the same professorship Isaac Newton held. Yesterday President Obama announced that Hawking will be among 16 people to be awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, our highest civilian honor, joining (among others) Ted Kennedy, Desmond Tutu, and Joe Medicine Crow, a tribal historian, author, and WWII veteran who won the Bronze Star. We congratulate all the awardees, with a special congratulations to Hawking, Project Steve #300.
I am currently in British Columbia, Canada, participating in the Batholiths Onland experiment.
Nominally, this large group effort involving over 50 scientists and grad students is for “a seismic refraction and wide-angle reflection survey across the Coast Mountains batholith of British Columbia, Canada.”
This rather terse description does not really do justice to the project, which has the purpose of discovering why continental mountain ranges are often made of granite instead of basalt.
Relevance to the Panda’s Thumb? (1) Real science involves real work; when is the last time you saw a creationist actually measure something, or use a shovel? (2) Real scientists think the earth is billions of years old. You just can’t scientifically reconcile these batholiths with a 10,000-year old earth without being more than a little schizophrenic.
According to a report in the Boulder Daily Camera, vandals tore an eye-wash station from the wall Thursday night and flooded the Ramaley biology building at the University of Colorado. The building was damaged, but initial reports suggest that the scientific work of the faculty was unharmed. There is apparently no indication that the biology building was specifically targeted, nor that the vandalism is related to recent threats directed against University of Colorado biologists.
Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist who shaped the field of bacterial genetics, and served as chair of The Scientist’s advisory board since 1986, died on Saturday (February 2). He was 82.
Lederberg shared a Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1958 for the discovery that certain strains of bacteria reproduce by mating, thereby exchanging their genetic material. This overturned the idea held at the time that bacteria did not warrant genetic study and set the field of bacterial genetics into motion.
Lederberg truly was a visionary, and along with his ex-wife, Esther (who died just over a year ago), really jump-started the field of microbial genetics (and indeed, made it much easier to study genetics, period), winning a Nobel prize for his genetic work when he was only 33. Years later, he teamed up with Carl Sagan to raise awareness about microbes in space, and was an advocate of science communication and sound policy (serving as an advisor for multiple presidents). In recent years, he’s spoken out about antibiotic resistance and bioterrorism, among other topics, and always emphasized the importance of basic research in microbiology. He could also give a helluva interesting talk, judging from the few times I’ve seen him speak. He was truly a living legend, and the void he leaves is palpable.
It’s over in Libya. Nick previously blogged about the Tripoli Six: a Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses, working in Libya, who were accused of infecting hundreds of children with HIV. The group have been imprisoned since 1999–despite the fact that an analysis of the HIV isolates from the children confirmed that the epidemic began before the medical workers arrived in the country (and continued even after they were jailed). After a long battle, mostly legal and political rather than scientific, they’ve been freed and sent back to Bulgaria. More on the story at the BBC and the New York Times.
I should note that though the science ultimately wasn’t the determining factor in their release, the science blogosphere and Nature (with journalist/blogger Declan Butler leading the charge) were important in keeping this prominent in the scientific community. And while we celebrate their freedom, there are still hundreds of HIV-infected children in Libya, and grieving parents who missed out on justice in this case.
It would come as no surprise to us here at the Thumb that our readers would accept a physician not giving antibiotics for an ailment unless that physician felt that the infection was bacterial, that the therapy was warranted, and that the selection of antibiotics was appropriate for the suspected organism. Doctors restrict their antibiotic use because of evolution: indiscriminate use of antibiotics leads to the evolution of resistance to those antibiotics in those bacteria that survive the infection. I suspect many of our readers also know that antibiotics are given to livestock routinely to help them grow bigger, faster. Our friends at ScienceBlogs are all over this topic and the problems it presents. By way of summary, if you give animals an antibiotic that looks and acts like one you give humans, resistance will also evolve there, just as surely as it will from a doctor who reaches for his prescription pad before he’s taken an adequate history or completed an adequate exam.
This morning’s Washington Post has a disturbing article on the approval of cefquinome for use in cattle. It’s disturbing for a number of reasons, and we’ll discuss them on the flipside.
Remember, if you come to the conference, Prof. Steve Steve will be on hand to drink you under the table like he drank down Chris Mooney.
While you’re at it, go vote of us again for the Best Science Blog of 2006. You can vote once every twenty-four hours. Right now we are in a race with In the Pipeline for third place. Please don’t let us lose to a the blog of a big-oil executive who wants to open-pit mine the Arctic Wildlife Refuge (or whatever In the Pipeline is really about).
Some bloggers in North Carolina have organized a Science Blogging Conference. It is going to be held all day, Saturday January 20th on the UNC Chapel Hill Campus. The conference is free to attend. So go and register if you can make it. I promise that Prof. Steve Steve will be on hand if you want to share a beer with him.
Our conference will address a variety of issues and perspectives on science communication, including science literacy, the popularization of science, science in classrooms and in homes, debunking pseudoscience, using blogs as tools for presenting scientific research, writing about science, and health and medicine.
The conference is sponsored by ibibilo and UNC Medical Journalism program. (It is looking for additional sponsors as well.)