Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Justice Scalia and Global Warming:

A report today on National Public Radio summarized the first day of Supreme Court hearings in a major case brought against the EPA by a number of states for alleged failure of the EPA to enforce antipollution laws in the case of carbon dioxide.

Justice Scalia showed his ignorance and contempt for science as in this exchange with one of the plaintiff's attorneys:

Scalia pointed to the government's assertion that carbon
dioxide is not a pollutant. "But," said Scalia, "You say it is, once it goes up
into the stratosphere and contributes to global warming."

your honor," Milkey answered, "It is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere,
from the ground up to nine miles above."

"Whatever," replied Scalia.
I'm not a scientist. That's why I don't want to have to
deal with global warming, to tell you the truth."

Why is he sitting on the Supreme Court then?

Other Links:

Listen to th NPR stories:

Read about Global Warming:
New Scientist FAQ on climate change:

EPA Web site(Caution:censored by the Administration):

The Discovery of Global Warming:

Global Warming Science from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Take action about Global Warming:

Possible Solutions:

How to Fight Global Warming:

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Fun with Google Trends

Google has a new tool in testing called Google Trends. This feature allows you to get some idea of the relative popularity of different search terms. So...I decided to compare some searches related to evolution: First is a comparison of relative search volume for evolution(blue) vs intelligent design(red).

Notice that in relative terms searches for evolution far outnumber searches for intelligent design since 2004. The lettered spots correspond to recent events in the Evolution/ID "controversy" . It is interesting that intelligent design seems to spike with significant news events in the "controversy" but not evolution does not.

I thought it would also be fun to compare search trends for Richard Dawkins and Michael Behe. Seems a fair comparison given the high esteem Behe is held in ID circles:

Again Dawkins(blue) as a search term well out ranks Behe. I searched for "Dawkins" ,"Behe", so some superfluous hits probably crept in.

By the way blip E for Behe is his Dover trial testimony.

Just for grins I compared the search trends for religion and evolution, mindful of the current discussions in the blogosphere. Evolution and religion are both popular search terms and they seem to be somewhat correlated (based on the human brain's great ability to see patterns where none exist).

Assuming these results can be trusted evolution is an encouragingly popular search term, on a par with religion as a search term. Further, the seeming correlation between them suggests that lots of people are interested in the relationship between evolution and religion.

Google cautions us that Trends uses only a sampling of the available data, but I think this is potentially a really useful tool for spotting data trends. So I am not going to take my trend results too seriously.

By the way, God handily beats Darwin but considering God has an elaborate and long running set of PR agencies in place this is not too suprising.

Geek that I am, I would love the ability to download time series data for time series analysis and correlational studies. But for now, play away!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Kansas Guild of Bloggers

This week's KGB is at Josh's Thoughts from Kansas. There may still be time to sneak a submission in as I just did. Just send your submission via the kgb's submission page. For a holiday, the noosphere has been busy, so let's see if that applies to Kansas bloggers as well. Next week's kgb will be here so if you miss this week's deadline you get another shot.

You blog about Kansas and don't belong???? Well simply go to:

Put yourself on the kgb's Frapper map while you are there.

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A Tiff Among Allies

There is a running debate among science bloggers about theistic evolution and whether or not theistic evolution is harmful to science education. On one side we have Laurence Moran and PZ Myers. Moran writes:

"The fight against Intelligent Design Creationism and Young Earth Creationism is only part of the battle—there's a lot more involved in trying to improve science education. Some of it requires us to take a long hard look at the way science education is being eroded by well-meaning theists who don't belong in one of the obvious hard-core Creationist camps. Let's call them Theistic Evolutionists for want of a better term."

On the other side are Ed Brayton and Pat Hayes. Brayton writes:

"I reject the notion that belief in God, in and of itself, takes anything away from science education. Ken Miller is a theistic evolutionist. His scientific work is impeccable, as are his efforts in science education. Can Moran point to anything at all in Miller's scientific work that is "sloppy"? I doubt it. Can he point to anything at all in his work on science education, the multiple textbooks that he has authored on evolutionary biology, that is affected in any way whatsoever by his Christian faith? Again, I doubt it."

Let's look at the debate which is being tracked by Pat Hayes over at Red State Rabble.

Moran argues that theistic evolutionists who postulate some sort of personal god that acts either by creating the laws of nature and steps aside-this seems more like deism- or a god who continually intervenes-this seems like continuous creation- are not behaving as scientists. He argues:

"So, is there a middle ground where an interventionist, personal God is compatible with modern science? Perhaps not. The conflict between religion and science certainly isn't avoided by postulating a passive God who doesn't play an active role in guiding evolution. If science really does have to be strictly naturalistic, then even the softest version of intelligent design—that promoted by Michael Denton—is ruled out because God creates the laws of physics and chemistry. This point is worth emphasizing. If one's explanation of the natural world posits a God who created the laws of physics and chemistry then one is not behaving like a scientist. Of course, there's even more of a conflict if one's God is supposed to have set up the universe in order to produce humans."

So for Moran, there is always going to be a conflict between belief in God and science and there is thus no middle ground of theistic evolution. Indeed toward the end of his essay he presents a charming little diagram that shows science on one side with its subdisciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, geology and astronomy and on the other side non-science which includes perpetual motion, alchemy, astrology, intelligent design and theistic evolution.

Charming diagram, but it conveniently ignores one important issue. With the exception of theistic evolution, all of the other non scientific disciplines listed are pseudosciences that purport to make testable predictions about the universe.

OK, theistic evolution is not science: I agree with that. Ken Miller who is a theistic evolutionist is a first rate scientist who clearly does not let his religious beliefs interfere with doing science. In his science he uses methodological materialism, unlike Michael Behe who has confounded his religious beliefs with science. Now, Miller does attempt to explain how science is consistent with his faith and here I agree with Amiel Rossow's analysis of Miller's arguments in a recent essay at talk reason. Rossow observes that:

"The best Miller is able to assert by way of argument is that quantum indeterminacy is compatible with his faith. I don't believe anybody would argue against such an assertion. However, quantum indeterminacy, if it indeed is a fact, is equally compatible with the lack of religious faith. Given Miller's evident great intelligence and eloquence, the paucity of real arguments in the yin part of his book seem to affirm the suspicion that real arguments in favor of faith which would be on a par with arguments normally accepted as legitimate in a scientific dispute, simply do not exist."

Rossow gets to the nub of my objection to Miller, namely that the best he seems able to do is find a space for God based on what he sees is the compatibility of belief with certain key areas of science. And to me this position seems close to the god of the gaps notion that infuses intelligent design and that is so roundly criticized by Miller.

Getting back to Moran's charming diagram, the issue is not science vs non-science. After all I write poetry which last time I checked, is not classified as a science and yet as a poet there is empircism involved in the sense of intense observation of some aspect of the universe and for a poem to work it has to effect the reader in some emotional sense. The best poems and works of literature are said to be timeless in that they speak to the readers across time. So there is a sense that a poem is an experiment that stands or falls in part on a repeatable response on the part of the reader. So the boundary between science and non science is not sharp since approaches to relating to the universe that are traditionally considered non scientific (art, poetry, music) rely in part on an informal sort of methodological materialism for their effectiveness.

Miller's stance is a philosophical one, namely that there is a God, that is constantly intervening in the operation of the universe, perhaps through quantum mechanics. However, God, if it exists, is outside the universe. As far as I can tell from reading Miller, he does not expect any way to positively test this idea. The best he can say is probably to argue, as did Pope John Paul, that true faith and true science cannot be in contradiction. I bet Michael Behe would agree with this. Indeed sometimes he sounds suspiciously like Miller. For instance here:

"But how could biochemical systems have been designed? Did they have to be created from scratch in a puff of smoke? No. The design process may have been much more subtle. It may have involved no contravening of natural laws. Let’s consider just one possibility. Suppose the designer is God, as most people would suspect. Well, then, as Ken Miller points out in his book, Finding Darwin’s God, a subtle God could cause mutations by influencing quantum events such as radioactive decay, something that I would call guided evolution. That seems perfectly possible to me. I would only add, however, that that process would amount to intelligent design, not Darwinian evolution."

Does this similarity mean that Miller and other theistic evolutionists are to be dismissed as as being damaging to science education? The answer is no. To see why not contrast Michael Behe and Miller's approach to the irreducable complexity issue. Behe when confronted with an irreducably complex structure says:

"Yet modern science has discovered irreducibly complex systems in the cell. An excellent example is the bacterial flagellum which is literally an outboard motor that bacteria use to swim. The flagellum has a large number of parts that are necessary for its function—a propeller, hook, drive shaft, and more. Thorough studies shows it requires 30-40 protein parts. And in the absence of virtually any of those parts, the flagellum doesn’t work, or doesn’t even get built in the cell. Its gradual evolution by unguided natural selection therefore is a real headache for Darwinian theory. I like to show audiences this picture of the flagellum from a biochemistry textbook because, when they see it, they quickly grasp that this is a machine. It is not like a machine, it is a real molecular machine. Perhaps that will help us think about its origin."

Miller on the other hand sticks to the methodological materialism program and looks for explanations that do not require the supernatural:

"The very existence of the Type III Secretory System shows that the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex. It also demonstrates, more generally, that the claim of "irreducible complexity" is scientifically meaningless, constructed as it is upon the flimsiest of foundations – the assertion that because science has not yet found selectable functions for the components of a certain structure, it never will. In the final analysis, as the claims of intelligent design fall by the wayside, its advocates are left with a single, remaining tool with which to battle against the rising tide of scientific evidence. That tool may be effective in some circles, of course, but the scientific community will be quick to recognize it for what it really is – the classic argument from ignorance, dressed up in the shiny cloth of biochemistry and information theory."

These two quotes show the contrast between Behe and Miller quite clearly. Both are theists and to the degree that Behe accepts the fossil record and evolution at least above the molecular level, perhaps Behe could be classed as a theistic evolutionist just as Miller is. But there is a fundamental difference. When confronted with something that looks designed, Behe entertains supernatural explanations. Indeed he claims that to argue that something that looks designed is not designed is really an extraordinary claim.

"Demonstration that a system is irreducibly complex is not a proof that there is absolutely no gradual route to its production. Although an irreducibly complex system can't be produced directly, one can't definitively rule out the possibility of an indirect, circuitous route. However, as the complexity of an interacting system increases, the likelihood of such an indirect route drops precipitously. And as the number of unexplained, irreducibly complex biological systems increases, our confidence that Darwin's criterion of failure has been met skyrockets toward the maximum that science allows."

Miller on the other hand recognizes the power of methodological materialism. Scientists use it along with the principle of uniformity to construct scientific explanations because it works and has worked repeatedly. Miller understands that jumping from the appearance of design to intelligent design is an extraordinary claim.

Miller like Behe might believe in the existence of God, the ultimate skyhook as Daniel Dennett would say. But as long as Miller and other theistic evolutionists plod along with methodological materialism and natural explanations, their theological accomodations are not really relevant to science.

Moran argues that there is no common ground between the rational and irrational and that you cannot accept evolution and turn around and allow for a god that can "tweak" the process whenever "He" wants. That is a philosophical position that one can accept or not; but when the goal is furthering science education, who better to have on your side than someone who may hold non scientific ideas but who understands that science is at its best when it building natural explanations, not by giving up as the Michael Behes of the world would have us do when confronted with apparent design, be it at the organismal, cellular or the molecular level.

Links in the Debate:

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sunset in the Wetlands

My son and I took a walk at sunset in the Baker Wetlands. The leaves are mainly gone and the only colors left are subtle, playing off the setting sun. It is a real challenge to capture them and convey the feeling this place evokes at this time of year.

The beaver have been busy, cutting saplings and making this big pile, presumably for the winter. This beaver pile was at the entrance to the wetlands.

There were several different type of berries such as these soft red berries which were covered with a white fuzz as were most of the branches and everything else in the wetlands-fuzz like the debris left over from a party. Look closely. The fuzz is carrying small seeds.

No this is not a winter photograph with snow, but the white fuzz clinging to the branches of the trees and backlit by the western sky just after sunset.

And the source of the fuzz : cattails. By this time the light was low enough that it was not easy to get a crisp shot with a hand held camera. I do like the effect-alley cats at attention.

A panoramic view of the wetlands shows several different vegetation types. What at first seems a layer of fog forming in the distance is a stand of light colored trees.

One last look: the sky reflected in the water.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

ID zinged again!

Proponents of so called intelligent design have been hoping for support from the Catholic Church in the wake of the Pope's recent seminar about evolution. In looking for updates about this, I found an interesting report in Catholic News that deals with recent discussion in the Vatican's Pontifical Academy about the limits of science.

In the article, Father Jean-Michael Maldame is quoted as saying the following about Intelligent Design:

While God is the source of all creation, he does not alter "the course of natural phenomena" but "allows for the autonomy of his creatures and the play of nature's laws," he said.

Intelligent design supporters have created a "god of the gaps," meaning an unnamed intelligence or divine intervention to fill in or erase the uncertainties in science, he said.

Not only is this bad science, Father Maldame said, it is poor theology, since if and when science does come up with an explanation, God is then made unnecessary and disposed of as an incorrect hypothesis.

By not "giving ready-made answers to human research," he said, God "underscores the importance of man's freedom."

I couldn't have said it better.

I was somewhat less thrilled by the comments of another philosopher, Jurgen Mittelstrass who argued that the big questions about the nature of reality and what we can know about it are questions for philosophers and theologians to debate, not scientists. Hello!! Dr. Mittelstrass have you heard about quantum mechanics or cosmology or for that matter neurobiology? Have you not paid any attention to scientific debates on these very topics?

Now granted philosophers can help out here with their logical training, but these questions hardly belong just in their court for debate. As for theologians, well if they want to talk about God and the nature of God, fine. But once they stray into the nature of reality then they are going to but heads with science again especially if they use outmoded non empirical essentialist or typological thinking.

The Pontifical Academy will next take up evolution. Hopefully they invite some real scientists. If they want to invite a philosopher how about Daniel Dennett? Wouldn't that be fun to watch!

Other Links:

Pope Benedict's Remarks to the Pontifical Academy

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Kansas Guild of Bloggers is here!

Getting cold outside so curl up with some comfort food and the best of this week's Kansas blogging! First up from emawkc over at Three O'Clock in the Morning comes Flight Delay which provides a fine comparative civics lesson between the our voting system and that used in Malaysia and emawkc finds that some features of the Malaysian system might be useful here.

Some Kansans myself included are basking in the state's color change from Republican blue to a decidedly moderate purple and I don't mean K-State purple. Josh over at Thoughts from Kansas discusses how Boyda beat Jim Ryun. I want to point out that my wife was quite dismayed to find that she was not able to cast a vote against Mr. Ryun since we live to the east of Iowa St in Lawrence and hence are in Dennis Moore's district. I also recommend Josh's report of a recent poll showing that Kansans back embryonic stem cell research.

John B. Over at Blog Meridian reports a happy voter experience for a change and one that did not hinge on the outcome of the election just that some one got to vote.

Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble keeps up the political commentary with a summary of a correspondent "SC" who thinks the State Board of Education system is broken inspite of the 6 to 4 moderate majority.

I notice that Whole Wheat Blogger has been revived in a new form, Pencil Nub which will focus less on the news and more as Steve puts it "on the religious realm. Hope to see more from this blog.

Happy in Bag has a brief but evocative post about one of my favorite sounds. You also might check out the Weekend Photo and brief commentary over at BitterSweetLife.

Joel Mathis is in a funk about the state of popular culture and wonders if there is anything new that we can do, that hasn't been done. He opines:

The advent of realistic computer special effects means there’s no scenario that can’t be convincingly depicted on screen: monsters fighting each other, spaceships careening through the void. In pop music, most of the variations on rock and hip-hop seem to have been explored decades ago. Not coincidentally, that’s about the time the term “old school” became words of praise.

Oh I don't know if he is right. This sounds suspiciously like the scientists who in the early part of the 20th century confidently proclaimed that we knew pretty much how the universe operated only to then be over run with quantum mechanics and relativity. This relates to my own submission having to do with a cyber crime involving the virtual universe, or metaverse, Second Life which I also play in from time to time.

Well, that's it for this week, and since it is 11:43 pm and I teach genetics at 8:00am I am going call it quits. So remember if you are not in KGB, and are a Kansas related blogger just go on over to and look for the kgb map in the right hand column and join!

Next weeks KGB will be at Blog Meridian.

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Second Life Crime

As a sporadic player in Second Life, I was of course interested in this excellent article in yesterday's Lawrence Journal World. The article concerns a second life player who was swindled of the equivalent of about $180 worth of Lindens, the Second Life currency. Apparently the player, Carissa Hill, was swindled in a real estate deal by someone who had stolen another players identity for a pay pal transaction. I have never met Carissa or her Second Life Avatar, but she claims to make money at Second Life.

What I find fascinating is less the swindle, but the reactions of people in the discussion who say inane things like "fantasy is nice but get a real life" or "...take the energy, ambition and smarts and apply it to the first life. I think that would make you happier and more successful in the long term."

Nice sentiments
, or so it seems; but what makes Second Life any different other aspects of what Richard Dawkins terms the extended phenotype?

After all, Second Life may be based on bytes and pixels, but is it really that different than other sorts of fantasy that we spend lots of money on? Consider in Second Life, designers and scripters are constantly coming up with new games and designs, some of which are making their way to the "Real World" and there are some really talented designers.

Indeed, businesses such as IBM, Scion and Sun are setting up shop in Second Life trying to hawk real life news and products by taking advantage of Second Life's 3 dimensional interactive universe. Second life requires imagination and vision to "play", especially since there are few rules. Sometimes the results are banal such as the shopping center by my SL home, but others are quite stunning.

One thing is for sure, Second Life sure aint Kansas!

Other links:

How to Get a Second Life

Living a Second Life

Performing a Play in Second Life(youtube)

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Kansas Guild of Bloggers arise!

Arise from your torpor and send your best Kansas related posts here for the KGB carnival. Don't make me come and get you! You can either e-mail me at pdecell at sunflower dot com, or respond to this post with a link or send your submission via the kgb's submission page. However you do it, I will get your posts.

Probably the carnival will not post until Tuesday night to accommodate any prestidigitating procrastinators.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Gender Identity Proposal in NYC

As astute readers of my blog know, I have a strong interest in gender and gender related issues and a recent proposal in New York City, reported in the New York Times recently caught my eye. The proposal would allow people born in NYC to formally switch their gender on their birth records without having gone through the usual requirements of sexual reassignment surgery.

The article states:

Under the rule being considered by the city’s Board of Health, which is likely to be adopted soon, people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent.

Usually a person must have gone through a process of transitioning to the other sex for a period of time and then have had or be close to having sexual reassignment surgery, or at least be on hormones. Indeed there is a whole standard of care called the Benjamin Standard of Care (also see this summary) lays out a sequence of hoops through which transgendered individuals should go through as part of the transitioning process.

This proposal eliminates the need for any sort of physiological change requiring only that the person have done a name change and provide evidence that they have lived as a member of their chosen gender for at least two years.

Again from the article:
The move to ease the requirements for altering one’s gender identity comes after New York has adopted other measures aimed at blurring the lines of gender identification. For instance, a new shelter policy approved in January now allows beds to be distributed according to appearance, applying equally to postoperative transsexuals, cross-dressers and “persons perceived to be androgynous.”

You might think that this sort of proposal would enjoy broad support in the transgender community, but a transsexual friend of mine, "Sue" wrote to a group that we both belong to that she thought this proposal was a bad idea because:

This is fine for the Transgender/Queer movement to want. What these
groups must understand is that they don't have a lot of support in
the population in general. Nor will they gain a lot of support by
trying to tie their agenda to the needs of transsexual persons in
transition and of intersex people.

Where the latter have a legitimate, medically recognized, condition
the former have a lifestyle. This is a huge difference.
"Sue" wrote that comment in response to another poster who noted that the transgender/queer community is moving beyond the binary notion of gender.

In another post "Sue" says:

A person is non-op for one simple reason. That reason is because they
chose to be non-op. The others fall into a surgery-tracked group that
I have come to think of as "Not Yet OP" for lack of a better term.

Don't yet have the money? NYO. Obligation to family is a priority to
your doing it? NYO. Medical condition that science has not yet found
a way to handle? NYO. Boyfriend took your money (Again?)? NYO.

The others are fetishist transgenders.

This was in response to a comment that a transgender person may not want to have sexual reassignment surgery for a number of reasons. Sue also feels that this proposal as written would link those who have gone through SRS or legitimate reasons not to transition but are planning to with gender benders and (gasp) fetishist transgenders. Now to be fair, she seems to have nothing against gender benders and others who see themselves perhaps as gender out laws but her rhetoric seems a bit extreme to me.

From my way of thinking, Sue forgets that transgendered, even narrowly defined to be those who are transsexual are not well accepted by society at large and treated as disordered. Changing one's gender assignment is a serious step and it is entirely possible that people for whom the proposal is not designed might slip through and Sue is right to raise questions about implementationtion. But can't this be done without such fearful sounding rhetoric?

To my non transgender readers this whole thing probably seems very strange and maybe trivial. But think-if gender and gender identity is so unimportant than why do people spend so much time acculturating our kids to the "appropriate" gender and why do people get bent out of shape when they encounter someone who doesn't quite fit their preconception of gender? Why is that? It's precisely because gender and social signals related to gender are important to our social biology, so people who don't seem to fit make others uncomfortable.

The flip side of course is that someone who is transgendered and who does not fit well with their socially assigned gender is often highly uncomfortable in "normal" society and uncomfortable with the discordence between their appearence and gender identity. Hence the expense and risk of hormones and surgery and hence the fear "Sue" seems to feel that the NYC proposal might create a backlash that could affect her as a transsexual just at the time when society is beginning to accept her.

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Mendel's Garden #9 host and date.

Mendel's Garden will be going to once a month, and the next edition to be posted on Monday December 4, will be hosted by that hive of geeky graduate students otherwise known as Salamander Candy.

So you can send your submissions directly to the hive at tennessj at science dot oregonstate dot edu, or use the Blog Carnival submissions page.

There have been several submissions to me and I will get them to the hive; so don't worry they will appear.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Eugenie Scott at JCCC

Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education gave a very nice talk at JCCC titled Politics, Education and Evolution. Her talk, summarized her thoughts on why education has become so politicized in America. Her analysis centered on several basic areas. First the settlement patterns in America tied to the frontier led both to a decentralized educational system and to a variety of home grown religious traditions.

Next she gave a brief review of the meaning of evolution in a very general sense, dividing biological evolution into three big ideas. First is the notion of common ancestry-the genealogical approach to evolution. Next are the processes of evolution including Darwin's core idea of natural selection and finally the patterns of evolution. She noted that creationists often times make category errors, namely concluding that arguments about the mechanisms of evolution mean that evolution is wrong and she contrasted the genealogical approach to the great chain of being. She clearly explained that the great chain of being namely that fish evolved into amphibians which evolved into reptiles which evolved into mammals etc, is wrong since the common ancestors did not closely resemble their modern counterparts.

From my way of thinking the confusion between the genealogical notion of evolution and the great chain of being probably relates to a question I am often asked about humans, namely if humans evolved from apes why are there still other apes? My response is usually that modern apes and humans are descended from a common primate ancestor who doesn't exist any more. Modern apes and humans are adopted to their particular modern environments so that there is really no reason to ask why apes still exist.

She next discussed the history of the creationist movement in the United States focusing on "scientific creationism" and its current incarnation namely intelligent design. She traced the modern intelligent design movement to a book by Thaxton Bradley and Olson(1984). These authors argued that the origin of life categorically cannot be explained. From this developed the modern intelligent design movement, which she quite correctly I believe, categorized as old wine in new bottles and she defended evolutionary biologists from the charge that they are refusing to investigate other ideas. Scientists have investigated the claims of intelligent design carefully before rejecting them.

So why is intelligent design so popular inspite of the lack of scientific credability? In part she attributed this to Intelligent Design marketing around what she called the three pillars of creationism: evolution is weak science; evolution and religion are incompatible; and finally the fairness argument. Now the rhetoric of intelligent design is shifting language again to a mention of critical thinking, teaching the controversy or all theories. Of course as she noted, science is not some sort of democracy and "cheerfully discriminates against those ideas that don't work.

Another aspect of the staying power of intelligent design is public confusion over the way science defines terms such as theory, law and hypothesis are used in science versus the every day use of these terms. In science these terms have specialized meanings as "terms of art". Finally Intelligent Design advocates conflate the methological naturalism of science and its limitation to natural explanations, with atheism.

She also attributed the recent upsurge in antievolution activity to the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act and the notion that what is in curriculum standards will be tested, hence a demand for teaching the controversy and analyzing the weaknesses of evolutionary theory. She exhorted her audience, especially the students present to learn about the issues and candidates and vote, reminding the audience that we do get the officials we deserve.

It was a real treat to have her visit us given her schedule and I want to again thank her for coming, Kansas Citizens for Science especially Jack Krebs and Keith Miller for helping arrange her visit. She had given a lecture on Friday at Kansas State's Center for Origins and will next be in Kansas on November 16th speaking at Kansas University's series "Difficult Dialogues at the Commons".

Other Links:

National Center for Science Education

Kansas Citizens for Science

Kansas City Star Editorial on Kansas Board of Education

Evolution Resources from the National Academies

Darwin online

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fall Leaves

In the soft light of afternoon
The pear leaves glow like glints of opal
And I have been told these crimson colors
Are made by the leaves at the end of their lives
But no one knows why.
One day we will know
And those leaves will glow in the soft light
Even more marvelously because we know.

Commentary: I had been reading an ongoing discussion on The Loom about why leaves turn color. Often we are told that the colors arise from other pigments that are rendered visible when the chlorophyll breaks down. That seems to be true for some pigments but not the bright red pigments present in some leaves such as these pear leaves. These are produced in the fall by the leaves and may have some sort of adaptive significance. You might want to visit the discussion at the Loom and get the details.

I hope a little reflection will yield what the poem is really about.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Eugenie Scott this Saturday(Nov 4) at JCCC!

Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science
Education, to speak on "Politics, Education, and Evolution" at JCCC.

Saturday, November 4 at 7:30 PM
Johnson County Community College, Carlsen Center Room 211

Many topics in the curriculum of American schools are controversial,
but perhaps the one with the longest tenure is evolution. Politics
plays a role in this controversy in a number of ways. Politicians
have keen antennae for cultural values, and the "fairness" argument
(i.e., it is only "fair" to "balance" evolution with creationism)
regularly is exploited, regardless of the appropriateness of its
application to science education. Variants of the fairness argument
such as balancing evolution with "scientific alternatives to
evolution" or balancing evolution with "arguments against evolution"
have in fact become the current predominant antievolutionist
strategy. In addition, legislators and school board members may take
advantage of public interest in the creationism/evolution controversy
to pander to voting blocks -- whether or not the legislation or
policy ever is passed, or even is intended to be seriously considered.