June 25, 2006 - July 1, 2006 Archives

Those of you who use Google News Alerts for phrases like “intelligent design” and “evolutionary biology” have probably noticed that the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints Division (aka “Evolution News and Views”) turns up with depressing regularity. More recently, I was amazed to find that “Uncommon Descent” weblog posts were also being treated as news sources.

So, it seemed to me that it couldn’t be so difficult to get a source listed in Google News. And it wasn’t. It is in the Google News FAQ:

What if I don’t see my favorite news source in Google News?

We’re as shocked as you are! If we’re missing a publisher that we should be covering, please send us your ideas. While we can’t guarantee that we’ll heed your recommendation, we do promise to review all the suggestions we receive without regard to political viewpoint or ideology.

I sent in a suggestion that they pick up the National Center for Science Education main page as a news source, and within a week got notice that they were adding it to their list. Recent News Alerts have included NCSE front page items, so that particular suggestion is complete.

Now that you know how it is done and that it works, I’d like to ask the PT readership to take a moment to nominate various pro-science sources to the fine folks at Google News. You may find the list here on the PT right-hand sidebar useful to find candidates. Check out the links at the TalkOrigins Archive, too. Please leave a message in the comments for each site that you do nominate.

More prion news

| | Comments (13)

Last fall, Andrea wrote an excellent piece on prions, and how they “contradict century-old biological assumptions and seem to defy the expectations of Darwinian evolutionary theory.” He gives an overview of prions and discusses their potential role in heredity. My interest in them, of course, comes from the diseases they cause. Over at Aetiology, I have a post up discussing a new Lancet paper on the prion disease, kuru, and its potential to act as a model for other human prion diseases (such as “mad cow”). The authors suggest two things: one, that the incubation period of so-called “mad cow” disease may be longer than previously thought, and two, that there may be “waves” of epidemic, determined partly by host genetics.

This is a guest appearance by Jim Downard. Jim’s essays are always thorough, rich in detail, and solidly substantiated. This is his first appearance on The Panda’s Thumb.

There were already several essays posted on this blog addressing the latest book by Ann Coulter. Jim reviews her book from an angle differing from the earlier posts by PT’s regular contributors. His discourse provides a crtitical analysis of essential details of Coulter’s screed.

One third of Ann Coulter’s latest bestseller, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, is devoted to raking “Darwiniac cultists” over the coals for promoting what she is certain is the false science of evolution. Unfortunately her roasting process was hampered by the fact that she forgot to get her fire lit first. Compulsively addicted to secondary sources, Coulter fails to comprehend even those, and exhibits consistent laziness when it comes to checking whether her meagre tinder could ever ignite. In the first part of a series that will examine all the antievolutionary assertions in her book, James Downard explores how Coulter fumbles issues relating to Michael Behe’s Irreducible Complexity claims.

Continue reading Secondary Addiction on Talk Reason

During the symposium on Teaching Evolution, on which I reported recently, someone asked why evolution denial was limited largely to the United States. If you count the Muslim world, then the question is off target; nevertheless, the US is unique among the European nations and their cultural descendants in the strength of its biblical literalist movement. I submitted that the fact may well be traced to the legacy of slavery. That response did not go over well, and someone noted that Europe had its slaves too.

I looked up slavery in the 2003 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Yes, Europe had its slaves, but slavery in western Europe died out during the late Middle Ages. In Germany and Russia, it was replaced by serfdom, which some will consider only a modest improvement. Britain made the slave trade illegal in 1807, and as a direct result much of South America abandoned slavery somewhat afterward. The British abolished slavery in India in 1843 and later moved inland into the continent of Africa specifically to interdict the slave trade. As far as I could learn, no one besides the US fought a civil war over slavery.

I am in the process of leaving Georgia, but Georgia will never leave me. I feel that my time working on science activism with Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education (GCISE) has benefited my state. It was through our efforts that the press learned what was being done to our science standards by the Georgia Department of Education (GADOE), and that the GADOE was lying about it. (My op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was the first to bring it to light.) Because of GCISE’s vigilance, public outcry forced the GADOE to pass standards with descent support for evolution.

Over a year or so ago, a teacher came to us at GCISE, asking for help. Her administrators were trying to force her to compromise her teaching, and she was standing up to them. We provided what support we could, but in the end her best support came from the state standards. Now that she has retired, the NY Times is telling her story: Evolution’s Lonely Battle in a Georgia Classroom.

Ms. New was summoned to a meeting with the superintendent, Dewey Moye, as well as the principal and two parents upset about her teaching evolution. “We have to let parents ask questions,” Mr. Moye told her. “It’s a public school. In a democracy people can ask questions.”

Ms. New said the parents, “badgered, got loud and sarcastic and there was no support from administrators.”

Babs Greene, another administrator, “asked if I was almost finished teaching evolution,” Ms. New recalled. “I explained to her again that it is a unifying concept in life science. It is in every unit I teach. There was a big sigh.”

”I thought I was going crazy,” said Ms. New, who has won several outstanding teacher awards and is one of only two teachers at her school with national board certification. The other is her husband, Ward.

”It takes a lot to stand up and be willing to have people angry at you,” she said. But Ms. New did. She repeatedly urged her supervisors to read Georgia’s science standards, particularly S7L5, which calls for teaching evolution….

Suddenly the superintendent was focused on standards. Mr. Moye called the state department’s middle school science supervisor and asked about evolution. “Obviously the State Department of Education supports evolution,” Mr. Moye said in an interview….

Ms. New said that from then on, including the entire 2005-06 school year, she had no problem teaching evolution. “What saved me, was I didn’t have to argue evolution with these people. All I had to say was, ‘I’m following state standards.’ “

This is why strong science standards are so important for overwhelmed teachers. They give teachers an easy way to resolve curriculum issues in their favor. Of course, in an ideal world all teachers would have the time and patience to teach their parents and administrators about evolution. However, teachers will be the first to tell you that the world is not ideal.

I am glad that I was a part of the campaign to improve Georgia’s standards. And I hope that you will get involved in your state.

It looks like the case of six private school students against the University of California system will go forward to trial, as reported by Sean Nealon. The UC system sets course standards for admission, and has not approved certain courses, including biology, offered at the Christian private schools that the students attend. The students claim a violation of free speech and religious rights. The judge hearing arguments on UC’s motion to dismiss has said that he is leaning toward sending this one to trial.

Update: See also my post on the Austringer and Ed Brayton’s longer discussion on Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

In this recently posted interview, historian of science Ron Numbers said the following:

QUESTION: So, in a certain sense, doesn't this represent some sort of divide between religion and science?

MR. NUMBERS: To me, the struggle in the late 20th Century between creationists and evolutionists does not represent another battle between science and religion because rarely do creationists display hostility towards science. If you read their literature, you'll rarely come across an anti-scientific notion. They love science. They love what science can do. They hate the fact that science has been hijacked by agnostics and atheists to offer such speculative theories as organic evolution. So, they don't see themselves as being antagonistic to science any more than many of the advocates of evolution - those who see evolution as God's method of creation - view themselves as hostile to Christianity.

In this post over at EvolutionBlog, I explain why Numbers is wrong. Creationists are, indeed, anti-science, their perceptions of themselves notwithstanding. Comments can be left there. Enjoy!

This is big.

The world’s leading scientists yesterday urged schools to stop denying the facts of evolution amid controversy over the teaching of creationism.

The national science academies of 67 countries - including the UK’s Royal Society - issued a joint statement warning that scientific evidence about the origins of life was being “concealed, denied, or confused”. It urged parents and teachers to provide children with the facts about the origins and evolution of life on Earth.

This is a nice foil to a recent post on the Discovery Institute’s “Evolution News and Views blog,” noting that their list of “dissenting scientists” has now exceeded 600 individuals, and touting that more international scientists are signing on:

(Continued at Aetiology…)

Joey Campana has developed a site based on the MediaWiki software called ResearchID.org. They made a point of noting that it opened, June 22, 2006.

That’s a mere four years and one day after I announced the opening of TalkDesign.org (TD) at the end of my talk at the CSICOP Fourth World Skeptics Conference. I also pointed out on that day that “intelligent design” had failed to produce on the promised scientific basis for ID, despite the assurances of Wedge document, Rob Koons, and William Dembski that that was priority one for the ID movement.

Let’s consider some of Campana’s welcome letter:

A major priority for ResearchID.org’s administrative team is to provide a place where investigation of intelligent design can take place absent from the tumult of politics and social polemics that surround the issue of ID. A principle focus of this effort to escape the rhetoric is developing a fulcrum of discussion, so that all sides can speak the same language, instead of talking past each other as participants in debates about ID tend to do. This non-polemical environment can allow for some accumulation of some of the “critical mass” that ID theorists mention when they speak of scientific research into a new idea.

Sounds nice. What I’d like to know is where these nicely-behaving non-polemical ID “theorists” are going to come from? I can see that it will be easy to simply say that any known ID critic is off-limits on the site (forgoing any argument about individual commitment to polemics) and you would still have a lot of possible people to step in and take up a skeptical stance. But what about ID advocates? If you exclude the polemical ones, then you have pretty much eliminated the well-known names of the ID movement. Who is going to step in and provide that measured, mature, and non-rhetorical voice for ID?

Anti-ID groups are now parasitical on the claims of ID for their existence. Unwittingly, they have become pawns and foils for ID theorists and researchers. The intelligent design community is in a position where we are setting the agenda, now all we have to do is to continuing bringing more meat to the table.

I think that there is a nugget of truth here: scientists are primarily reacting to anti-science movements. I’d love to do my job well enough that I would be looking for something else to do. And I can find plenty of other stuff to write about here on PT. But other than the nugget of reaction rather than pro-active measures on the part of the scientific community, this bit of text from Campana is completely out in the weeds. One cannot “continue” to do what one has never done before.

Hi, everyone! This is Prof. Steve Steve blogging the Evolution 2006 meeting here on Long Island at SUNY-Stonybrook, home of Douglas Futuyma, Massimo Pigluicci, and other muckety-mucks of evolutionary biology like me. I am a special guest for the spiffy day-long symposium on the Kitzmiller v. Dover case that showed that the ID movement had no clothes, which of course I helped to win. Many of the experts and lawyers, as well as a plaintiff and reporter, are going to be speaking at the symposium.

My buddy Nick Matzke is also here, unfortunately that idiot forgot to bring a camera so this will be a picture-free blog by Prof. Steve Steve. If anyone else has a camera, don’t bother trying to find me at the meeting, because I am currently practicing my invisibility superpower and hanging out with the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Don’t believe me? Invisible Pink Unicorns and Invisible Prof. Steve Steves are not testable hypotheses, you say? Well, do you hold a B. Amboo Chair in Creatoinformatics at the University of Ediacara? Are you a J.D.-M.D.-quintuple Ph.D., seven-time Nobel nominee, often called the Izaak Walton of information theory and the Ulysses S. Grant of drinking contests? I didn’t think so. It takes special training, like mine, to understand IPU and IPU-like phenomena.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

June 18, 2006 - June 24, 2006 is the previous archive.

July 2, 2006 - July 8, 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.01