January 28, 2007 - February 3, 2007 Archives

State Senator Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs has introduced a “Religious Bill of Rights for Individuals Connected to Public Schools” into the Colorado legislature. I have heard through the grapevine that similar bills may be planned for all other states. You may read some of the purported motivation for the bill at Senator Schultheis’s home page, http://www.daveschultheis.com/ and in the bill itself. You may find the bill by going to http://www.leg.state.co.us/ and searching for SB07-138. Hearings have not yet been scheduled.

Briefly, the bill

Update, February 4, 2007. 570 churches from 50 states and 4 foreign countries are participating in Evolution Sunday. See http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/rel_evol_sun20… . I will update the number here every day or so through February 11.

February 7, 2007, 9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, 584 congregations.

February 8, 2007, 9 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, 598 congregations.

February 10, 2007, 9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, 601 congregations.

February 11, 2007, 8 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, 611 congregations. Tomorrow, February 12, is Darwin Day; see http://www.darwinday.org/ . Click Events to find an activity in your area. I will leave this Sticky in place till midafternoon tomorrow, in case anyone wants to report on Evolution Sunday events in his or her area.

I recently received a request from Michael Zimmerman, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Biology at Butler University in Indiana, to help him promote Evolution Sunday, February 11, 2007. Professor Zimmerman is also the founder of The Clergy Letter Project, which you can read about here http://www.evolutionsunday.org. The Clergy Letter Project is terribly important because it counters the view that evolution is inherently atheistic, and the signers of the document are the natural allies of us who want to promote good science education and keep all species of creationism out of the public schools and indeed out of the public agenda. Beyond that, I will let Professor Zimmerman speak for himself:

The Discovery Institute has certainly been busy since I last posted on a series of Intelligent Design Creationism measures introduced into the New Mexico Legislature.

They have been busy making their usual Opening Moves: claiming The New Mexico bill is not about intelligent design, and It is censorship!

After Casey Luskin’s latest tirade against “Darwinists in New Mexico,” I was inspired to make the following Cartoon Interpretation.

The punchline appears below the fold.

Over at the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints Division, Michael Behe seems to be a wee bit concerned by the attention that a recent Nature paper is getting, moaning that, “It seems some scientists have discovered that one way to hype otherwise-lackluster work is to claim that it discredits ID.”

OK. To start with, watching Michael Behe whine about someone else using ID to hype “otherwise-lackluster work” creates a concentration of irony so dense that four mining firms have put in bids for that post. Sorry, but I had to get that one out of my system. Now that I’ve more or less managed to get that minor issue out of the way, let’s look at what, for lack of a better term, we will have to call the “substance” of Behe’s complaints.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

French Schools Swamped by Books Challenging Evolution

PARIS (AFP) - Tens of thousands of French schools and universities have received copies of a Turkish book refuting Darwin’s theory of evolution and describing it as “the true source of terrorism.”

The education ministry said Friday that it had warned school and university directors that the textbook is not in line with the recognized curriculum and that they should disregard it.

Entitled “The Atlas of Creation”, the 770-page book by Turkish author Harun Yahya quotes several passages from the Koran and asserts that “human beings did not evolve (from another species) but were indeed created.”

Does Prof. Steve Steve need to go straighten Europe out?

In about 10 minutes (7:30 pm Eastern), Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, is going to give a lecture for the “Fundamentally Speaking” lecture series at SUNY-Cortland. This is for an advanced communications class, so naturally the lecture is streaming live at this link. The topic is “Conservative Christianity and Evolution” (description).

Three books on Kitzmiller v. Dover

Those of you who can’t get enough of the Trial of the (21st) Century are very lucky. This spring, three books are coming out about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. Out yesterday was Ed Humes’s Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul. On April 1, we will have 40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin®, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania by Matthew Chapman. And on May 18 we will have Gordy Slack’s The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and a School Board in Dover, PA. Yet more books/documentaries/movies are in the offing.

There’s an interesting op-ed on teaching evolution in today’s edition of the International Herald Tribune. The opinion piece is written by Michael Balter, and suggests that, “The best way to teach the theory of evolution is to teach this contentious history.” To support this position, Balter points to a 2005 study by Steven Verhey that was published in the November, 2005 issue of BioScience, that suggested that creationist students were more likely to change their views if the curriculum directly addressed creationist objections to evolution.

Balter has been advocating this position for a while now, and his views have been discussed at The Panda’s Thumb before now. Still, the position appears to be at least superficially reasonable, so it’s probably worth another quick look.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

A literary genre, “stream of unconsciousness”, flows from the pen of Casey Luskin. A recent instance of this concerned responses to me, Ed Brayton, and Tim Sandefur concerning Luskin’s claims that legal principles would cause higher courts to “disapprove of” the Kitzmiller decision because of the amount of text Jones copied from the plaintiffs’s proposed findings of fact. I take a look at Luskin’s response and point out some problems in Luskin’s accuracy of recount, structure of argument, premises, and show that Luskin’s asserted “errors” on Jones’s part are either nothing of the sort or don’t signify anything that a higher court would find to be reversible error.

Check it out on the Austringer.

Tangled Bank #72

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The Tangled Bank

The latest Tangled Bank is online at Ouroboros, and it's a big one. I noticed what seemed to be an awful lot of entries whizzing through my mailbox on the way, so I had a suspicion that we were giving Chris a workout with this edition.

I suppose everyone has someone who they consider an embarrassment to their alma mater. I can probably think of a dozen just off the top of my head regarding my undergraduate institution (including a number of politicians who shall remain nameless). However, one who really sticks in my craw is the infamous Jonathan Wells of the Discovery Institute, who also happens to be a Yale alum (Divinity school—small comfort that it wasn’t Yale College, at least).

So, Wells has been back polluting Yale lately, via the Opinion pages of the student newspaper, the Yale Daily News. Predictably, Wells mischaracterizes evolution, but he also uses his “authority” as a theologian to rail against the upcoming Evolution Sunday sermons, following a previous editorial by Jonathan Dudley describing Evolution Sunday as “not entirely benign.” Dudley is a student at the Divinity school where Wells received his degree, and according to the YDN, is also a molecular oncology researcher at the Yale School of Medicine–so he dislikes the perceived conflict between science and religion. As such, he’s in favor of events like Evolution Sunday that seek to counter this idea, but he’s worried that one argument from authority is being traded for another:

(Continued at Aetiology)

More on the “costs” of evolution

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Walter ReMine (an anti-evolutionist who ardently believes that “Haldane’s Dilemma” is a real problem for evolution) recently updated the entry for “Haldane’s Dilemma” at the CreationWiki. The update does not directly refer to my recent posts on the topic, but does address the points that I made. Actually, “address” is probably the wrong word - he provides a hand-waving dismissal without actually responding to any of the specific points I raised. Ordinarily, a hand-waving response isn’t worth the effort needed to write a reply, but in this case the errors that ReMine makes are worth discussing simply because they provide a convenient jumping-off point for a discussion of the way evolution actually works.

Read More (at The Questionable Authority):

flock%20of%20dodos.jpg Bill Dembski ‘discusses’ a new book, to be released soon, titled Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism & Intelligent Design Cambridge House Press, Inc. (release date 02.28.07) By Barrett Brown, Jon P. Alston

The book description may explain why the book is almost outselling some of Dembski’s own books, before it has been released…

Kazmer Ujvarosy (chief scientist of the Frontline Science Institute, one of the most prestigious research organizations dedicated to Intelligent Design) explains the theory of Intelligent Design in a very clear manner

First of all, they allege that ID theorists failed to name the designer.

….

If ID critics want me to be even more specific, Christ identified himself as that intelligence which created the universe to make reproductions of himself in the form of human beings. In other words we find design in nature because Christ constitutes the seed of the universe, or the cosmic system’s input and output. As he disclosed it in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

It only gets better

Hello Panda’s Thumbers. I haven’t posted for quite a few months, although there is news from Kansas that I’ll have to share in just a few days.

But here’s the quick way to put up a post - offer something written by someone else.

A few months ago Pulitzer Price winning author Edward Humes (www.edwardhumes.com) contacted Liz Craig and me at Kansas Citizens for Science, offering us an advance copy of his new book, “Monkey Girl,” about the Dover trial. I had been interviewed by Ed back during the Kansas 2005 “science hearings,” and material about Kansas is in “Monkey Girl” as background material.

We passed the book over to fellow KCFS board member Pat Hayes, whose blog Red State Rabble is a popular daily read for many. Pat loved the book, and wrote an excellent post about it. I’d like to pass Pat’s post on in its entirety, although you can go here and read in its home location if you wish, particularly if you want to follow the links to online book stores or to the audio excerpts. There’s a lot about Kansas here, but this is timely given that the Kansas Board of Education will be voting in just two weeks to throw out the creationist science standards and to adopt the high-quality standards written by the duly-appointed science standards writing committee.

So be sure to read to the end to read Pat’s strong endorsement of “Monkey Girl,” and put it on your reading list when it comes out in just a few days.

Wells vs Mutant Mice

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Discovery Institute Fellow Jonathan Wells has for some time insisted that genes actually don’t do much, and that mutations in genes cannot play a significant role in evolution. One aspect of this is his claim that mutations in genes play little role in cancer. If he can throw doubt on the ability of genetic mutation to produce cancer, then by implication genetic mutation is not a force in evolutionary biology, and cannot be sculpted by natural selection. I have written about genes, cancer and Jonathan Wells before showing that he is greatly mistaken. However, recently published work has provided yet more evidence for a central role of genetic mutation in cancer, and further demolishes (if that is possible) Wells’s thesis[1,2,3,4].

No fewer than four Intelligent Design Creationism measures have been introduced in the current 60-day 2007 session of the State Legislature of New Mexico. There are two pairs of measures, with corresponding actions before the Senate and the House.

The Senate sponsor is State Sen. Steve Komadina, who has introduced both Senate Bill 371, “SCHOOL SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS,” and Senate Joint Memorial 9, “OBJECTIVE TEACHING OF BIOLOGICAL ORIGINS.”

The House sponsor is State Rep. W. C. “Dub” Williams, who has introduced identical resolutions House Bill 506 and House Joint Memorial 14

While the House and Senate Bills explicity avoid the E-word (evolution), the Joint Memorials attack evolution four times each.

On Monday, January 29th, House Joint Memorial 14 was considered by the House Judiciary committee, and was tabled after a lengthy discussion.

Over at scienceblogs.com, there is an ongoing series of posts covering basic concepts in science. John Wilkins (who was the one who had the idea for the series in the first place) is maintaining a list of posts in the series. If you are interested in evolution, you will probably appreciate all of the posts in the biology section of the list. The following post is my first contribution to this series. I’m crossposting it here because the concept - fitness - has come up in the comments in both of my two most recent posts here.

In 1862, the British philosopher Herbert Spencer used the phrase “survival of the fittest” to describe Darwin’s concept of natural selection. It’s not a bad phrase, really, and it doesn’t do a bad job of describing natural selection - the individuals in any population that are “fittest” - best suited to reproduce - are the ones most likely to reproduce successfully. If this is correct (and it is), we can expect that “fitness” would be a very important concept in evolutionary biology. It is, of course, and John Wilkins has already provided a good explanation of the concept in general. I’m going to look at something a little more specific - how can we measure fitness.

Continue reading (at The Questionable Authority):

Fisking Turner

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Jeffrey Shallit has already replied to this deeply silly opinion piece from biologist J. Scott Turner. But there is so much inanity in Turner's piece that I couldn't resist taking a shot at it myself. A subscription is required to read the essay online, but I think I've quoted enough of it to give you a pretty good idea. Comments can be left over at EvolutinBlog. Enjoy!

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