NEWS FROM EARLIER IN THE YEAR 2005
Posted December 22nd, 2005
Re the Dec. 20th <alliteration>Devastating Dover Decision Dumping on Design</alliteration>, here are some of the more memorable reactions:
William Dembski, on making Dover decision lemons into lemonade: "This galvanizes the Christian community. ... People Im talking to say were going to be raising a whole lot more funds now.
Sen. Rick Santorum Quits Thomas More Law Center : SignOnSanDiego.com reports on Dec. 22nd that "Sen. Rick Santorum says he intends to withdraw his affiliation with the Christian-rights law center that defended a school district's policy mandating the teaching of 'intelligent design.' Santorum, the Senate's No. 3 Republican who is facing a tough re-election challenge next year, earlier praised the Dover Area School District for 'attempting to teach the controversy of evolution.' But the day after a federal judge ruled the district's policy on intelligent design unconstitutional, Santorum told The Philadelphia Inquirer he was troubled by testimony indicating religion motivated some board members to adopt the policy. ..."
Oops, DIs Freudian Slip is showing read Dave Thomas's Dec. 21st blog on the Discovery Institute's "Freudian Slips"
"Evolution named 2005's top scientific breakthrough" - Reuters reports on Dec. 22nd that "Two days after a U.S. judge struck down the teaching of intelligent design theory in a Pennsylvania public school, the journal Science on Thursday proclaimed evolution the breakthrough of 2005. Wide-ranging research published this year, including a study that showed a mere 4 percent difference between human and chimpanzee DNA, built on Charles Darwin's landmark 1859 work "The Origin of Species" and the idea of natural selection, the journal's editors wrote. 'Amid this outpouring of results, 2005 stands out as a banner year for uncovering the intricacies of how evolution actually proceeds,' they wrote. 'Ironically, also this year, some segments of American society fought to dilute the teaching of even the basic facts of evolution.'..."
Ice Age Footprints in Australia...
AP reports on Dec. 21st that "Hundreds of human footprints dating back to the last Ice Age have been found in the remote Australian Outback, an official and media reported Thursday. ... The prints were made in moist clay near the Willandra Lakes 19,000 to 23,000 years ago, the newspaper reported ahead of archeologists' report on the find to be published in the Journal of Human Evolution. State Environment Minister Bob Debus said the site showed a large group of people walking and interacting. ..."
LiveScience.com reports on Dec. 19th that "Scientists have mapped part of the genome of the woolly mammoth, a huge mammal that's been extinct for about 10,000 years. The breakthrough could lead to recreating the creatures. ..."
Cloning Claim Questioned...
The Boston Globe reported on Dec. 20th that "A landmark 2004 paper in which South Korean scientists claimed to have cloned human stem cells for the first time contains photos that appeared in an unrelated paper, calling their claim into question and increasing the controversy that surrounds the team. ..."
Stalin wanted Ape-Human Soldiers...
The Scotsman reports on Dec. 20th that "The Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the creation of Planet of the Apes-style warriors by crossing humans with apes, according to recently uncovered secret documents. Moscow archives show that in the mid-1920s Russia's top animal breeding scientist, Ilya Ivanov, was ordered to turn his skills from horse and animal work to the quest for a super-warrior. ... Mr Ivanov's experiments, unsurprisingly from what we now know, were a total failure. He returned to the Soviet Union, only to see experiments in Georgia to use monkey sperm in human volunteers similarly fail. ..."
Santa Fe Judge Restrains David Letterman from Psychic Badgering...
The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Dec. 21st that "Late last week, a Santa Fe District Court judge [Daniel Sanchez] signed a temporary restraining order against talk-show host David Letterman alleging he has tormented a city resident for more than 10 years by using code words on his television program. ... [Colleen ] Nestler wrote that she began sending Letterman 'thoughts of love' after the Late Show With David Letterman began on CBS in 1993. 'Dave responded to my thoughts of love, and, on his show, in code words & obvious indications through jestures (sic) and eye expressions, he asked me to come east,' she wrote. Then, three days before Thanksgiving in 1993, Letterman asked Nestler to be his wife during a televised 'teaser' for his show when he said, 'Marry me Oprah,' Nestler wrote in the letter. 'Oprah had become my first of many code names,' she wrote. ..."
Editor's note: This story is not newsworthy because it shows there are wacky people in Santa Fe. We all knew that. It's newsworthy because it shows how wacky Santa Fe judges can be.
Work on Synthetic Species Underway...
The Globe and Mail reports on Dec. 19th that "Work on the world's first human-made species is well under way at a research complex in Rockville, Md., and scientists in Canada have been quietly conducting experiments to help bring such a creature to life. ... The project is being spearheaded by U.S. scientist Craig Venter, who gained fame in his former job as head of Celera Genomics, which completed a privately-owned map of the human genome in 2000. Dr. Venter, 59, has since shifted his focus from determining the chemical sequences that encode life to trying to design and build it: "We're going from reading to writing the genetic code," he said in an interview. ..."
DNA/Protein Ingredients Found in Space...
RedOrbit reports on Dec. 20th that "NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered some of life's most basic ingredients in the dust swirling around a young star. The ingredients -- gaseous precursors to DNA and protein -- were detected in the star's terrestrial planet zone, a region where rocky planets such as Earth are thought to be born. ..."
ABC News reporter John Stossel often criticizes the Agency for International Development for acknowledging that DDT is safe, but not spending a penny on DDT to combat malaria in Uganda. John Fleck has dug up proof that Stossel's claim is erroneous.
Roswell's Walter Haut dead at 83...
The Albuquerque Tribune, via the AP, reported on Dec. 19th that "A U.S. Army lieutenant who issued a now-famous news release that sparked decades of speculation about whether aliens really crash-landed here in 1947 has died. Walter Haut, a former spokesman for the now-defunct Roswell Army Air Field, died of natural causes Thursday in Roswell ... Haut listened closely on July 8, 1947, as base commander Col. William Blanchard dictated information about a recovered flying saucer and ordered Haut to issue it. ..."
Fumble Warning to AP: The claim that Col. Blanchard dictated the press release is highly disputed. Get Pflock's book.
ID Courses Appearing in Universities...
The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) reports on Nov. 21st that "According to the Wall Street Journal, classes questioning evolution have begun to establish themselves at universities across the country. ... Courses on the theory of intelligent design have emerged at state universities in Minnesota, Georgia and New Mexico, and at private institutions such as Wake Forest, Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne. ... The establishment of intelligent design on campuses has provoked a backlash. Last month, University of Idaho President Tim White declared that teaching of 'views that differ from evolution' in science courses is 'inappropriate.' Mainstream scientists cite what they claim as overwhelming evidence for evolution, and condemn 'wrong science.' Leslie McFadden, chair of earth and planetary sciences at the University of New Mexico, says: 'My interest is in making sure that intelligent design and creationism do not make the kind of inroads at the university level that theyre making at the K-12 level. You cant teach whatever you damn well please. If youre a geologist, and you decide that the earths core is made of green cheese, you cant teach that.' ..."
'666' Demoted, No Longer "Number of the Beast"...
For this, our last News Post of 2005, we go all the way back to May for this under-reported shocker. Canada.com reported on May 4th that "Satanists, apocalypse watchers and heavy metal guitarists may have to adjust their demonic numerology after a recently deciphered ancient biblical text revealed that 666 is not the fabled Number of the Beast after all. A fragment from the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating to the Third century, gives the more mundane 616 as the mark of the Antichrist. Ellen Aitken, a professor of early Christian history at McGill University, said the discovery appears to spell the end of 666 as the devil's prime number. ..."
Posted December 20th, 2005
It's Over in Dover...
U.S. District Judge John Jones has ruled on the Kitzmiller case in Dover, PA, and it's a smashing defeat for "Intelligent Design." Here are some choice bits from the ruling:
To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.
Hey, Rio Rancho - did you hear that?
The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.
With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
As expected, the Discovery Institute has responded forcefully and inanely. After the decision came down, DI announced "'The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work,' said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think tank researching the scientific theory known as intelligent design. ...[West said] ... Judge Jones got on his soapbox to offer his own views of science, religion, and evolution. He makes it clear that he wants his place in history as the judge who issued a definitive decision about intelligent design. This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur.""
Perhaps Discovery didn't notice that their claims of "censorship" and "judicial activism" were already addressed in passages from Jones' ruling above:
Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom. ...
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID. ...
Read more about ... G. W. Bush appointee Judge John Jones
And catch up with the Blogosphere - Panda's Thumb, Red State Rabble, Pharyngula and Dispatches from the Culture Wars should get you started.
There'll be many a scientist partaking of a distilled beverage tonight, mateys!
Posted December 16th, 2005
Scientologists permit Tour of secretive New Mexico Facility...
The Albuquerque Journal reported on Dec. 11th that "Several San Miguel County officials recently got a look inside the Church of Scientology's compound east of here [Las Vegas, NM], which has been back in the news because of landscape markings visible only from the sky. The compound was built in the 1980s in high desert country near the community of Trementina, about 40 miles from Las Vegas, and includes an underground archive for the writings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. A Scientology corporation called the Church of Spiritual Technology runs the compound. ... The interlocking circles etched in the desert match the logo of the Church of Spiritual Technology. 'There's been speculation as to what it really is,' Najar said of the compound, noting rumors that have floated around about everything from the markings on the ground to the contents of the buildings on the premises. But in their invitation-only tour, Najar and the other county officials found no major surprises just an apparently expensive archival center designed to safeguard many of Scientology's key works. ..."
NM SpacePort Countdown Begins...
The Albuquerque Journal reported on Dec. 15th that "In the 1990 television movie 'Sparks: The Price of Passion,' actress Victoria Principal played the mayor of Albuquerque, caught up in an imbroglio over a high-profile economic development project. In 2009 or so, Principal hopes to play the role of one of the country's first paying astronauts, possibly from one of the largest economic development projects in the state's history a planned $225 million spaceport in southern New Mexico that officials hope will be the hub of a new industry. By plunking down the full $200,000 cost earlier this year, she became one of 100 'founders' of space tourism company Virgin Galactic, which has announced plans to eventually take 10,000 passengers per year into space from its proposed headquarters south of Truth or Consequences. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/416545nm12-15-05.htm?lrail (subscription)
Bob Park of "What's New" has weighed in on the proposal: "SPACE DEVELOPMENT: WILL 'SIX FLAGS OVER THE MOON' BE NEXT? The big news this week is that New Mexico is building the first commercial spaceport. British entrepreneur Richard Branson says his Virgin Galactic Airline will use the spaceport to launch tourists on suborbital flights beginning in 2008. A $200,000 ticket will buy you five minutes of weightlessness, with no extra charge for space sickness. With America's once-proud space program hard-put to support a crew of only two, wandering lost in the cavernous ISS, the future in space seems to be theme parks. ..."
Has the Internet killed the UFO Movement?
An interesting, if perhaps overly optimistic view, from Douglas Kern at Tech Central Station (Nov. 9th): "If you're looking for one of those famous, big-eyed alien abductors, try looking on the sides of milk cartons. The UFO cultural moment in America is long since over, having gone out with the Clintons and grunge rock in the 90s. Ironically, the force that killed the UFO fad is the same force that catapulted it to super-stardom: the Internet. And therein hangs a tale about how the Internet can conceal and reveal the truth. ...Yet in recent years, interest in the UFO phenomenon has withered. Oh, the websites are still up, the odd UFO picture is still taken, and the usual hardcore UFO advocates make the same tired arguments about the same tired cases, but the thrill is gone. What happened? Why did the saucers crash? ... The Internet showed this particular emperor to be lacking in clothes. If UFOs and alien visitations were genuine, tangible, objective realities, the Internet would be an unstoppable force for detecting them. How long could the vast government conspiracy last, when intrepid UFO investigators could post their prized pictures on the Internet seconds after taking them? How could the Men in Black shut down every website devoted to scans of secret government UFO documents? How could marauding alien kidnappers remain hidden in a nation with millions of webcams? ..."
He's Big, He's Hairy, and He's in Chuck Darwin's Corner...
Is One King Kong Movie worth 1000 Darwin Exhibits? Dave Thomas blogs about Simon Houpt's comments (in the Toronto Globe and Mail) on the new King Kong movie: "Kong laughs, he cries, he pouts, he is shamed, he is proud, he has childish temper tantrums, he takes his date skating in Central Park. Hes us, and we are him, and the filmmakers have placed a $207-million (U.S.) bet that audiences from Tacoma, Wash., to Dover, Pa., will be taken in by Kongs humanity. Audiences may not realize it, but the movie is a forceful argument for shared traits, Darwins notion the one that so disturbs creationists that weve evolved from other primates. Which means that, as good as the efforts are of the American Museum of Natural History, in the end that big monkey may do more to crush the creationists than a thousand intelligently designed Darwin exhibits ever could. "
Posted December 9th, 2005
Dog DNA Shows Surprises...
The Guardian (UK) reports on Dec. 8th that "Tasha the boxer is about to help reveal why dogs have been man's trusted companions and hunting partners throughout recorded history. Researchers have compiled the 12-year-old's DNA recipe, bringing scientists a step closer to finding the genetic causes of diseases common to all mammals and identifying the differences between dog breeds. ... Today, an international consortium, including British teams from Oxford and Cambridge, and led by scientists from the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, unveils Tasha's DNA code in the journal Nature. ... By tracking evolution's genetic footprints through the dog, human and mouse genomes, the scientists found that humans share more ancestral DNA with dogs than with mice, confirming that dog genes can be used to understand human disease. They also found that selective breeding has shuffled large blocks of DNA code among dog breeds, which should make it easier to find the genes responsible for body size, behaviour and disease. 'The genetic contributions to many common diseases appear to be easier to uncover in dogs,' said Dr Lindblad-Toh, the report's first author. 'If so, it is a significant step forward in understanding the roots of genetic disease in both dogs and humans.' ..."
New Mammalian Carnivore Found in Borneo...
Reuters reported on Dec. 5th that "Environmental researchers are preparing to capture what they call a new, mysterious species of carnivore on Borneo, the first such discovery on the wildlife-rich Indonesian island in over a century. Swiss-based environmental group WWF said on Monday its researchers photographed the strange animal, which looks like a cross between a cat and a fox, in the dense, central mountainous rainforests of Borneo. 'This could be the first time in more than a century that a new carnivore has been discovered on the island,' said the WWF in a statement. ..."
More info, and a photograph: http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/12/05/051206001323.v7bezwpo.html
Michael Fumento, Journalist or Tool?
John Fleck has the nitty gritty analysis on his Inkstain.net page. Fleck writes on Dec. 5th "Theres this strange sort of schoolyard bully pleasure in taunting Michael Fumento. I wonder, though, if were the bullies, or if he is. I sorta feel like the skinny guy, taking pleasure in the bullys comeuppance. But I dunno. Maybe were being the bullies. Should I feel bad, picking on poor Michael? The thing is, Fumento is, at times, a quite talented journalist. But then, over and over again, he shows himself to be a complete tool. ... He said something that was false, easily demonstrated to be so, and his response was not to defend his argument, nor to correct his mistake, but to attack his critics. ... The falsehood remains on his own web site. ... The strange thing is, as I said above, Fumento seems to be capable of really good work. I happen to agree, for example, with the point he made in his Weekly Standard piece about the hyping of the bird flu. But, with little personal knowledge of the subject, I just have to wonder what sort of Lancet-style howlers might be in there that hell be unwilling to acknowledge and correct if he got them wrong. Thats why its important for journalists to acknowledge and correct their mistakes. Their credibility is at stake."
NM gets an "A" for Science Standards...
On the Panda's Thumb blog, I wrote on Dec. 7th that "Its near the end of the fall term, and Report Cards are in! The Fordham Foundation report on Americas science standards, 'The State of State Science Standards 2005,' has been released. ... There are some key points emerging from this report. For one, this years dumbing-down of Kansas standards got the Fordham folks mad - really mad. 'Note added In Proof: The early warnings have been justified. Kansas has adopted standards whose treatment of evolutionary material has been radically compromised. The effect transcends evolution, however. It now makes a mockery of the very definition of science. The grade for Kansas is accordingly reduced to F.' Additionally, the report directly contradicts the claims of the Discovery Institutes incessant revisionists. ..."
Fordham Report Comments on Creationism disguised as "Critical Thinking"...
In the aforementioned Fordham Foundation report, the authors make a comment that bears directly on the current Rio Rancho situation. They note that "Criterion E1, the first of the two concerned with seriousness about science education, denies credit points to any standards that include, inter alia, 'creationist anti-evolutionism disguised as critical thinking.' The inclusion of such anti-evolution content is a goal of contemporary 'intelligent design' creationism, now overtaking other, older forms of creationism in the perennial struggle to discredit 'Darwinism.' A decade ago, this movement, which acquired a command post and funding source in the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Washington, argued vigorously for explicit teaching of the evidence for intelligent designfor the role of external, conscious agency in the history of life on Earth. When examined by qualified scientists and mathematicians, however, that evidence turned out not to be evidence, and so it remainsno evidence at the time of writing. The promoters of intelligent design creationism have perforce retreated to arguments that invoke the popular and conveniently vague educationist formula, 'critical thinking.' The claim now is that evidence against 'Darwinism' exists, that curriculum-makers should include it as an exercise in critical thinking, and that 'freedom of speech' or 'fairness' requires that they do so. The hidden agenda is to introduce doubtany possible doubtabout evolution at the critical early stage of introduction to the relevant science. ..."
Source: http://www.edexcellence.net/doc/Science%20Standards.Final%20(12-6).pdf (page 14, 15)
Posted December 2nd, 2005
New Fossil Find Reveals Archaeopteryx Details...
National Geographic reports on Dec. 1st that "A 150-million-year-old fossil of Archaeopteryx, long considered the oldest bird, may put to rest any scientific doubt that dinosaursspecifically the group of two-legged meat-eaters known as theropodsgave rise to modern birds. Until recently, the crow-size specimen was housed in a private collection. It is now owned by the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis.... Archaeopteryx, the fossil shows, had a hyperextendible second toe. Until now, the feature was thought to belong only to the species' close relatives, the deinonychosaurs. ..."
Creo Ken Ham: ID is a "Trojan Horse"...
The Sydney Morning Herald reports on Nov. 27th that "Ken Ham should be on the same side of the street as proponents of intelligent design. After all, he's in opposition to the atheistic view of science as an explanation for the world we see. He, like many people in the intelligent design movement, is a Christian. But intelligent design advocates probably won't thank Australian-born Mr Ham for articulating what many of them try to avoid saying. That is: for some, the intelligent design movement is essentially a stalking horse for religion and, in the US, a way of getting around the separation of church and state to get into schools and influence children's education. ..."
Ham's Website: http://www.answersingenesis.org/home.aspx
A different view: "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design" by Barbara Forrest & Paul R. Gross, http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com/
More Doings in Dover...
The York Dispatch reports on Dec. 2nd that "Attorneys for both sides of the Dover Area School District lawsuit over intelligent design say it may be too late to dismiss the case. Outgoing school board member David Napierski has called on the new school board to rescind the intelligent design policy in an effort to save the school district from paying the plaintiffs' attorney fees should it lose the federal case. ... Richard Thompson, chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which represented the school district, said yesterday, 'Napierskie has the right to ask, but that would only have a bearing on prospective damages and future policies. It would not have any bearings on past actions of the board. Just because you change the policy does not change any alleged constitutional violation that may have occurred when the policy was instituted on Oct. 18, 2004,' Thompson added. Plaintiffs' attorney Witold Walczack of the American Civil Liberties Union said he and his team disagree with Napierskie's analysis. Citing Supreme Court case law, Walczack said a case does not become moot unless there is 'no reasonable expectation that the wrong will be repeated.' ..."
Also on Dec. 2nd, the Dispatch reported that "Dover Area School Board candidates James Cashman and Bryan Rehm will face each other in a special election next month, a judge ruled this morning. York County Court of Common Pleas Judge John S. Kennedy denied Cashman's request to include in the special election all eight candidates who ran for four-year seats in the special election, instead limiting it to only Cashman and Rehm. Rehm defeated Cashman by 96 votes, according to unofficial election night tallies. Cashman appealed the results earlier this week, citing a malfunction by one of the voting machines at Friendship Community Church. He said he believes the machine would have registered more votes for him had it worked correctly. ... Only the 817 people that voted at Friendship Community Church on Nov. 8 will be allowed to vote again. Results of the special election will be added to the votes already tabulated from the other Dover school board precincts to determine a winner. ..."
Can You Believe in God and Evolution?
Four very different answers, from Francis Collins (Director, National Human Genome Research Institute), Steven Pinker (Psychology professor, Harvard University), Michael Behe (Biochemistry professor, Lehigh University; Senior fellow, Discovery Institute) and Albert Mohler (President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).
Does SETI Support Intelligent Design? NO, says SETI's Seth Shostak...
Shostak writes on Dec. 1st at Space.com that "...If SETI were to announce that were not alone because it had detected a signal, it would be on the basis of artificiality. An endless, sinusoidal signal a dead simple tone is not complex; its artificial. Such a tone just doesnt seem to be generated by natural astrophysical processes. In addition, and unlike other radio emissions produced by the cosmos, such a signal is devoid of the appendages and inefficiencies nature always seems to add for example, DNAs junk and redundancy. ..."
Posted November 26th, 2005
Zelicoff: Avian Flu is Hype, Not the Real Threat...
In a Nov. 16th commentary, former Sandia scientist Al Zelicoff says "You wouldn't know it from the hype, but the conditions that caused the 1918 worldwide flu disaster simply do not exist today, making it very unlikely that even modest numbers of humans will get infected with H5N1, become symptomatic or die. Indeed, we already know that some large number of Chinese chicken farmers have picked up the virus, but the overwhelming majority didn't develop so much as a sniffle because their immune systems rapidly eradicated the virus from their bodies. ..."
Part I: http://www1.abqtrib.com/albq/op_commentaries/article/0,2565,ALBQ_19866_4240334,00.html
"Vatican votes for Charles Darwin"...
A Correspondent writes in the November 11 Rediff.Com news that "In a surprising move, the Vatican has come out in defence of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, saying it is perfectly compatible with the Bible's description of how God created the universe. ... Now, criticising Christian fundamentalists who reject Darwin in favour of a literal interpretation of the Bible's account, the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Paul Poupard, has said that both theories are 'perfectly compatible' if the Bible is read correctly. The statement has been viewed as an attack on creationist campaigners in America, who see both theories as mutually exclusive. ..."
And Catholic News Service reports on Nov. 11th that "...the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture was preparing to host a conference on science and theology Nov. 9-11. Speaking to reporters, French Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the council, said the origin of the world is one area where scientists and religious believers must recognize the limits of their own discipline. He said people who support creationism as the only acceptable Christian explanation of the world's origins are 'taking something never meant to be a scientific explanation and calling it science.' ..."
"Intelligent Design: The New Creationism Threatens All of Science and Society"By Marshall Berman, Now Online at the American Physical Society Site...
From the Oct. 2005 issue of APS News, New Mexican physicist Marshall Berman's stinging critique of Intelligent Design Creationism: "...The current Intelligent Design movement poses a threat to all of science and perhaps to secular democracy itself. The movement is highly political, very astute, extremely well-marketed, disingenuous, and grossly misunderstood by most Americans. ..."
Posted November 11th, 2005
Homer is Happy: "Beer May Fight Disease"...
ABC News reports on Nov. 7th "'Mmmm beer.' This oft-repeated sentiment of Homer Simpson is a mantra for the millions of beer drinkers in the United States. As popular as beer is, however, it often has gotten a bad rap as a calorie-loaded beverage that only serves to create paunchy beer bellies and alcohol-fueled lapses in judgment. But that negative image may begin to fade: Research is showing that beer could join the ranks of other guilt-inducing but wildly popular foods -- chocolate, coffee and red wine -- as a possible disease-fighter. ..."
Kansas Returns to 19th Century...
As expected, the Kansas Board of Education has adopted new science standards strongly critical of evolution. But the governor isn't happy. Television station WIBW reported this week that "Gov. Sebelius says Kansans should follow races for State Board of Education seats closely. The governor told reporters she views the board's approval of new science standards, which question evolution, as a step in the wrong direction. And she said changing the board's membership is the only way to change the standards again. But she stopped short of saying she'd campaign against board members. Four of the six who did, all Republicans, face re-election next year. Sebelius told reporters that she's worried about how the board's action will affect the state's efforts to recruit businesses. ..."
Dover Dumps ID Board Members, Robertson Reacts...
Tuesday's election saw eight incumbent Dover School Board members defeated by pro-science challengers, all just a few days after the end of the Dover ID trial on Nov. 4th. Pat Robertson then used his "700 Club" to bash the people of Dover, PA, saying "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city, and don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin, and I'm not saying they will. But if they do, just remember you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, then don't ask for his help, because he might not be there." After the media took notice of this astonishing remark, Robertson explained "I was simply stating that our spiritual actions have consequences and it's high time we started recognizing it. God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever. If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin ... maybe he can help them."
It's rumored that one could hear groans coming from Seattle's Discovery Institute, even hundreds of yards away from the building. So much for the old Dover board's insistence that this "isn't about religion."
New Plot Uncovered - Tin Foil Hats ENHANCE Government Transmissions ...
In the good old days, kooks thought they could protect themselves from mental tampering by the government by wearing metallic hats as shields against nasty transmissions. Alas, electrical engineers at MIT have done the experiment, and found that the helmets actually enhance certain frequency bands - those used by the Federal Government! Is nothing sacred?
MIT Report: http://people.csail.mit.edu/rahimi/helmet/
Posted November 4th, 2005
Dover is Over...
The Dover, PA "Intelligent Design" trial is over. The Chicago Tribune reports on Nov. 4th that "The future of high school biology in one central Pennsylvania school district, and perhaps ultimately in the rest of the country, now rests in the hands of a federal court judge, as a landmark trial on the teaching of intelligent design came to a close here Friday. Judge John E. Jones III said he will decide by year's end whether the Dover Area School District and its board violated the constitutional ban on advancing religious belief in public schools by requiring 9th grade biology students to be informed of intelligent design, or ID. ...Jones essentially will rule on whether ID is a scientific theory or a religious belief. His decision is binding only on the parties concerned but may have a persuasive effect elsewhere in the country, according to lawyers. Attorneys for the defense have said they eventually may take the case to the Supreme Court. ... 'In order for intelligent design to be considered a science, the definition of science must be broadened to include supernatural causes?' plaintiffs' attorney Stephen Harvey asked final defense witness Scott Minnich. 'Correct,' answered Minnich, a Discovery Institute fellow and a microbiologist at the University of Idaho. ..."
Coming next week: elections! ABC News reported on Nov. 1st that "At the polls in Dover, voters will render their decision Nov. 8 on whether to retain eight of the nine Dover Area School Board members all Republicans or replace them with a Democratic slate whose platform calls for removing intelligent design from the curriculum. Republican voters outnumber Democrats in the district nearly 8-5. But party affiliation may not matter in the election: While the challengers are running on the Democratic ticket, half of them are actually registered Republicans, according to a spokesman. ..."
Also, there's a new Panda's Thumb blog by yours truly on some memorable "Homer Simpson" moments from the trial.
Alabama Pi Mutates Again...
Our popular April Fool's Urban Legend, "Alabama Pi" (http://www.nmsr.org/alabama.htm), has mutated yet again, moving west to Crawford, Texas.
Stomach as Lie Detector?
CBS News reports on Oct. 31st that "Polygraphs use electrocardiograms (ECGs) to measure changes in heart rate and sweating to detect lies. But researchers say the stomach and gastrointestinal tract are also extremely sensitive to stress, and this mind-stomach connection may betray even the best liars. Their results suggest that adding gastrointestinal monitoring to standard polygraph techniques may increase the accuracy of lie-detection methods, which are about 90% accurate. ..."
"By the Universe's Early Light"...
MSNBC reports on Nov. 1st that "Astronomers may have detected the dawns early light light from around the dawn of the universe. Researchers from NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland believe they have captured traces of radiation from long-extinguished stars that were 'born' during the universes infancy. The research represents the first tangible but not conclusive evidence of these earliest stars, which are thought to have produced the raw materials from which future stars, including our sun, were created. ..."
Popular Science: Kansas Science Teachers have 3rd Worst Job in Science...
The Kansas City Star reported on Oct. 29th that "Researchers traipsing through jungles collecting orangutan urine have better jobs than a Kansas biology teacher, according to the latest edition of Popular Science. In the magazine's third annual take on the 10 worst jobs in science, those trying to teach evolution in Kansas classrooms come in at No. 3 on the list, topped only by 'human lab rat' test subjects dosed with pesticides and manure inspectors. ..."
Source: http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/business/13026402.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp (registration)
Posted October 28th, 2005
Great Galloping Crinoids...
Science News reported on Oct. 22nd that "A video has caught an underwater animal, which looks like a flower, practically jogging along the ocean bottom. The stalked crinoid spends most of its time sitting and catching food with the flowerlike wheel of feathery arms that have earned it and its relatives the nickname sea lilies. Scientists had known for decades that stalked crinoids sometimes movebut barely. They had been clocked at speeds no greater than 0.6 meter per hour. Now, however, a video from a submersible dive off Grand Bahama Island reveals a speed demon, says Tomasz Baumiller of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. A stalked crinoid pulled itself along the bottom briskly enough for a viewer to notice. Baumiller and Charles Messing of Nova Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center in Dania Beach, Fla., measured its pace at 140 m per hour. ..."
Ken Miller Nails It...
NCSE reports that "On October 21, the American Enterprise Institute sponsored a forum titled 'Science Wars' that focused on the intelligent design/evolution controversy." Here's a great sound bite from Brown biologist Ken Miller, on the ongoig "Intelligent Design" trial in Dover, PA: "...what actually happened in Dover, and all you have to do is read the papers, is after the board of education instructed first its teachers to read the statement about intelligent design, the teachers refused. And they deserve, I think, awards for courage, and they gave as their reason, the PA teacher code of ethics, which they all had to sign, to become teachers in the state of PA, and one of the, the provision of which is I will never knowingly present false information to a student. And if the issues here is academic freedom, how about the academic freedom of the teacher not to present false information. And in a sense that's what the case is about. ..."
More on Dover...
This week, former school board member William Buckingham was caught lying about who paid for getting the book "Of Pandas and People" into Dover school libraries (he did), and also about making the statement a year ago that "Darwinism" should be balanced with "creationism." Mike Argento of the York Daily Record notes on Oct. 28th that "On the tape, which you can see at http://www.ydr.com/mmedia/multi/528, Buckingham, wearing the same lapel pin he wore in court Thursday, said he wanted to balance evolution in the classroom with something else, 'such as creationism.' Oops. He said that the reporter 'ambushed' him and that he was 'like a deer in the headlights of a car' and that the newspapers were all reporting that he and the board were talking about creationism and that he thought to himself, 'Don't say creationism.' Double oops. It was like he had a Homer Simpson moment. He was thinking 'Don't say creationism. Don't say creationism. Don't say creationism.' And then he opens his yap and says 'creationism.' D'oh! ..."
The Panda's Thumb is updating stories on the trial daily. Last week, Michael Behe was skewered on cross-examination. Panda's Thumb reports "...there was a day full of cross examination, in which one would learn that Behe wasnt as familiar with the scientific literature on the immune system as one might hope for someone billed as an 'expert,' that rigorous peer review in 'intelligent design' can be obtained in a ten-minute telephone interview without the reviewer even having to see the manuscript, that the blood-clotting system can be reduced to a 'core' of four parts except that when one does so the result is claimed to be lethal, and much more. ..."
The York Daily Record reported on Oct. 25th that "Testifying on behalf of the Dover Area School District in U.S. Middle District Court, philosophy of science expert Steve Fuller said intelligent design "can't spontaneously generate a following" because the scientific community shuts the door on radical views. ... during cross-examination, he said intelligent design the idea that the complexity of life requires a designer is 'too young' to have developed rigorous testable formulas and sits on the fringe of science. He suggested that perhaps scientists should have an "affirmative action" plan to help emerging ideas compete against the "dominant paradigms" of mainstream science. ..."
Rio Rancho Updates...
There is more on the ACLU letter to teachers, the Albuquerque Journal's business column dumps on "Design" in school, and a letter to the editor shows how policy 401 is perceived in the community.
Did Van Praagh contact Johnny Carson's Spirit?
James Randi's commentary for October 21, 2005 has this article of note: "James Van Praagh claims he communicates with the dead. Such pretensions are always laughable, and often revolting. Now this tubby travesty of a man has gone over the line, big time. He has chosen to insult the memory of a friend who would kick his butt if he were here to defend himself. On the 'Insider' TV program, plugging his latest foray into deception via TV, Van Praagh claimed that hed contacted the ghost of Johnny Carson. To no ones surprise, hosts Pat O'Brien and Victoria Recano, were 'stunned' by his ability to look up information on them via the Internet, and to provide them with the usual array of picayune 'revelations.' ... Just look at the inane crap conjured up by the faker as he invaded the private beach walk where Johnny used to stroll near his Malibu beachside estate:
I think he felt very safe here. I think he would choose the same time every day to come down this path. I think this is where he got a sense of contemplation. He would think about things here. He would think about his family. He was a family man. I think he was a lot deeper than people gave him credit for but I think that he didn't want to let people to know about that part of him. I feel he wished that things were different. I think he felt guilty when he died that certain things in his family were not resolved at the time of his death.
In those 111 vapid words, Van Praagh manages to hedge even these simple, obvious, trite, guesses by working in modifiers six 'I think' and one 'I feel' the usual generalized escape-hatches. The actual content itself is so non-significant that it could be generated by a child. Somehow, it has escaped Van Praaghs attention that Johnny Carson despised frauds, particularly those who choose to feed on the vulnerability of the grieving and needy. That wasnt part of the 'message' that he shared with us from The Great Beyond. ..."
Posted October 22nd, 2005
ACLU States Rio Rancho Position to Teachers ...
The Albuquerque Journal reported on Oct. 20th that "Rio Rancho teachers should not be afraid to say 'no' to teaching intelligent design in their science classes. That's the message in an American Civil Liberties Union e-mail sent to 80 middle, mid-high and high school science teachers this week. The organization also offered to assist any teacher disciplined because of the matter. The letters also were sent to the five members of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education, ACLU executive director Peter Simonson said. ... Some Rio Rancho students are being prompted to provoke discussion leading to intelligent design, according to the ACLU letter. Simonson said that during an event Friday at Destiny Center church in Rio Rancho, students were encouraged to question evolution. Schlichte was at the Friday meeting, leading the closing prayer, he said. The ACLU letter encourages teachers to respond to those students 'with a brief comment on why intelligent design is not science and therefore not appropriate material for the science classroom and then direct the class to legitimate science curriculum.' ..."
Effect of Red Bull is bull...
Samara Alpern of the Daily Lobo (UNM) writes on Oct. 18th that "...Since the basic formula for Red Bull was developed in Thailand, it's possible that taurine, glucuronolactone and B vitamins are valued for different medicinal properties than they are in the United States, but according to Western science, these ingredients have questionable physiological value at best. A cup of sweetened coffee or a Coke or two will do basically the same for you as a Red Bull - at about a quarter of the price. ..."
Behe On Cross in Dover...
Mike Argento of the York Daily Record (PA) writes on Oct. 19th that "Dr. Michael Behe, leading intellectual light of the intelligent design movement, faced a dilemma. In order to call intelligent design a 'scientific theory,' he had to change the definition of the term. It seemed the definition offered by the National Academy of Science, the largest and most prestigious organization of scientists in the Western world, was inadequate to contain the scope and splendor and just plain gee-willigerness of intelligent design. ... Details aside, his definition was broader and more inclusive of ideas that are 'outside the box.' ... Eric Rothschild, attorney for the plaintiffs, asked Behe about whether astrology was science. And Behe, after hemming and hawing and launching into an abbreviated history of astrology and science, said, under his definition, it is. ..."
Will Global Warming Plague New Mexico?
Yahoo News reports on Oct. 18th that "Warming trends could cause more water shortages in New Mexico, a climatologist predicts. Experts point to carbon dioxide emissions at the primary cause of global warming. Researchers are trying to prove that fossil fuel emissions have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing an increase in the Earth's temperature. Computer simulations support the idea, but that's not necessarily proof, said David Gutzler, a University of New Mexico climatologist. 'We've never gone through global temperature changes like this before,' he said. 'But if we're waiting for 100 percent ironclad proof, we'll just have to keep going and see what happens.' ..."
Posted October 22nd, 2005
ID in Clovis, NM? Yes, No ...
The Clovis News Journal reports on Oct. 13th that "Carl Armstrong is a Christian. He is also a Clovis High School science teacher, and he doesnt think intelligent design has a place in his, or any other, science classroom, at least for now. There is just not enough evidence to support the theory, Armstrong said. ... A letter sent to superintendents from the New Mexico Secretary of Education, and forwarded to Clovis principals, may have squelched intelligent design hype. New Mexico public schools, the letter states, 'are not permitted to endorse a particular religion... We believe this prohibition extends to creation science or any of its variations...' The state mandate puts Clovis High School teacher Peggy Ingram at ease. The biology, human anatomy and physiology instructor does not believe intelligent design should be taught in science class. ... Linda Bolyard, a Clovis Christian School science teacher, is of a vastly different mindset. She teaches creationism alongside evolution in her classrooms. Not doing so, she said, is a disservice to students. In order to become independent thinkers, students need to evaluate various theories, she said. ..."
More Hobbit News...
Carl Zimmer has the latest updates on the "Hobbit" fossils of Indonesia. Were they just pygmies, or microcephalic? The debate heats up.
Ancient Spaghetti ...
Followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are already crowing about this study, reported by the BBC on Oct. 12th. It says "The remains of the world's oldest noodles have been unearthed in China. The 50cm-long, yellow strands were found in a pot that had probably been buried during a catastrophic flood. Radiocarbon dating of the material taken from the Lajia archaeological site on the Yellow River indicates the food was about 4,000 years old. ..."
See Also: http://www.venganza.org/
Rushdie on Kansas, Bloody Kansas ...
The Lawrence Journal-World reports on Oct. 7th that "Citizens of the world should be concerned about religious extremism whether its in Iran or America, says author Salman Rushdie, who was once marked for death by Irans Ayatollah Khomeini. Rushdie compared the emergence of religion into public life in Kansas with similar movements across the world in a lecture Thursday at the Lied Center. 'I would really love never to mention that word again: religion,' Rushdie said. 'But now it seems to be coming right at us all. I dont just mean radical Islam, by the way. I believe we have some problems right here.' ... Rushdie also blasted intelligent design proponents. 'I never had any doubts about evolution theory,' he said. 'I gather there are parts of Kansas where the big bang did not take place.' ..."
Posted October 7th, 2005
Is Harriet Miers a Young Earth Creationist?
From the Panda's Thumb, Oct. 6th, 2005: Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers has "given 10 percent to 12 percent of her earnings 'if not more' to the evangelical Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, where she has been a congregant for about 25 years," according to Judge Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court. It so happens that the Useful Links page for Mierss Valley View Christian Church links prominently to the Creation Evidence Museum, run by Dr. Carl Baugh, a creationist who is so far out as to have been strongly criticized by Answers in Genesis and the Creation Science Foundation. Baugh is perhaps most famous for his fakey Paluxy Mantrack footprints, specifically the Burdick Print, and his fossilized human finger.
A YEC on the Supreme Court? Connect the dots, people connect the dots.
Source (with copious links to references & citations): http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/10/harriet_miers_a.html
Is Cardinal Schoenborn Evolution's Emily Litella?
Carl Zimmer of The Loom writes on Oct. 4th that "In July Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna wrote an eyebrow-raising op-ed in the New York Times that favored Intelligent Design over evolution. Now, as far as I can tell from this Reuters story, he's claiming he was misunderstood. ... Now he's saying that evolution's fine as long as biologists don't conclude that evolution proves there's no creator. Darwin's theory is 'one of the very great works of intellectual history.' Compare this with his claim in July that 'neo-Darwinism' was invented 'to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science.' ... As far as I can tell from the report, Schoenborn seems to be doing his best impression of Emily Litella: 'Never mind.' ..."
Forrest: "Of Pandas and People" IS the ID/Creationism "Smoking Gun"...
Now that the Dover, PA "Intelligent Design" Lawsuit has begun, it could become to "Intelligent Design" what the Scopes Monkey Trial or the Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court case were to creationism. Testimony has begun in the trial, which is expected to last six weeks. The Patriot-News [Harrisburg, PA] reported on October 6th that "Authors of a textbook critical of evolution replaced the word 'creationism' with 'intelligent design' in 1987, soon after the U.S. Supreme Court barred the teaching of creation science in public schools, a professor and researcher of the history of intelligent design testified in federal court yesterday. After the ruling, authors deleted more than 250 references to 'creationism' and the 'creator' from draft versions of the book, 'Of Pandas and People,' and replaced them with 'intelligent design' and 'intelligent designer,' said Barbara Forrest, philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and author of the book 'Creationism's Trojan Horse -- The Wedge of Intelligent Design.' 'The substitution was made throughout' the book, Forrest said. Gesturing to a chart on a courtroom screen, she said a computer word search showed how creationism and similar words were eliminated from the 'Pandas' text after the Supreme Court ruling. 'You just saw the smoking gun,' Nick Matzke, spokesman for the National Center of Science Education, said in an interview after hearing Forrest's testimony. 'This proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that intelligent design is creationism.' ..."
The Discovery Institute is apoplectic. They are trying to distance themselves from the Dover school board, all while still trying to defend "Intelligent Design." It does bring the Keystone Cops to mind.
Your One-Stop Site for All Things Dover: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/09/waterloo_in_dov.html
New Mexico faces its past and future in space...
MSNBC reports on Oct. 7th that "In a sense, America's space age began near here back in 1946, with the firing of a German V-2 rocket to an altitude of 71 miles from White Sands Missile Range. On Friday, rocketeers and schoolchildren came full circle, bringing model rockets and big-rocket dreams back to the V-2's old haunting grounds. 'This is where it all started, and this is where it's all going to start again,' said Steve Bennett, chief executive officer of Starchaser Commercial Space Access, a British-based company that recently expanded to New Mexico. ... Friday's round of educational activities, tied to this week's Countdown to the X Prize Cup exposition, was conducted almost literally in the shadow of a Canadian Arrow rocket mockup that was modeled after the V-2. The Canadian Arrow team, backed by a recently formed venture called PlanetSpace, brought the mockup to the museum to show it off. ..."
Weather Control Schemes "Clouded" by Failure...
LiveScience reported on Oct. 3rd that "Scientists agree they can't totally control the weather. But some experts think they can tame it a bit. Schemes are wide-ranging, with proposals to throttle everything from fog to global warming. Results have been mixed and the controversy constant. Nature's most powerful storms, hurricanes, are another matter. Hurricanes rely on warm water for fuel. Experts disavow schemes from ocean plowing (to cool the water and remove the energy source) to dragging icebergs into the path of a storm. Smaller-scale weather systems might be more open to change. One idea floated a few years back was to beam microwave energy from a satellite to disrupt the convection that drives a tornado. Another idea that remains alive after decades of research is cloud-seeding to increase or decrease rain, fog or hail in certain locations. ..."
Posted September 30th, 2005
Panda Prof Sinks Flood Theory: "Steve Steve and the Fossil-Fossils of De-Na-Zin"...
Prof. Steve Steve of the University of Ediacara has finally written up his fascinating trip to New Mexico's De-Na-Zin Wilderness area (a.k.a. the Bisti Badlands, a.k.a. "Dinosaur Land.") The professor has posted a splendid pictorial journey, and demolishes creationist flood geology to boot! Read "Steve Steve and the Fossil-Fossils of De-Na-Zin" here:
Magnetic Insoles as Placebos...
At TechnologyReview.com, David Appell writes on September 26th that "Magnetic medical devices are a $5 billion/year worldwide industry--an estimated $500 million/year in the United States alone--yet there's little to no evidence that they work to relieve pain. Here's more evidence that they don't: 'Magnetic shoe insoles did not effectively relieve foot pain among patients in a study, researchers report in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.' ... What's interesting, though, is that the magnetic insoles provided relief to patients who believed they would: "...the results indicate that patients who strongly believed in magnets had pain relief even if they were given false magnets to wear." More evidence that the placeo effect can provide real, positive, physical benefits if you only believe a medical treatment works. ..."
Gorillas using Tools in the Wild...
ABC News reported on Sept. 30th that "For the first time, biologists have documented gorillas in the wild using simple tools, such as poking a stick in a swampy pool of water to check its depth. Until now, scientists had seen gorillas use tools only in captivity. Among the great apes, tool use in the wild was thought to be a survival skill reserved for smaller chimpanzees and orangutans. ..."
Study - Crime, Immorality higher in "Godly" Countries...
The Times Online (UK) reports on Sept. 27th that "Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today. According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems. The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society. ... The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: 'Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world. In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.' ... The study concluded that the US was the worlds only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from 'uniquely high' adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested. ... 'The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator. The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.' ..."
Dover, PA is the 21st Century's Dayton, Tennessee...
The "Intelligent Design" trial has started in Dover, Pennsylvania. Will this case be to ID what Scopes was to Creationism? ABC News reports on Sept. 29th that "The concept of 'intelligent design' is a form of creationism and is not based on scientific method, a professor testified Wednesday in a trial over whether the idea should be taught in public schools. Robert T. Pennock, a professor of science and philosophy at Michigan State University, testified on behalf of families who sued the Dover Area School District. He said supporters of intelligent design don't offer evidence to support their idea. ..." Biologist Ken Miller was a sizzling witness earlier in the week, according to reports.
The Panda's Thumb has a page with links to news, transcripts, and analysis:
My pick for the best sound bite of the week is this: "The morning session included several light moments. Dr. Pennock testified that referring to a 'designer' rather than 'God' is like referring to 'Ambassador Wilson's wife' rather than 'Valerie Plame Wilson.' As the gallery laughed, Judge Jones chuckled and said, 'As an example.' ..."
Posted September 23rd, 2005
Rio Rancho: No Plans to Revisit Science Policy, FSM Appearance, Steve Steve in NM...
The Rio Rancho School Board says it won't reconsider Science Policy 401. Meanwhile, the Flying Spaghetti Monster has appeared in the pages of the Rio Rancho Observer, and Professor Steve Steve, of the University of Ediacara, stops in New Mexico to taste some spirits, ride some horses, get a CESE pin, attend an NMSR meeting, and attempt to speak at a Rio Rancho School Board meeting.
Source: http://www.nmsr.org/riorncho.htm (NMSR's Rio Rancho Updates page)
Darwin the Reclusive Geologist (and Meteorologist, too!)...
Tom Hundley of the Chicago Tribune writes on Sept. 18th "So what would Charles Darwin have to say about the dust-up between today's evolutionists and intelligent designers? Probably nothing. Shy and reclusive, Darwin disliked argument. He also was plagued by poor health. In particular, he suffered from terrible flatulence that made him reluctant to venture out in public. Even after he became one of the most famous and controversial men of his time, he was always content to let surrogates argue his case. ..."
And John Fleck writes in his Science Blog at the Albuquerque Journal about Darwin's recognition as a geologist, and his skills in meteorology: "A few years back, a reader got cheesed off at me for calling Charles Darwin a geologist, suggesting that perhaps readers would be better off if the people writing about science in the newspaper knew more about science. In fact, I wrote in an email in my defense, Darwin was a geologist. He studied as one before he left on his voyage on the Beagle, and his first important writings after the trip were about the geology of what he'd seen. ... Comes now Randall Cerveny, from Arizona State, with a delightful look at Charles Darwin's studies of meteorology and climate on the voyage of the Beagle. It's in the latest Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (large PDF download). Cerveny shows Darwin, for example, noting on Argentine climate variability, noting things that we now know as El Niño long before it was all the rage among today's climate wonks with their buoy networks and computer models. 'These droughts to a certain degree seem to be periodical,' he wrote. That Charles, he was thinking. ..."
Eye Evolution Insights Deal Blows To Intelligent Design...
Scienceagogo,com reports on Sept. 23rd "How complex and physiologically remarkable structures such as the human eye could evolve has long been a question that has puzzled biologists. But in research reported this week in Current Biology, the evolutionary history of a critical eye protein has revealed a previously unrecognized link between certain components of sophisticated vertebrate eyes - like those found in humans - and those of the primitive light-sensing systems of invertebrates. The findings, from researchers at the University of Oxford, the University of London and Radboud University in The Netherlands, put in place a conceptual framework for understanding how the vertebrate eye, as we know it, has emerged over evolutionary time. ... The new findings deal a serious blow to the Intelligent Design movement which has long contended that the lack of an apparent evolutionary pathway for complex eye development indicated the presence of a supreme designer. ..."
Intelligent Design: An Ambiguous Assault on Evolution...
The first part of an extensive look at "ID" by Ker Than of LiveScience.com is online as of Sept. 22nd. Part 1 is "An overview of the increasingly heated exchange between scientists and the proponents of intelligent design." Part 2 is "'The Death of Science': Proponents argue that intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory, but a close look at their arguments shows that it doesn't pass scientific muster." Look for capsules on the major players - Darwin, Minnich, Krauss, Johnson, Forrest, and Miller.
Dalai Lama on Science...
George Johnson reviews the Dalai Lama's new book, "The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality." While he was initially fearful "that His Holiness, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, was adding to the confusion between reason and faith," Johnson was put at ease by these words from the Dalai Lama: "If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims... [No one who wants to understand the world] can ignore the basic insights of theories as key as evolution, relativity and quantum mechanics. ..."
Posted September 16th, 2005
Rio Rancho Updates...
In an Albuquerque Tribune Editorial titled "Religion, Science Don't Mix" (Sept. 15, 2005), Dr. Marshall Berman writes "... Schlichte insults those who disagree with him, calling them 'fearmongers,' opponents of 'critical thinking,' intolerant, and opposed to free speech and freedom of religion. But opponents of the policy are none of these. They strongly favor scientific debate, but not fifth-column attempts to introduce unscientific concepts into science classrooms. Does Schlichte's concept of academic freedom and open debate also include teaching astrology, holocaust denial, racism, slavery, Jihad or similar concepts in order to present both sides of issues? ..."
And on Sept. 13th, 2005, the Editorial Staff of The Albuquerque Tribune, in a piece called "Scientists, public must protest board's policy," declared "Shame on the Rio Rancho Board of Education, specifically board members Don Schlichte, Kathy Jackson and Marty Scharfglass. ... The Rio Rancho Board of Education should be about the business of educating, not preaching to, its students. It is obligated to revisit the issue immediately and right this wrong. ..."
RIO RANCHO UPDATES PAGE: http://www.nmsr.org/riorncho.htm
Ape Treaty Signed...
The Independent (UK) reports on Sept. 12th that "They are man's closest cousins and they are staring into the abyss. But in one of the most important environmental treaties, hope has been offered to stop the headlong slide towards extinction of humankind's nearest relatives, the great apes. The agreement signed in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is on a par with the 1982 whaling moratorium and the 1997 Kyoto protocol on climate change. It offers a real chance to halt the remorseless jungle slaughter of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos [pygmy chimpanzees] and orang-utans, which on current trends is likely to kill them all off within a generation. ..."
Creepy News - ZOMBIE GRASSHOPPERS!...
The New York Times reported on Sept. 6th that "Only in science fiction do people's minds get possessed by alien beings. For grasshoppers, zombification is an everyday hazard, and it obliges them to end their lives in a bizarre manner. Biologists have discovered and hope to decipher a deadly cross talk between the genomes of a grasshopper and a parasitic worm that infects it. The interaction occurs as the worm induces the grasshopper to seek out a large body of water and then leap into it. ..."
ID Creationists in Dover, PA: "Can we just say We Win?" Judge - DENIED!
The York Daily Record reported on Sept. 14th that "The attorney for the Dover Area School Board calls his client's decision to include intelligent design into the biology curriculum a 'modest proposal.' 'That this very modest proposal is in fact a violation of the (First Amendment's) establishment clause is ridiculous,' said Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center. But apparently a federal judge thinks that it's at least a possibility. In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III denied Dover's request for summary judgment to throw out a case filed against the district by 11 parents over the intelligent design inclusion. He wrote that 'genuine issues of material fact exist regarding as to whether the challenged policy has a secular purpose and whether the policy's principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion.' The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 26 in Harrisburg federal court. ..."
Posted September 9th, 2005
Some Saw Katrina Coming...
"... the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however - the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party. The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Ponchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level - more than eight feet below in places - so the water poured in. ... Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as theu waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the United States. When did this calamity happen? It hasn't - yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched."
- Joel K. Bourne, Jr. writing in the October, 2004 National Geographic.
New Trouble for Wellss Icon of Anti-Evolution #1
On the website for Jonathan Wellss book Icons of Evolution, theres a page titled Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution. All are about supposed flaws in the Icons of Evolution - the Miller-Urey experiments, Darwins Finches, Horse Evolution and more.
Here is Question #1:
ORIGIN OF LIFE. Why do textbooks claim that the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment shows how lifes building blocks may have formed on the early Earth when conditions on the early Earth were probably nothing like those used in the experiment, and the origin of life remains a mystery?
This week, NASAs Astrobiology Institute and Washington University in St. Louis made an announcement that should, once again, sound the death-knell for this particular Icon of Anti-Evolution.
Continued on the Panda's Thumb: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/09/whats_that_soun.html
See Also: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-09/wuis-cfr090705.php
Rio Rancho Update: NM Tech, Letter Writers blast "Science" Policy ...
Today (Sept. 8th), the Faculty Senate of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology issued a statement strongly condemning Rio Ranchos new science policy, which has been discussed previously (see the Rio Rancho Update page: http://www.nmsr.org/riorncho.htm). Also, an excellent letter opposing the policy appeared in the Rio Rancho Observer.
Continue reading More Reaction to Rio Rancho "Science" Policy on the Panda's Thumb:
Posted September 2nd, 2005
Hectic Hurricane Activity Not Global Warming, Expert Says...
Kenneth Chang reports in the Aug. 30th New York Times that "Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming. But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught 'is very much natural,' said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season. ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/30/national/30cycle.html?ei=5065&en=9e0e24b0c5ee1d90&ex=1125979200&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print (registration)
Brazil Nearly Built the Bomb...
The AP reported on Aug. 30th that "Brazil's military continued work on an atomic bomb after it was ordered to scrap the program in 1985 and by 1990 had nearly finished building one, a leading nuclear scientist said. Jose Luiz Santana, the former president of Brazil's nuclear energy commission, known by its Portuguese acronym CNEN, said the military was preparing a test explosion when the program was ultimately dismantled in August 1990. ..."
Some nice publicity for Skeptical Inquirer in the National Review ...
In an excellent column titled "Teaching Science: The president is wrong on Intelligent Design," John Derbyshire writes in the August 30 National Review Online that "I think intelligent teenagers should also be given some acquaintance with pseudoscience, just so that they might learn to spot it when they see it. A copy of that excellent magazine Skeptical Inquirer ought to be available in any good high school library, along with books like Gardner's. I am not sure that either pseudoscience or its refutation has any place in the science classroom, though. These things properly belong in social studies, if anywhere outside the library. And what should we teach our kids in biology classes, concerning the development of living things on earth? We should teach them Darwinism, on exactly the same arguments. There is no doubt this is consensus science. ..."
A Big Week for Chimps...
The Chimp Genome has been sequenced. This will be Huge.
The BBC reports on Aug. 31 that "The study shows that our genomes are startlingly similar. We differ by only 1.2% in terms of the genes that code for the proteins which build and maintain our bodies. This rises to about 4%, when non-coding or "junk" DNA is taken into account. ..."
Oh, and the first ever Chimp Fossils have been found! The California Academy of Sciences announced on Aug. 31st that "Lucy may be the most famous of the fossil hominins, but she does not stand alone in that category over the past few decades, researchers have found thousands of fossils from our early human ancestors. Surprisingly, however, scientists had not identified a single fossil from a chimpanzee until Nina Jablonski, Curator and Irvine Chair of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences, identified three chimp teeth from a fossil site in Kenya s Rift Valley in late 2004. Her intriguing discovery will be announced in the cover story of the September 1 issue of Nature. ..."
Rio Rancho Updates...
The Flying Spaghetti Monster has arrived in Rio Rancho, and UNM profs have come out against Rio Rancho's new science policy. Read all about it on the Panda's Thumb.
I have an op-ed in Thursday's Albuquerque Tribune (Sept. 1): "Pseudoscience: Backers of intelligent design have cluttered the Rio Rancho curriculum."
And there's a new NMSR page devoted entirely to keeping track of the Rio Rancho situation:
Link 'O the Week...
Creation Science is finally maturing, and is now producing... Creation Technology!
Runner Up: New Stamps celebrate America's Creation Scientists!
Posted August 26th, 2005
New Mexico Science Standards Do NOT Support IDs Concept of Teach the Controversy...
On the Panda's Thumb blog on August 23, Marshall Berman and Dave Thomas write "On Sunday, August 21, 2005, the New York Times published an article entitled 'Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive.' This otherwise excellent article unfortunately contained several errors that resulted from treating some false information from the Discovery Institute (DI) as accurate. One major error was accepting the DI view that New Mexico has 'embraced the institutes teach the controversy approach.' This is absolutely false, as the following evidence will show. ..."
Rio Rancho, NM School Board Creates Standards Controversy...
Writing on the Panda's Thumb on August 26, Dave Thomas notes "Well, its Official. Its not just the New York Times believing the Discovery Institutes line that New Mexicos new school science standards 'embraced the institutes teach the controversy approach.' Now its the Rio Rancho Public Schools. On Monday, August 22nd, the Rio Rancho (NM) School Board adopted 'Science Policy 401,' over the protests of most of the attendees at the meeting. The policy begins by saying "The Rio Rancho Board of Education recognizes that scientific theories, such as theories regarding biological and cosmological origins, may be used to support or to challenge individual religious and philosophical beliefs. Consequently, the teaching of science in public school science classrooms may be of great interest and concern to students and their parents. ..." It gets worse from there. Much worse. ..."
The New Mexico Academy of Science has come out swinging against the new policy, stating "The Academy opposes policy 401 because it proposes a completely inaccurate definition of science itself. Saying that 'reasonable people may disagree about the meaning and interpretation of data' obscures the fact that, in science, all ideas and observations are not created equal. Alternative ideas are tested in science every day but if they fail, they are discarded for better explanations and conclusions . If scientists simply agreed to disagree about 'the meaning and interpretation of data,' scientific progress would cease. Science is about testing ideas and claims, not pretending that all 'interpretations' are equally valid. ..."
399, and Counting Down...
In good news this week, the Seattle Times reported on August 24th that "Bob Davidson is a scientist a doctor, and for 28 years a nephrology professor at the University of Washington medical school. He's also a devout Christian who believes we're here because of God. It was these twin devotions to science and religion that first attracted him to Seattle's Discovery Institute. That's the think tank that this summer has pushed 'intelligent design' a replacement theory for evolution all the way to the lips of President Bush and into the national conversation. Davidson says he was seeking a place where people "believe in a Creator and also believe in science. 'I thought it was refreshing,' he says. Not anymore. He's concluded the institute is an affront to both science and religion. ..."
Bob was formerly one of the Discovery Institute's celebrated signers of the "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" document. That's one down, 399 to go...
Posted August 19th, 2005
And Now, Bill Frist...
Senate Majority leader Bill Frist has come out swinging for "Intelligent Design." MSNBC reports on August 19th that "Echoing similar comments from President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said "intelligent design" should be taught in public schools alongside evolution. Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, spoke to a Rotary Club meeting Friday and told reporters afterward that students need to be exposed to different ideas, including intelligent design. 'I think today a pluralistic society should have access to a broad range of fact, of science, including faith,' Frist said. ..."
The Seamy Side of Kansas Board Member Connie Morris ...
In an article titled "The strange redemption of Connie Morris, high school slut turned Kansas State Board of Education anti-evolutionist," Justin Kendall of the Pitch (KS) reports on August 18th that "A member of the Kansas State Board of Education, the conservative Republican from St. Francis -- a town with 1,497 residents in the far northwestern corner of the state, just 20 miles east of the Colorado line -- had publicly written off the theory of evolution in her newsletter as an 'age-old fairytale.' ... Her 208-page tell-all autobiography, From the Darkness: One Woman's Rise to Nobility (available on Amazon.com for as little as $3.09), reveals that she wasn't always so conservative. Before she was Connie Morris, enemy of evolution, she was Connie Littleton, black-haired siren. ... She frolicked in free love, drowned in drugs and endured domestic violence and sexual abuse before giving herself to Christ. But even Jesus couldn't tame her. ... From the Darkness provides a striking insight into the life of an elected official who has publicly claimed that she is not trying to insert religion into public-school classrooms even as she has vowed that her political career is intended solely 'to lead many to Christ, so the population of Heaven will be greater because of me.' Such grandiosity pervades Morris' book; even when writing about her life at the depth of depravity, she never tires of reminding readers that she's pretty. ..."
Writing in the August 18th Palm Beach Post, editorial writer Jac Wilder VerSteeg sees right through the Intelligent Design fog to the heart of the matter. I've discussed the piece over at the Panda's Thumb, in a piece called "Santorum shines spotlight on IDs 'Wink Wink Nudge Nudge.' "
Nuns Protest 'da Vinci Code" Filming..
"This is London" (from the Evening Standard) reports on Aug. 16th that "When he walks on to a movie set, he usually gets star treatment. But as Tom Hanks arrived at Lincoln Cathedral yesterday, he found himself somewhat upstaged. A handful of protesters were making their feelings known about the decision to film scenes from The Da Vinci Code in the historic building. Led by a Catholic nun, Sister Mary Michael, they claimed the movie, based on the bestselling novel by Dan Brown, should be filmed elsewhere. She led a 12-hour prayer vigil to push the message home. ..."
Goddess Arrives to Placate Tsumani Ghosts...
Breitbart.com reported on August 19th that "With Asian tourists still shunning its southern beaches, Thailand is calling in a revered Chinese sea goddess to ward off the restive spirits of the thousands who died in last December's tsunami. A statue of Godmother Ruby, known as Mazu in Chinese, will be brought to the Thai island of Phuket from the Chinese coastal province of Fujian next month for ghost-clearing rites, said Suwalai Pinpradab of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. ..."
Alcoholism Gene? Good News, Bad News...
MSNBC reported on August 11th that "Fruit flies carry a gene aptly named the 'hangover' gene that appears to help them become tolerant to alcohol. Tolerance is thought to promote dependence, so if a similar gene is found in humans, it might lead to drugs to treat or prevent alcoholism. In the journal Nature, researchers report that only fruit flies that carry a functioning 'hangover' gene develop a tolerance for alcohol. 'If humans have a gene that has a function similar to that of 'hangover,' we could interfere with the function of such a gene,' thereby preventing people from developing addiction to alcohol, study author Dr. Ulrike Heberlein of the University of California at San Francisco told Reuters Health. ..."
So, the new discovery offers promise, but only to alcoholic fruit flies.
And: http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050808/full/050808-8.html (Subscription)
Posted August 12th, 2005
Have Bush's ID Comments gotten us to the Tipping Point?
Since President Bush made a remark on presenting Intelligent Design along with evolution in schools, the press has been going bonkers over the issue. Significant coverage this week included these items, among many:
TIME Magazine, August 15th issue Cover Story: The Evolution Wars. "When Bush joined the fray last week, the question grew hotter: Is 'intelligent design' a real science? And should it be taught in schools?" Here's a snippet: "The new, presumably Constitution-proof way of providing coverage for communities that wish to teach ideas like intelligent design is to employ such earnest language as 'critical inquiry' (in New Mexico), 'strengths and weaknesses' of theories (Texas), and 'critical analysis' (Ohio). It's difficult to argue against such benign language, but hard-core defenders of Darwin are wary. 'The intelligent-design people are trying to mislead people into thinking that the reference to science as an ongoing critical inquiry permits them to teach I.D. crap in the schools,' says David Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. ..."
Source: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1090909,00.html (subscription)
ABC's NIGHTLINE, Wednesday Aug. 10th: "Despite Criticism, 'Intelligent Design' Finds Powerful Backers; Seattle Group Works to Create National Debate Where Scientists Say None Exists." From the report: "The idea of intelligent design itself evolved largely through a skillful marketing campaign that has promoted the concept of a controversy many scientists insist does not exist. In "Nightline's" own survey of the country's top 10 biology departments, the verdict was unanimous -- of the nine department chairmen who responded, all insisted no scientific evidence supports the concept of intelligent design. ..."
The Discovery Institute response: "Nightline's main point appears to be that there really isn't any scientific controversy over Darwinism and intelligent design. How do they know this? They checked with several Darwinists, who told them so! That's right. According to Nightline, because Darwinists happen to believe there is no scientific controversy over evolution, there really must be no controversy. ..."
I liked this passage from George Will's Nightline appearance so much that I transcribed and typed it up myself, in lieu of an internet transcript:
"Once you concede, however, which science compels us to concede, that the earth does have a long, complicated, evolving history, then the argument is about the mechanism, and the question then is: 'What does Intelligent Design bring to explaining the mechanism?' The answer is 'Nothing but faith' - nothing but the postulate that, as the current pope said when he was a cardinal, 'Unguided evolution is impossible.' Impossible, fine, then again, it's a theological position, but not a testable one. ..."
The Albuquerque Tribune had this to say in August 9th commentary: "President Bush raised eyebrows and dropped jaws across the nation last week by endorsing the notion that "intelligent design" - code words for creationism - should be taught in public schools as an alternative view to evolution. In doing so, he once again showed his disregard for science and put the unwarranted credibility of the Oval Office and the presidency behind the movement to contaminate factual science curriculums with religious beliefs. He fueled anti-evolution efforts in several states and school districts, including one that was defeated but still simmers in New Mexico. ..."
Columnist Mark Russell, in an August 7th column, explained why Intelligent Design just isn't going to work: "No way are people going to sing 'Intelligent Designer Bless America.' ..."
Finally, the August 7th edition of PUB BUS notes " In a statement faxed to the editor of US Weekly magazine, God chided President George W. Bush for using the theory of intelligent design 'to suck up to people who claim they speak for me or, worse yet, people who claim that I have spoken directly to them. ..."
Skeptics Phil Klass and Robert Baker die...
The New York Times reported oin Aug. 12th that "Philip J. Klass, an electrical engineer and aviation editor who earned the nickname Sherlock Holmes of U.F.O.'s for his assiduous, acidic debunking of flying saucers and those who claim to see them, died Tuesday at his home in Merritt Island, Fla. ..."
Here is more from an August 12th CSICOP press release: "CSICOP Laments Passing of Two World-class Paranormal Experts, Philip Klass and Robert Baker. AMHERST, N.Y. (August 12, 2005) -- The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) mourns the passing of Philip J. Klass and Robert A. Baker, two long-time authors and investigators who passed away this week -- one a skeptical ufologist, the other a noted ghostbuster. Philip Klass (1919-2005) was a founding member of CSICOP and one of the world's foremost experts on UFOs. ... Robert Baker (1921-2005) was a CSICOP fellow and one of the world's preeminent authorities on such phenomena as ghosts, alien abductions, religious apparitions, and reincarnation. ..."
Posted August 5th, 2005
President Wades into 'Intelligent Design' Fray...
Ever since President George W. Bush's statement that he supports teaching Intelligent Design creationism in our public schools, the blogosphere has been raging! Here are some of the more useful compendiums:
The reaction to Bushs statements : http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/08/the_reaction_to.html (links to hundreds of blogger bites!)
National Jewish Democratic Council, "Bush's "Intelligent Design:" Teach Creationism!" : http://www.njdc.org/issues/detail.php?id=469&iss=2
Carl Zimmer's Loom: "A Question For The President", http://www.corante.com/loom/archives/2005/08/02/a_question_for_the_president.php and
"43,000 Scientists: Bush Puts Schoolchildren At Risk" (American Geophysical Union statement): http://www.corante.com/loom/archives/2005/08/02/43000_scientists_bush_puts_schoolchildren_at_risk.php
Chris Mooney, "Bush Embraces ID" http://scienceg8.com/bush-embraces-id/
Conservative Columnist Krauthammer Disses ID...
Charles Krauthammer has written a piece titled "Let's Have No More Monkey Trials: To teach faith as science is to undermine both." for Time Magazine. He writes "How many times do we have to rerun the Scopes "monkey trial"? There are gaps in science everywhere. Are we to fill them all with divinity? There were gaps in Newton's universe. They were ultimately filled by Einstein's revisions. There are gaps in Einstein's universe, great chasms between it and quantum theory. Perhaps they are filled by God. Perhaps not. But it is certainly not science to merely declare it so. ..."
Dembski Lets Religious Motivation Slip...
The Columbia Missourian reports on August 2nd that "The Discovery Institute, which, according to its Web site, operates with the 'belief in God-given reason and the permanency of human nature,' consistently scoffs at accusations of a religious agenda. But the institutes senior fellow, mathematician and philosopher William Dembski, gives credit to creation science guru Henry Morris for stirring evolution opposition and says intelligent design is much closer to creationism than to evolution. 'In its relation to Christianity, intelligent design should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration,' Dembski wrote in a reply to Morris. ..."
Director of the Vatican Observatory Takes On A Cardinal...
Father George Coyne is Director of the Vatican Observatory. Writing in the Aug. 6th Tablet, Britain's Catholic Weekly, Father Coyne, a distinguished astronomer, takes Cardinal Schönborn on head-on. He writes "For those who believe modern science does say something to us about God, it provides a challenge, an enriching challenge, to traditional beliefs about God. God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity. God lets the world be what it will be in its continuous evolution. He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves. Is such thinking adequate to preserve the special character attributed by religious thought to the emergence not only of life but also of spirit, while avoiding a crude creationism? Only a protracted dialogue will tell. But we should not close off the dialogue and darken the already murky waters by fearing that God will be abandoned if we embrace the best of modern science. ..."
Source: http://www.thetablet.co.uk/cgi-bin/archive_db.cgi/tablet-01063 (free registration)
Hidden Black Holes Finally Found...
Space.com reports on August 3rd that "A host of hidden black holes have been revealed in a narrow region of the sky, confirming astronomers' suspicions that the universe is loaded with many undetected gravity wells. ... New observations with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope cut through dust to spot quasars blocked by their own clouds, as well as other quasars hidden inside galactic dust. ..."
Thorium Fuels Safer Reactor Hopes...
Wired News reported on July 5th that "Fueling nuclear reactors with the element thorium instead of uranium could produce half as much radioactive waste and reduce the availability of weapons-grade plutonium by as much as 80 percent. But the nuclear power industry needs more incentives to make the switch, experts say. Scientists have long considered using thorium as a reactor fuel -- and for good reason: The naturally occurring element is more abundant, more efficient and safer to use than uranium. Plus, thorium reactors leave behind very little plutonium1, meaning that governments have access to less material for making nuclear weapons. ..."
Posted July 29th, 2005
In honor of this weekend's showing of "Monkey in the
Middle," the creationist-sponsored play about the Scopes Trial,
we've updated our 'Monkey' page with a report on NMSR's bonafide
connection to Scopes - member Florence Wengerd, whose father, Kirtley
Mather, was one of the scientists prepared to testify at the 1925
trial. Florence talked to NMSR about her father in 1999, and a
discussion is now on the web for your perusal.
More on Catholic Hand-wringing over Evolution...
Tom Roberts, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, writes on July 29, 2005 that "Those under the impression that evolution was a more or less settled (if yet complex) issue for Catholics may have been jolted by the July 7 op-ed piece in The New York Times by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria arguing that evolution may be inconsistent with Catholic faith. ... There is no simple sorting out of this issue, yet a body of teaching has existed (and been developed) for some time so that it seems unnecessary for Catholics to get dragged into this front in the culture wars. It also is unfortunate that a cardinal with strong connections to the pope would appear to be used on one side of that battle by a think tank and its public relations arm in the United States. ..."
In the same journal, John L. Allen Jr. reports from Rome in an extensive piece, titled "Catholic experts urge caution in evolution debate," and sub-titled "Scientists, theologians take issue with Schönborn's op-ed article." He writes "To the extent Schönborns point is that Christianity cannot accept a universe without an active, personal God, they say, theres little to dispute. If taken as a scientific statement, on the other hand, these observers warn that Schönborns insistence on seeing 'purpose and design' in nature could steer the Catholic church towards creationism in the bitter cultural debate, especially prominent in the United States, between evolution and intelligent design. ..."
More on the Panda's Thumb: "Darwin, Design, and The Cardinal" by Reed A. Cartwright, http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/07/darwin_design_a.html
A Bad Week for 'Magnetic Water Conditioning' ...
NMSR scientists worked on this one for weeks with TV-13's Larry Barker, and now - at last - the Story has been Told! It's a Physics and Consumer Issues Extravaganza! The piece, which aired Wednesday, July 28th at 10 PM, was titled "Scientists dispel claims of 'wetter' water device." Here's the pitch: "It claims to give you "wetter" water, and even improve the gas mileage on your car. Larry Barker had scientists put it to the test." Hidden camera/ undercover video's, mock swamp coolers, microscopic examination of scale buildup, chemical tests of softness - it's all here!
You can see the piece online here: http://www.krqe.com/LarryBarker/ (highspeed connection recommended)
And a Worse Week for Bigfoot...
MSNBC reports on July 29th that "Perhaps he is still stomping around somewhere, but a DNA test has confirmed that it was not Bigfoot roaming the Yukon earlier this month it was just a bison. A hair sample was reportedly plucked from a bush near Teslin in the Yukon at a spot where several people claimed they saw and heard a large, hairy creature making a late-night run through their community. They also reported seeing an unusually large footprint. The witnesses speculated that they had seen Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, an ape-like creature said to haunt the wilderness of western Canada, among other places. But Bigfoot's presence was refuted after a geneticist from the University of Alberta did tests on the sample, and said the DNA match for a bison was 100 per cent. ..."
And an Even Worse Week for Echinacea..
Sci-Tech Today reports on July 28th that "The National Institutes of Health has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend $155 million a year on the popular herbal remedy echinacea to treat the cough, runny nose and malaise that is the common cold: It doesn't work. 'It's not clinically effective,' says Ronald Turner, an expert on the common cold at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and lead author on a major echinacea study. The study, reported in today's New England Journal of Medicine, is the 'most sophisticated' test ever done on the effectiveness of the herbal remedy, says Stephen Straus, director of NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which financed the work. ..."
But you've gotta feel Sorry for Psychic Ana...
Words won't do this one justice. You simply have to surf over to the web page for an interactive demonstration of the not-so-awesome psychic powers of Albuquerque's "Psychic Ana." If only she'd had a premonition! If only she had access to some marvelous power that would help her predict the Future! If only she'd KNOWN!!!
Posted July 22nd, 2005
Creation Summer Camp...
Jason Rosenhouse of the Panda's Thumb reports on the 2005 Creation Mega Conference this week at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.
Part I: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/07/report_on_the_2.html
Part II: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/07/report_on_the_2_1.html
See also Ronald Bailey's account for Reason magazine: http://www.reason.com/rb/rb071905.shtml
Ice Shelf Collapse Reveals New Undersea World...
LiveScience reports on July 18th that "The collapse of a giant ice shelf in Antarctica has revealed a thriving ecosystem half a mile below the sea. Despite near freezing and sunless conditions, a community of clams and a thin layer of bacterial mats are flourishing in undersea sediments. 'Seeing these organisms on the ocean bottom -- it's like lifting the carpet off the floor and finding a layer that you never knew was there,' said Eugene Domack of Hamilton College. Domack is the lead author on the report of the finding in the July 19 issue of Eos, the weekly newspaper of the American Geophysical Union. ..."
Victorian Govt OK's Witches...
ABC News (Australia) reports on July 21st that "The Victorian Government says laws criminalising witchcraft and fortune telling are outdated and will be repealed. The offences are part of the Vagrancy Act, which will be struck out during this session of Parliament. The last census found there were 2,000 witches in Victoria. Attorney-General Rob Hulls says laws banning witchcraft have no place in a diverse society. 'This is all about ensuring we have modern laws,' he said. 'The Vagrancy Act really belongs to a bygone era where people were treated as vagrants and vagabonds and were actually sent out to the colony of Victoria for their sins. I think it's important we have modern laws.' ..."
Loch Ness Investigator Closing In On Monster?
A July 11th PRWEB Press Release announces that "Loch Ness Investigator Bill McDonald believes he has now compiled enough evidence to indicate what the Loch Ness Monster is, why its been so difficult to photograph, and why the Highland Government is covering up a new discovery that could lead to conclusive DNA evidence. ..." There is even an alleged Tooth. Hat Tip to John Fleck.
Posted July 15th, 2005
Dinos had Lungs like Those of Birds...
Reuters reported on July 13th that "Dinosaurs may have been fierce predators but they had a respiratory system similar to modern birds such as the sparrow, scientists said Wednesday. Ancient beasts such as the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex were thought to have had lungs similar to crocodiles but researchers in the United States have discovered the creatures had more in common with birds than reptiles when it came to breathing. 'The pulmonary system of meat-eating dinosaurs such as T.rex in fact shares many structural similarities with that of modern birds, which from an engineering point of view, may possess the most efficient respiratory system of any living vertebrate inhabiting the land or sky,' said Leon Claessens, of Harvard University in Massachusetts. ..."
"Turn Off Your Cell Phones Before Flight" ... Total Bull?
ABC News reports on July 11th that "... it's certainly true that all flight attendants in North America have been told cell phones can interfere, and their procedures leave no wiggle room as to when all those pesky phones have to be off. In addition, you'll find many pilots absolutely convinced (without evidence) that cell phones can interfere with the instruments up front in the cockpit, and you'll find others outside the industry equally convinced that cell phones are flatly dangerous to the safety of big air machines. But in reality, there is no proof that it's true. In fact, something the U.S. government is about to do completely invalidates the fears of the past. ..."
Catholics Sound Off on Evolution...
It began with a July 7th New York Times Op-Ed article by Roman Catholic Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, on the Catholic stance on evolution. Over at the Panda's Thumb, Reed Cartwright explained it as follows: "...he is writing to reaffirm the Catholic faiths commitment to theistic evolution and to eliminate any confusion that it is committed to atheistic evolution. (I have no idea why he thought that this needed to be done.) ..."
Source: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F6081FFB35550C748CDDAE0894DD404482 (registration)
Here is a comment from Catholic biologists Ken Miller's Op-Ed in response to the Cardinal: "... Science is, just as John Paul II said, silent on the issue of ultimate purpose, an issue that lies outside the realm of scientific inquiry. This means that biological evolution, correctly understood, does not make the claim of purposelessness. It does not address what Simpson called the 'deeper problem,' leaving that problem, quite properly, to the realm of faith. Cardinal Schönborn also errs in his implicit support of the 'intelligent design' movement in the United States. The neo-creationists of intelligent design, unlike Popes Benedict and John Paul, argue against evolution on every level, claiming that a 'designer' has repeatedly intervened to directly produce the complex forms of living things. This view stands in sharp contradiction to the words of a 2004 International Theological Commission document cited by the Cardinal. ..."
The Catholic News Service had this to say on July 15th: "Can a bespectacled, balding 60-year-old cardinal in Vienna waltz his way into a flap in the United States? Definitely yes. The orchestration was proposing that the Catholic faith and aspects of evolutionary thinking are not good dancing partners. His suggestion stepped on the toes of those who see no conflict, while it swayed rhythmically with supporters of 'intelligent design.' ...Jesuit Father Kevin FitzGerald, who holds doctorates in molecular biology and philosophy, said that intelligent design advocates 'see the unresolved problems of evolution and find data that doesn't fit the theory.' ... 'The question of design in the universe needs to be addressed and scientific evidence brought to bear. But the ultimate terrain to judge this would be philosophy, not science,' he said. 'This is what intelligent design doesn't get right,' he said. ..."
Finally, in the July 15th "Tidings Online," the Cardinal says that Catholics can accept evolution after all: "In follow-up remarks published July 11 by Kathpress, an Austrian Catholic news agency, Cardinal Schonborn cited Popes Pius XII and John Paul II as saying that the theory of evolution --- as long as it remains within the realm of science and is not made into an ideological 'dogma' which cannot be questioned --- is in conformity with Catholic teaching. The cardinal quoted Pope John Paul as saying in 1985 that 'the properly understood belief in creation and the properly understood teaching of evolution do not stand in each other's way.' ..."
Chicago: Lights Out for 'Jesus' Image...
The Indy Star reports on July 11th that "City officials have turned off a streetlight that drew more than 250 people to see a shadow that some say resembles the image of Jesus Christ. East Chicago Police Chief Angelo Machuca called an emergency meeting Sunday to recommend the light be turned off in the interest of public safety after nearby residents complained about blocked cars and visitors congregating until 5 a.m. Several arrests were made Friday night after a large fight broke out in the area. ..."
Florida's Harris pushed 'Woo Woo' Methods of Fighting Citrus Canker...
The Orlando Sentinel reports on July 5th that "Four years ago, as the state labored to eradicate citrus canker by destroying trees, officials rejected other disease-fighting techniques, saying unproven methods would waste precious time and resources. But for more than six months, the state, at the behest of then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris, did pursue one alternative method -- a very alternative method. Researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test 'Celestial Drops,' promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its 'improved fractal design,' 'infinite levels of order' and 'high energy and low entropy.' But the cure proved useless against canker. That's because it was water -- possibly, mystically blessed water. The 'product is a hoax and not based on any credible known science,' the state's chief of entomology, nematology and plant pathology wrote to agriculture officials and fellow scientists after testing Celestial Drops in October 2001. ... So why did Florida spend months discussing and developing test protocols for Celestial Drops? The initial push came from Harris, now a U.S. House representative and candidate for U.S. Senate. Harris, the granddaughter of legendary citrus baron Ben Hill Griffin Jr., said she was introduced to one of the product's promoters, New York Rabbi Abe Hardoon, in 2000. Hardoon did not want to discuss Celestial Drops when contacted by the Orlando Sentinel. ..."
Monkey in the Middle...
The local creationist group, Creation Science Fellowship of New Mexico (CSFNM), has transformed their website this summer to focus on the local performance of a play about the Scopes "Monkey" trial of 1925. CSFNM tells its readers to "Mark your calendars now for this once in a lifetime event. The play Monkey in the Middle is an exact reenactment of the 1925 Scopes Trial using the exact words from the trial transcript. The key events of the trial will be presented in this reenactment at the KiMo Theater on July 29 and 30, 2005. "
Read NMSR's Commentary here: http://www.nmsr.org/monkey.htm
Posted July 8th, 2005
'Deep Impact' Spectacular...
NASA has released images and movies from the July 4th impact of a probe with comet Tempel 1. Check 'em out!
New Scientist on Creationism/ID...
New Scientist magazine takes on creationists in the July 9, 2005 issue. An op-ed concludes that "There is no scientific controversy between ID and evolution. The case for teaching them as valid alternatives is no stronger than the case for teaching students about some supposed controversy between astrology and astronomy. Lurking beneath this debate is the issue of whether religion should make an appearance in science classes - as the creationist movement has long wanted it to. Here it is difficult not to suspect that the people behind ID are being disingenuous. In their books and papers. They would rather readers saw ID as purely scientific. Yet one of the governing goals of the Discovery Institute, IDs spiritual home, is to spread the word that nature and human beings are created by God. Lets be honest. This is creationism by another name. Tell a class of teenagers that the tail of a bacterium did not evolve but was designed, and who will they think the designer is? ID may qualify as a religious belief, but it is not science. Teach it in philosophy or sociology by all means. Its proper resting place, however, will be in history. ..."
Source: http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg18725072.800 (Subscription)
Creationism: A Long, Hot Summer...
A July 6th report on ABC News regarding creationism in the schools notes that "This debate of ideas, normally welcome in a classroom environment, is not embraced by instructors such as Terry Uselton, a high school science department chairman in Knoxville, Tenn. 'It's not about education or science, it's about politics,' Uselton told The Associated Press during a group interview of teachers at the National Education Association's annual meeting. 'That's the problem, and that's what we have a hard time separating out. Part of it doesn't have anything to do with the science being right or wrong.' ..."
'Red-Light' District found a Mile Under the Sea...
ABC News reports on July 7th that "The first deep sea red-light district glowing appendages on a newly discovered jellyfish relative appear to flash their come-hither message to lure prey. Jellyfish and other types of sea creatures are known to produce light, but this is the first deep ocean invertebrate known to use red fluorescent light, said Steven H. D. Haddock of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, Calif. Three of the animals were found by scientists using a remote controlled research vehicle at depths of between 5,200 feet and 7,500 feet off the coast of California. The discovery is reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science. ..."
Humans caused Wave of Australian Extinctions...
ABC News reported on July 7th that "The extinction of most of Australia's large animals occurred around 45,000 years ago, shortly after the arrival of humans. A study suggests that human burning of the landscape forced dietary changes that killed off many of the animals. Researchers studying ancient eggshells from two types of large birds, as well as the teeth of wombats, found a change in the types of carbon the animals had ingested, indicating a change in diet. Before the extinction, grasses, trees and shrubs were commonly eaten but then grasses disappeared from the animals' diet, the researchers reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science. "Humans are the major suspect," Marilyn Fogel of the Carnegie Institution said in a statement. ..."
New This Week at NMSR...
A new PUZZLE of the MONTH: Self-Divisible Numbers: http://www.nmsr.org/puzzles.htm
A new Column by Massimo Pigliucci: "OK, I changed my mind (three times!)" http://www.nmsr.org/r_s_0705.htm
Posted June 29th, 2005
Dawn of the Dead Dogs...
Nick Buchan of NEWS.com.au reports on June 27 that "Scientists have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans. US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years. Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution. The animals are considered scientifically dead, as they stop breathing and have no heartbeat or brain activity. But three hours later, their blood is replaced and the zombie dogs are brought back to life with an electric shock. ..."
Space Umbrella to Stop Global Warming?
Robert Roy Britt at livescience.com reports on June 27th that "A wild idea to combat global warming suggests creating an artificial ring of small particles or spacecrafts around Earth to shade the tropics and moderate climate extremes. There would be side effects, proponents admit. An effective sunlight-scattering particle ring would illuminate our night sky as much as the full Moon, for example. And the price tag would knock the socks off even a big-budget agency like NASA: $6 trillion to $200 trillion for the particle approach. Deploying tiny spacecraft would come at a relative bargain: a mere $500 billion tops. But the idea, detailed today in the online version of the journal Acta Astronautica, illustrates that climate change can be battled with new technologies, according to one scientist not involved in the new work. ..."
William Dembski - the Dogberry of Intelligent Design?
The Discovery Institute announced on June 22nd that "Discovery Institute has sent a letter to the Pennsylvania State Legislature opposing a proposed bill that would authorize school districts to require the teaching of intelligent design. In a letter to Rep. Jess M. Stairs, Chair of Pennsylvania's House Education Committee, Discovery Institute officials stated that they 'strongly oppose any effort by the government to mandate the teaching of intelligent design.' ..."
Over on the Panda's Thumb, Steve comments "I love the IDers. Its the Keystone Kops. William Dembski is the Dogberry of Intelligent Design. ..."
Posted June 24th, 2005
Bears, Caribou Guard Data on Primordial Universe ...
ABC News reports on June 20th that "To examine data on the universe's earliest stars and galaxies from a balloon-launched telescope, scientists had to fend off earthly creatures in the Canadian Arctic. The telescope landed there by parachute Saturday and was quickly surrounded by wildlife. 'The secret of our universe's beginnings was being protected by caribou and polar bears,' said John Kageorge, communications manager for AMEC Dynamic Structures Ltd. in this Vancouver suburb. 'As it turns out, the scientists needed to go back with a rifle to protect themselves.' ..."
Look for More Supernatural Television in Fall Season...
The Cox News Service reported on June 5th that "... No doubt spurred by the success of 'Lost,' supernatural dramas will be plentiful. If you have a yen for creepiness, chances are good that at least one of the six supernatural newcomers will strike your fancy. Look for the 'Medium'-inspired 'Ghost Whisperer,' starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, on CBS; 'Threshold,' about government preparations for an alien invasion; more aliens arriving in ABC's 'Invasion'; 'Fathom,' NBC's sci-fi saga about menacing sea life; 'Night Stalker,' ABC's revival of the supernatural crime drama; and the WB's 'Supernatural,' about two brothers searching for their father and battling otherworldly evil. ..."
Sen. Domenici Stalls Warming/Emissions Compromise...
The Washington Post announced on June 21st that "An ambitious bipartisan plan to slow U.S. greenhouse gases with an emissions trading program collapsed in the Senate on Tuesday after a key Republican threw his support behind a weaker, voluntary plan. ... Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Republican chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, said last week he might co-sponsor Democrat Jeff Bingaman's more stringent plan to slow the growth of U.S. greenhouse gases with an emissions trading program beginning in 2010 tied to U.S. economic growth. But after talking to the White House and other Republicans, Domenici said he would not support the Bingaman measure. 'This is just too tough to do quickly,' Domenici said. ... The Bingaman plan was based on the results of a bipartisan energy study commission. Environmental groups expressed lukewarm support for it, saying it did not go far enough. After losing Domenici's support, Bingaman said he would not offer his approach as an amendment to the energy bill. ..."
Are Genes Progressive or Conservative?
The NY Times reported on June 21st that "...on the basis of a new study, a team of political scientists is arguing that people's gut-level reaction to issues like the death penalty, taxes and abortion is strongly influenced by genetic inheritance. The new research builds on a series of studies that indicate that people's general approach to social issues - more conservative or more progressive - is influenced by genes. Environmental influences like upbringing, the study suggests, play a more central role in party affiliation as a Democrat or Republican, much as they do in affiliation with a sports team. ..."
Virus may be Cancer-Fighter...
Reuters reports on June 21st that "A common virus that is harmless to people can destroy cancerous cells in the body and might be developed into a new cancer therapy, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday. The virus, called adeno-associated virus type 2, or AAV-2, infects an estimated 80 percent of the population. 'Our results suggest that adeno-associated virus type 2, which infects the majority of the population but has no known ill effects, kills multiple types of cancer cells yet has no effect on healthy cells,' said Craig Meyers, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Penn State College of Medicine in Pennsylvania. 'We believe that AAV-2 recognizes that the cancer cells are abnormal and destroys them. This suggests that AAV-2 has great potential to be developed as an anti-cancer agent,' Meyers said in a statement. ..."
Tribe Sues to block Kitt Peak Upgrade...
Space.com reports on June 17th that "The National Science Foundation agreed to halt construction of a $13 million mountainside telescope complex after an American Indian tribe filed a federal lawsuit claiming the site is sacred. The foundation said it will work with the Tohono O'odham Nation to assess the environmental and cultural value of the Kitt Peak area before resuming work on what the lead scientist said would be the most advanced system of its kind in the northern hemisphere. 'We are being very deferential to ensure that the tribe is on board every step of the way,' said Charisse Carney-Nunes, a foundation attorney. The tribe, which claims 24,000 members, withdrew a motion to halt the construction but said it will press the litigation. The lawsuit, filed in March, claims that the National Historic Preservation Act requires the foundation to consult with the tribe and the state Historic Preservation Office because Kitt Peak is considered sacred. In the Tohono O'odham creation story, the universe gave birth to the world thanks to I'itoi, the deity who lives at Baboquivari Peak south of Kitt Peak. ..."
New This Week at NMSR...
CESE ANNUAL MEETING
Don't forget tomorrow's meeting of the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education, Saturday, June 25, from 1:00 to 4:00 PM, at the University of New Mexico Law School, Room 2402. The featured speaker is John Trever, award-winning editorial cartoonist at the Albuquerque Journal. Please attend!
CREATION WATCH on the Radio - MAJOR NEWS
An Anonymous Donor has stepped forward, and has made it possible for Creation Watch to be on every week for a period of several months!! Stay Tuned for an announcement of the beginning of Creation Watch WEEKLY, on Progressive Talk 1350 AM!!
More Info: http://www.nmsr.org/goradio.htm
Posted June 17th, 2005
Dennis Lee makes Forbes...
And it's not pretty, folks. Here's what Forbes said about the man who has brought his perpetual motion snake-oil show to New Mexico three times in the last decade: "Certain investors think there is money to be made from perpetual motion machines. Evidently there is one of these characters born every minute. Dennis Lee's prey include: environmentalists who want a nonpolluting energy source; religious devotees who believe in his Bible-quoting rhetoric; conspiracy theorists who believe that powerful forces in government and big business seek to control world commerce; and working people who think that a home business might be a good way to augment their income. All have fallen under the sway of this graying, sometimes wild-eyed man of 59, the founder of an assortment of enterprises with names like Better World Technologies. Lee, if you believe him, has a way to create electricity without burning fuel. ..."
For reports of Lee's exploits and exploitations in New Mexico, see http://www.nmsr.org/denislee.htm
Evolution in the Mormon Church...
Peggy Fletcher Stack of the The Salt Lake Tribune writes on June 12th that "Over the years, the LDS Church has rarely stepped into the fight over evolution. Certainly, as religious people, Mormons see God's hand in the origins of the universe, the world and its inhabitants. ... The official LDS Church position has remained steady from a 1931 First Presidency statement to a 1993 packet handed out at BYU students: 'Leave geology, biology, archaeology and anthropology, none of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research.' ... According to a 2002 book, Where Darwin Meets the Bible, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley shares that view. Recalling his own study of anthropology and geology, Hinckley said, 'Studied all about it. Didn't worry me then. Doesn't worry me now.' Such openness has meant that several BYU scientists have produced important research in the field of dinosaurs, anthropology and evolution.' ..."
Hobbit Fossil Limbo...
Carl Zimmer mentions the latest on Homo floresiensis, a.k.a. "The Hobbit," in his June 15th "Loom" column: "Its been almost eight months now since scientists announced the discovery of Homo floresiensis, the diminutive people that some claim belong to a new branch of hominid evolution and skeptics claim were just small humans. We seem to have entered a lull in the flow of new scientific information about Homo floresiensis. ... For those who keep up on this stuff, I see a couple interesting new tidbits. 1. A lot of Teuku Jacob's arguments against this being a new species seem wacky to me, at least as they've been presented in the press. In the LA Times, he 'argues that evolution cannot 'go backward' and produce a human with a smaller brain.' Perhaps Jacob will eventually make this case at length in a scientific paper, but for now I'd just say that there's no Law of the Perpetually Increasing Brain that I'm familiar with. Teuku Jacob took possession over the bones for a few months, and when he returned them, their discoverers claimed the delicate fossils were damaged. The damages included what appeared to be an attempt to reconstruct the jaw. ...2. ... For the first time that Im aware of, Jacob admits that he was trying to 'improve' the skull. 'We tried to improve some of the things,' he acknowledged. 'We didn't damage any bones. Actually, we improved some.' Improve, or match your preconceptions? 3. As if this wasnt bad enough, the controversy has now resulted in a complete halt to digging in the cave where the original fossils were found. Apparently the team that discovered the fossils didnt get the proper permits from the Indonesian Institute of Science, although they believed they had. Now the Institute has decided that digging should stop, so that the dispute wont get worse. ..."
Smallest Extra-Solar Planet Yet...
Space.com reports on June 13th that "Astronomers announced today the discovery of the smallest planet so far found outside of our solar system. About seven-and-a-half times as massive as Earth, and about twice as wide, this new extrasolar planet may be the first rocky world ever found orbiting a star similar to our own. 'This is the smallest extrasolar planet yet detected and the first of a new class of rocky terrestrial planets,' said team member Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. 'It's like Earth's bigger cousin.' Currently around 150 extrasolar planets are known, and the number continues to grow. But most of these far-off worlds are large gas giants like Jupiter. Only recently have astronomers started detecting smaller massed objects. ..."
Discovery Institute gets New Ally...
The Discovery Institute started the "Evolution News & Views" blog recently: "The misreporting of the evolution issue is one key reason for this new blog. The newsmedia in the U.S. seem to have rediscovered the evolution controversy recently. Unfortunately, much of the news coverage has been sloppy, inaccurate, and in several cases, overtly biased. ..."
Well, they must be overjoyed that someone in the Media is paying attention. That's right - the folks at Weekly World News have signed on to Intelligent Design!
Ed Anger of the Weekly World News wrote in his April 20, 2004 column "I'm madder than Adam with a one-inch fig leaf at how these left-wing heathens, atheists and agnostics are trying to stuff this evolution baloney down our kids' throats! ... Now over in Missouri, they've come up with a mighty fair idea: A bill that would require teaching the theory of intelligent design right alongside Darwin's theory of evolution, both getting equal time. Why shouldn't kids be exposed to the valid scientific hypothesis that says everything in the Bible is true and God made Eve out of Adam's rib? That way they'll be free to make up their own minds -- instead of being told what to think by a pack of God-hating pinkos. ..."
Posted June 10th, 2005
Single Gene Triggers Gender Role Swaps in Flies...
Nature reports on June 2nd that "Male and female fruitflies have been engineered to switch courtship roles, through the manipulation of a single gene. The study, which appears in Cell, shows how a simple genetic adjustment can cause a dramatic change in sexual behaviour. 'It was quite something to see,' says Barry Dickson, who is one of the authors and is based at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. ... the researchers caution that controls on a fruitfly's sexual behaviour are undoubtedly different from our own. 'In the case of humans, we know that our sexual behaviours are not irreversibly set by our genes,' says Dickson. 'But that doesn't mean the genes have no influence,' he adds. ..."
Trib: Don't Limit Best Science...
In a June 2nd editorial, The Albuquerque Tribune opined "It seems like every time you turn around these days, there is an assault on science in America. It's not good for the country, its people, its political system or its economy. Still, from school boards trying to install religious creationism as science in public school classrooms, to the Oval Office ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming, political institutions are side-stepping science and compromising public policy, based on political ideology, religious preference, commercial favoritism and plain, old prejudice. The latest attack is right here in Albuquerque, where the Southwest Region director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has arbitrarily decided to limit the use of genetics in making official decisions on protecting endangered animals and plants. Fortunately, scientists and other Fish and Wildlife officials are not taking Director Dale Hall's anti-science, pro-development edict lying down. They are complaining - and well they should. So are environmental and conservation organizations, which at the first opportunity should challenge Hall's decision legally. ..."
Astronomer Reviews "Privileged Planet"...
William H. Jefferys of The University of Texas at Austin has reviewed the book The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards, the source for the movie of the same name. Jefferys observes "But, if the universe had been designed by a sufficiently powerful designer, the constants would not have to be right in order for us to exist. For example, the designer could create a universe where the constants are not right for the production of carbon and oxygen in the interiors of stars, preferring instead (for whatever reason: whim, or the desire to accomplish other goals such as letting us know that he exists by means of a subtle scientific clue) just to manufacture the required carbon atoms and sprinkle them where needed throughout the universe. ... which means that our observing that 'the constants are right' actually provides powerful evidence in favor of the naturalistic hypothesis. It would actually be our observing that 'the constants are wrong' that would undermine, and in fact refute the naturalistic hypothesis. The ID creationists have the inequality backwards. ..."
Dissertation Committee Stacking Causes Uproar...
Richard B. Hoppe writes in The Panda's Thumb on June 7 about the case of one Bryan Leonard, a doctoral candidate in science education at the Ohio State University, whose dissertation is about an ID-based critical analysis approach to teaching evolution in public schools. The problem, Hoppe notes, is "the composition of the committee that was to conduct the examination." The Science Education Ph.D. program requires that "Upon completion of the [candidacy] examination, the student may reorganize the committee to reflect the expertise needed for the dissertation. The dissertation committee must have at least three members: two from the science education program area and one from outside the science education program area." Hoppe notes that "there are no members of Leonards dissertation committee who are specialists in science education or in evolutionary biology, even though Leonards dissertation is specifically directed at methods of teaching evolutionary biology in public school science classes. The two senior tenured members of the committee, DiSilvestro and Needham, in fact share a single salient qualification: they have both publicly associated themselves with the intelligent design creationist movement in Ohio and elsewhere. ..."
Yes, it's bad-smell time in Denmark again....
Oklahoma Zoo to add Creationism?
CNN reported on June 8th that "The Tulsa Zoo will add a display featuring the biblical account of creation following complaints to a city board about other displays with religious significance, including a Hindu elephant statue. The Tulsa Park and Recreation Board voted 3-1 on Tuesday in favor of a display depicting God's creation of the world in six days and his rest on the seventh, as told in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. ... Zoo employees, religious leaders and others spoke in opposition, saying religion shouldn't be part of the taxpayer-funded scientific institution. But those who favored the creationist exhibit, including Mayor Bill LaFortune, argued that the zoo already displayed religious items, including the statue of the Hindu god, Ganesh, outside the elephant exhibit and a marble globe inscribed with an American Indian saying: 'The earth is our mother. The sky is our father.' ...Zoo officials had argued that the zoo does not advocate religion and that displays like the elephant statue are meant to show the animal's image among cultures. The same exhibit includes the Republican Party's elephant symbol. ..."
NMSR signs on to Selman Amicus Brief...
Several science anc civil liberties groups have filed amicus briefs in support of a recent U.S. District Court decision, Selman v. Cobb County School District, which ruled that evolution disclaimers mandated for Cobb County, Georgia, public school textbooks were unconstitutional. The "friend of the court briefs" were filed in the eleventh circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, in response to an appeal seeking to overturn the Selman decision. In addition to the National Center for Science Education and People for the American Way, amicus briefs supporting the Selman decision were also submitted by the National Science Teachers Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women and The Interfaith Alliance, the Witherspoon Society and the Clergy and Laity Network, the American Jewish Congress, coalitions of grassroots pro-science organizations, and a coalition of fifty-six scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. NMSR is proud to be one of the organizations supporting good science in Georgia.
Female Orgasms and Genetics...
Emma Ross of ABC News writes on June 8th that "A woman's ability to have an orgasm is at least partly determined by her genes and can't be blamed entirely on cultural influences, new research suggests. ... The similarity in orgasm experience was greater in identical twins than it was in non-identical twins, Spector said. Because the only difference between the two groups was genetic, the researchers concluded that the gap between the groups was the genetic component. ..."
The Guardian (UK) commented on June 8th that "Tim Spector of St Thomas's hospital in London, who led the research, said: 'The theory is that the orgasm is an evolutionary way of seeing if men can prove themselves to be likely good providers or dependable, patient and caring enough to look after the kids.' Women who orgasm very easily may be more likely to be satisfied with poor quality men. ..."
Not so fast, says Lisa Lloyd on the "Philosophy of Biology" Blog for June 9th, as she writes "Here is a passage from the Guardian, which is apparently a paraphrase from Spector: 'The genetic control over how easily women experience an orgasm during sex shows it is subject to evolutionary pressure, which means it must confer a biological advantage.' But this is just a mistake. A genetic basis to the trait shows no such thing. It shows that the trait is a candidate for natural selection, but it also equally well could have arisen as an embryological byproduct of selection on the male orgasm, much as the male nipple arose as a byproduct of selection on the female nipple. ..."
Posted June 3rd, 2005
At 8 Years Old, are you Cynical and Sarcastic already?
ABC News reports on June 1st that "A recent series of studies has gone beyond asking basic questions about the brain, such as how we speak or tell our limbs to move, and is probing more complex areas of cognition. Some researchers now want to know how we understand metaphors, why we "get" sarcasm (or don't), and how soon we become cynical. ...Candice Mills, a graduate student in psychology at Yale University, recently surveyed Connecticut schoolchildren ages 6 to 12 to find out how early they learned to process information with a grain of salt. 'We tend to think of children as being extremely gullible -- that they believe everything they hear," said Mills who recently earned her doctorate at Yale. 'We wanted to see how true that was.' True to predictions, children younger than 8 years old in the survey proved to be fairly gullible. But, to their surprise, 8- to 12-year-olds turned out to be a very cynical bunch. ..."
Before you Vote Today, Please Inhale This Spray...
ABC News reported on June 1st "Trust in a bottle? It sounds like a marketer's fantasy, like the fabled fountain of youth or the wild claims of fad diets. Yet that's what Swiss and American scientists demonstrate in new experiments with a nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin. After a few squirts, human subjects were significantly more trusting and willing to invest money with no ironclad promise of a profit. The researchers acknowledged their findings could be abused by con artists or even sleazy politicians who might sway an election, provided they could squirt enough voters on their way to the polls. ..."
ID Film Flap at Smithsonian...
The NY Times reports on June 3rd that "The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History has withdrawn its co-sponsorship of a showing later this month of a film that supports the theory of 'intelligent design.' The museum said it would not cancel the screening of the film, 'The Privileged Planet,' but will return the $16,000 that the Discovery Institute, an organization that promotes a skeptical view of the Darwinian theory of evolution, had paid it. Proposals for events at the National Museum of Natural History are reviewed by members of the staff, and it co-sponsors all events. After the news of the showing caused controversy, however, officials of the museum screened ''Privileged Planet'' for themselves.'The major problem with the film is the wrap-up,' said Randall Kremer, a museum spokesman. 'It takes a philosophical bent rather than a clear statement of the science, and that's where we part ways with them.' ..."
Arrest Made in Mallove Murder...
MFSB.com (Connecticut) reports on June 2 that "Norwich police have made an arrest in a murder that went unsolved for over a year. Gary McAvoy was arrested yesterday for the 2004 murder of science writer Eugene Mallove. The writer was found dead last May on the lawn of his family's home they were renting in Norwich. Police believed the 56-year-old Mallove was killed during a robbery. Detectives said McAvoy had been a suspect in the murder for some time. However, they said they recently gathered evidence needed to arrest him. ..."
Mallove's Infinite Energy site: http://www.infinite-energy.com/whoarewe/gene.html
UPI reports on June 3rd that "A University of Utah study of Ashkenazi Jews suggests an unusual link between their genetic diseases and their higher intellectual ability. The study, to appear in Cambridge University's Journal of Biosocial Science, says this unusual pattern of diseases among the Ashkenazis of central and northern Europe is the result of natural selection for enhanced intellectual ability. The study says the selective force was the restriction of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe to occupations that required more than usual mental agility, the New York Times reported Friday. The study has received mixed reaction, with some scientists saying the finding is extremely implausible. Others say the researchers have made an interesting case. The Utah researchers say Ashkenazic diseases like Tay-Sachs are a side effect of genes that promote intelligence. They say for some 900 years Jews in Europe were restricted to managerial occupations, which were intellectually demanding. In the United States, Ashkenazi Jews make up 3 percent of the American population but have won 27 percent of its Nobel prizes. They also account for more than half of world chess champions. ..."
This is not news to NMSR members, who got the scoop directly from author Gregory Cochran at the NMSR meeting of March 10th, 2004.
NMSR to be on PAX TV Saturday, JUNE 4th, 8 PM...
The "BIBLE CONTROVERSIES" edition of "Faith Under Fire," hosted by Lee Strobel on PAX TV, will air on Saturday, June 4th, at 8:00 PM (but check local listings). This is Show No. 126 (June 4, 2005). Pne of the three segments concerns "Secret Bible Codes." Here's the pitch: "Secret codes. You saw them in National Treasure. You read about them in The Da Vinci Code. Is it possible that there are actually secret codes in the Bible! And if there is some kind of code in the Bible, why is it there? Two mathematicians debate the existence of Bible codes. Insurance actuarial consultant Ed Sherman, author of the Bible Code Bombshell, says he tried to disprove the code notion but ended up being convinced of its authenticity. Physicist Dr. Dave Thomas the author of Skeptical Odysseys and a member of the Committee for Scientific of Claims of the Paranormal, remains unconvinced...."
NEW THIS WEEK at NMSR..
Try NMSR's JUNE MINDBOGGLER PUZZLE - THE NO-FEE BROKER
NEW ARTICLE on "Bible Code Digest" Claims!
Posted May 27th, 2005
Is there an (ID) Doctor in the House?
Businesswire.com reported on May 23rd that "Results of a national survey of 1,472 physicians revealed that more than half of physicians (63%) agree that the theory of evolution is more correct than intelligent design. The study was conducted by the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Social and Religious Research at The Jewish Theological Seminary and HCD Research in Flemington, New Jersey, from May 13-15. ..."
The full survey is available at http://www.hcdi.net/polls/J5776/ .
The Discovery Institute re-did the math, and came up with a completely different conclusion: "Poll: 60 Percent of Doctors Reject Darwinism." Jonathan Witt writes on May 24th that "Questioned about the origin and development of human beings, only 38% agreed with the Darwinian story that 'humans evolved naturally with no supernatural involvement--no divinity played any role.' In contrast, 42% said that 'God initiated and guided an evolutionary process that has led to current human beings.' That scenario involves intelligent design and, thus, contradicts the Neo-Darwinian account. Another 18% of doctors said "God created humans exactly as they appear now." Thus, 60% of doctors take an ID position. ..."
Clearly, the Discovery Institute's Witt is claiming that "Theistic Evolution" (the view that "God initiated and guided an evolutionary process that has led to current human beings") is a position favored by Intelligent Design (ID) advocates - he adds the 18% of doctors who say "God created humans exactly as they appear now" to the 42% who are theistic evolutionists, to yield 60% total taking "an ID position."
Theres a fly in the ointment, of course. And that is that "theistic evolution" is anathema, even heresy, to those in the ID movement.
For example, ID proponents here in New Mexico declare that
"Theistic evolution does not make sense..."
And top ID theorist William Dembski says "Howard Van Tills review of my book No Free Lunch exemplifies perfectly why theistic evolution remains intelligent designs most implacable foe. Not only does theistic evolution sign off on the naturalism that pervades so much of contemporary science, but it justifies that naturalism theologically as though it were unworthy of God to create by any means other than an evolutionary process that carefully conceals Gods tracks. ..."
The Discovery Institute and its allies are now on record saying that "theistic evolution" is both a PRO-ID and an ANTI-ID position. Lucky for us, someone has written a good book on just such abuse of language by polemicists. It's called "1984" by George Orwell. "Ignorance Is Knowledge" is precisely the same sort of doublethink that Witt and Dembski are eagerly promoting today. And it shows why ID must be kept out of science classes.
Work of Archimedes recovered under Monk's Graffiti...
ABC News reported on May 23rd that "A particle accelerator is being used to reveal the long-lost writings of the Greek mathematician Archimedes, work hidden for centuries after a Christian monk wrote over it in the Middle Ages. Highly focused X-rays produced at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center were used last week to begin deciphering the parts of the 174-page text that have not yet been revealed. The X-rays cause iron in the hidden ink to glow. ..."
TEOTWAWKI in 2012?
Albuquerque's KRQE-TV 13 had an item on the May 24th news entitled "New Mexico plays part in latest doomsday prediction." It was about the Mayan calendar, which some say shows The End of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) slated for December 21st, 2012. I was interviewed for the segment, and had this to say on-air: "Thomas says for most of us, the year 2012 will be no big deal, and those dire predictions are nothing new. 'They failed in 2000, they failed in 2003 with Planet X, they failed in 2004 with Toutatis, and they're going to fail in 2012 with the Mayan calendar change.' [Thomas said] ...Will 2012 be a new beginning, or the end? We'll find out in less than 3000 days. ..."
The "Boss" is NOT a Creationist...
The Asbury Park Press reported on Bruce Springsteen's new album and tour on May 19th, noting that "When it comes to lambasting a fundamentalism that he believes can be toxic, Springsteen has realized that ridicule can be an effective tool. He prefaced his performance of the reggae-influenced B-side 'Part Man, Part Monkey' with a rap about efforts to discourage the teaching of evolution in public schools. In New Jersey, he said, joking with the audience, 'we believe in evolution it's our only hope.' ..."
"Extreme Makeover," Kooky Aluminum Foil Hat Edition ...
Channel KCRA (California) reports on May 20th that "A home in Sacramento's south Natomas neighborhood is surrounded by sheet metal, and neighbors are calling it an eyesore. The D'Souza family lives in the home on Timberwood Court, and claims the aluminium pieces are necessary to protect them from unknown neighbors who have been bombarding them with radio waves and making them sick. '(It's) a shield to protect against radiation, because microwave radiation is reflected off of aluminium, so it's a protective measure,' resident Sarah D'Souza said. ..."
There's a Must-see Free Video too!
Posted May 20th, 2005
Penn ID Election goes down Party Lines ...
WBOC TV (Maryland) reports on May 18th that "In Dover, Pennsylvania, a party-line split emerged in a school board primary. The election drew national attention after the board's decision to require that ninth-grade students be told about "intelligent design" when they learn about evolution. Republicans picked seven incumbent school board members who support the policy, while Democrats nominated seven who say the idea is biblical creationism cloaked in secular language. Democrats say public schools can teach about 'intelligent design' -- just not in science classes. ..."
More Kansas Kangaroos...
In this week's summaries of the recent Kansas Evolution "Hearings," there's a detailed analysis by Stan Cox in Alternet for May 19th: "[ID witness]Warren Nord enthusiastically recommended that schools should wrap every subject, including biology, in its religious and philosophical context. An incredulous Irigonegaray asked him, 'Is it important to have religion taught in economics class?' Nord: 'Yes.' Irigonegaray: 'What about math class?' Nord: 'I can make a case for that.' ..."
And Andrew Gumbel has a very good discussion in Los Angeles City Beat for May 19th: "Nobody can seriously claim that all questions in evolutionary science have been resolved, or that the finer points of microbial development are not subject to debate and disagreement. But it is one thing to critique various schools of cutting-edge evolutionary theory; quite another to say that because certain questions remain unresolved that they are unresolvable, except by invocation of a higher power ...Another manifestation of the misdirection of the ID movement is the ludicrous notion that high schools are the appropriate venue for intricate debate about the finer points of evolutionary science. Any public school science teacher will tell you its already a minor miracle if a 16-year-old can accurately summarize The Origin of Species, or pinpoint the Galapagos Islands on an atlas. Raising questions about the cellular structure of the flagellum is unlikely to exercise most students until grad school. The only reason for raising such questions before state education authorities is not to deepen the scientific understanding of teenagers but rather to sow deliberate confusion. It is about denigrating mainstream science as biased against religion which it is not ..."
Finally, another good editorial appears in the May 18th Pratt Tribune: "It seems extremely important to the proponents of intelligent design that children are exposed to their theory before the scientific community has accepted even the smallest part of it. No other central scientific theory has ever sought or won approval in this manner. Indeed, it is particularly telling that no other fringe theory - and I.D. is a fringe theory - is clamoring for equal time in high school classrooms or equal space in science standards. Even the wackiest are making their fight in the halls of academia. ..."
More on Pope Benedict and evolution...
Lawrence Krauss, writing in the May 17th New York Times, notes that "Popes from Pius XII to John Paul II have reaffirmed that the process of evolution in no way violates the teachings of the church. Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, presided over the church's International Theological Commission, which stated that 'since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism.' ..."
CA Quake Forecasts now ONLINE...
ABC News reports on May 18th that "Californians wondering if tomorrow's forecast will be sunny can now find out if there's also a chance of afternoon tremors. Scientists launched a Web site Wednesday that calculates the probability of strong ground-shaking at specific locations over a 24-hour period. The forecast maps, updated hourly, would be most useful after a temblor strong enough to break windows and crack plaster, according to U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Matthew Gerstenberger, who developed the site. ..."
Want to Win? Wear Red, say Scientists...
ABC News reported on May 19th that "If winning is everything, British anthropologists have some advice: Wear red. Their survey of four sports at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens shows competitors were more likely to win their contests if they wore red uniforms or red body armor. 'Across a range of sports, we find that wearing red is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning,' report Russell A. Hill and Robert A. Barton of the University of Durham in England. Their findings are in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. ..."
NMSR Radio - TOMORROW (SAT. 21st) is the DAY...
Thanks to the Trib for plugging NMSR's radio experiment on its web site: "Science education debate goes on air- The battle over creationism is hitting New Mexico's airwaves Saturday. The group New Mexicans for Science and Reason is teaming up with KABQ-1350 Progressive Talk for a live radio show from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. The group will discuss efforts in the state and around the country to keep Christian creationism and intelligent design theories out of school science classrooms. The show will also include trivia questions, call-ins and prize giveaways, Thomas said. ..."
For a teaser of the Trivia Questions, and for a look at my
first-ever animated GIF image, check out the NMSR Radio
PLEASE TUNE IN!!
Posted May 13th, 2005
Kansas, Bloody Kansas - Hearings End...
Writing in the May 9th Baltimore Chronicle, columnist Jason S. Miller writes "Ringling Brothers could not rival the hype of the circus of events dubbed 'Scopes II.' Led by its three 'ringmasters' (Kathy Martin, Steve Abrams, and Connie Morris), the Kansas State School Board has once again put the theory of Evolution on trial. Despite the lack of testimony from a single member of the established, mainstream scientific community, 'the show must go on' as the board 'proves' that Evolution is dubious at best. The purpose of this extravaganza is to 'validate' the new science standards they desperately want to implement, and they are determined to 'bring home the win' this time. ..."
The hearings have ended, acrimoniously. Scott Rothschild of the Lawrence Journal-World writes on May 13th that "Historic hearings on evolution that attracted international attention ended Thursday in acrimony, tears, finger-pointing and heated exchanges. Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka attorney defending evolution, was at the center of the dispute when he refused to be cross-examined after delivering a two-hour verbal attack, blasting critics of evolution. 'This was a gigantic waste of money and an insult to Kansas teachers,' Irigonegaray said of the hearings on science standards that will be used as a guide for instruction of science to Kansas public school students. ... on Thursday when conservative State Board of Education members and attorney John Calvert, director of an intelligent design organization, sought to cross-examine Irigonegaray, he refused. 'I am not a witness,' Irigonegaray said. 'My personal views are irrelevant.' ... During a short break in the hearing, Irigonegaray went to shake Calvert's hand, but Calvert refused. 'I don't think he is playing by the rules,' Calvert said. But Irigonegaray said he was the attorney representing mainstream scientists -- not a witness -- and he never agreed to be cross-examined. ..."
Red State Rabble's Take (May 13, 2005): "Irigonegaray's refusal to be questioned as a witness marked the first time during these odd proceedings that a participant actually played the role assigned to him. John Calvert, like the primadonna who wants to play every part in the school play, acted not only as counsel for the intelligent design minority, but as witness, and behind the scenes board advisor, as well. Board members Steve Abrams, Connie Morris, and Kathy Martin acted not as jurists who impartially weighed the testimony of the 23 intelligent design witnesses, but as cheerleaders for them. ..."
Most Dangerous American Volcanoes Listed...NM Places with #65!
Nature reports on May 3rd that "After spending more than a year assessing 169 active volcanoes in the United States and the Mariana Islands, experts have identified the volcanoes that pose the greatest threat to people and property. ..." The top three include Kilauea (Hawaii), and St Helens and Rainier (Washington).
And Adam Rankin of the Albuquerque Journal writes on May 11th that "The Valles Caldera, a 14-mile-wide volcanic bowl in the center of the Jemez Mountains and the heart of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, is far from being a dead volcano. The U.S. Geological Survey ranks it as a moderate threat for an eruption, placing it 65th for volcanic hazards among the nation's 169 volcanoes evaluated in its most recent study. ..."
Saturn's Phoebe is a Squatter...
Nature reports on May 4th that "Saturn's small, lumpy moon Phoebe isn't native to its home planet, scientists have confirmed. Instead the lump of rock was captured by Saturn's gravity from rubble left after the formation of the Solar System. ..."
New Species Turns Up in Laotian outdoor market...
John Noble Wilford The New York Times writes on May 12th that "They live in the forests and limestone outcrops of Laos. With long whiskers, stubby legs and a long, furry tail, they are rodents but unlike any seen before by wildlife scientists. They are definitely not rats or squirrels, only vaguely like a guinea pig or a chinchilla. And they often show up in Laotian outdoor markets being sold for food. There, visiting scientists came upon the animals and determined that they represented a rare find: an entire new family of wildlife. ... 'To find something so distinct in this day and age is just extraordinary,' said Robert Timmins of the Wildlife Conservation Society, one of the discoverers. 'For all we know, this could be the last remaining mammal family left to be discovered.' ... They are definitely not rats or squirrels, only vaguely like a guinea pig or a chinchilla. And they often show up in Laotian outdoor markets being sold for food. There, visiting scientists came upon the animals and determined that they represented a rare find: an entire new family of wildlife. ..."
Steve Reuland at the Panda's Thumb writes on May 12th "It sure does look delicious. While I dont know any details about this new mammal, there are several predictions I can make about it based on our knowledge of evolution: It will have red blood cells that lack nuclei; It will have three middle ear bones; It will have continuously growing incisors; It will be endothermic. ..."
Vermont to "Free Electricity's" Dennis Lee: You Owe Us $40,000...
All American Patriots/Vermont News reports on March 7th that "Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced today that a state court has granted his offices request for remedies against a New Jersey free electricity promoter, Dennis Lee, doing business as United Community Services of America (UCSA). The remedies include a permanent ban on Lees doing business in Vermont and an award of over $40,000 to the State. ..."
For reports of Lee's exploits and exploitations in New Mexico,
Lucky Lotto Winners;: Mysterious Fortunes Revealed...
Jennifer Lee of The New York Times writes on May 12th that "Powerball lottery officials suspected fraud: How could 110 players in the March 30 drawing get five of the six numbers right? That made them all second-prize winners, and considering the number of tickets sold in the 29 states where the game is played, there should have been only four or five. But from state after state they kept coming in, the 1-in-3-million combination of 22, 28, 32, 33, 39. It took some time before they had their answer: The players got their numbers inside fortune cookies, and all the cookies came from the same factory in Long Island City, Queens. ... Earlier that month, an ABC television show, 'Lost,' included a sequence of winning lottery numbers. The combination didn't match the Powerball numbers, though hundreds of people had played it: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42. Numbers on a Powerball ticket in a recent episode of a soap opera, 'The Young and the Restless,' didn't match, either. Nor did the winning numbers form a pattern on the lottery grid, like a cross or a diagonal. Then the winners started arriving at lottery offices. 'Our first winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie,' said Rebecca Paul, chief executive of the Tennessee Lottery. ... Same story in Idaho, Texas, Kansas, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Minnesota. ..."
NMSR's report on the 'Lost' Lotto Numbers in New Mexico: http://www.nmsr.org/nmsr2005.htm#abclost
NEW THIS WEEK AT NMSR...
Join New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) for a LIVE Weekend Broadcast on KABQ 1350 AM (Albuquerque, NM), COMING SOON! Your help is needed!
Posted May 6th, 2005
NMSR World Exclusive: What does a Creationist Infomercial Cost?
Subtitled "Again with Unlocking - Now May 22"
The Albuquerque Tribune reported on May 4th that "A documentary not aired on one TV station after furor over its content and funding is getting a new life at another one. 'Unlocking the Mystery of Life,' which challenges Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, will air at 4 p.m. May 22 on KOB-Channel 4. Officials at KOB say their decision to air the show was a simple business transaction. 'It (the documentary) is really no different than a paid political show,' said Susan Connors, KOB station manager. 'We are a commercial television station, and we reviewed the program and there was nothing that was inconsistent with our policy to air a paid program.' The station would not disclose the amount Intelligent Design Network-New Mexico paid to air the program. The program will run with a disclaimer that the content does not reflect KOB's views. ..."
Source: http://www.abqtrib.com/albq/nw_local/article/0,2564,ALBQ_19858_3751191,00.html [expired, alas]
Had the Trib read last month's NMSR Reports, they would have learned that one can simply call KOB, and ask how much it would cost to run an infomercial at a given time. When we did so last month, we found that it will cost IDnet about $8,000 to air the ID infomercial.
And, courtesy of our crack NMSR investigative team, here is some direct confirmation of the cost from the Christian fundraising group that helped IDnet raise the required cash. This information comes from www.rges.cc/news/050214.htm, a web page of the "Rio Grande Enrichment Studies, L.L.C.," a local group "Helping the Homeschool Family Succeed Since 1994." The news writer for this group is one Mark Burton, a nice chap we had lunch with several times during NMSR's internet debate a few years back with the Creation Science Fellowship of New Mexico, which Burton represents. (See http://www.nmsr.org/debate.htm.) The RGES news for Feb. 14, 2005 states "Latest on Channel 4 and Unlocking the Mystery of Life. KOB cost for 60 min is $7200, a good deal for about half of prime time. We are shooting for airing of Unlocking on March 13 at 4 pm. This is an important event for ID in New Mexico and another step along the way to objective science education based on the empirical evidence, not a materialistic ideology. Remember that each challenge or victory anywhere is shared by all states in which the battle is being fought. Please put the word out in your churches and to friends regarding this time-urgent need for financial support. Contributions are tax-deductible. Anything beyond the cost of airing the program goes toward advertising and the IDnet-NM general fund to be used specifically to support the costs of procurement and distribution of DVDs such as Unlocking to science teachers all over New Mexico. If contributions fall substantially below the needed $7200, we will delay airing of the video until we have the needed funds. I don't think that will be a problem. Please make checks out to IDnet-NM with the note "for Unlocking" and mail to: Joe Renick, IDnet-NM ..."
As happened last month, backstage intrigues continue. The "Privileged Planet" was also going to be shown on May 29th on KOB, but that has vanished, leaving only Unlocking set for May 22nd.
But wait - there's more! It turns out that Mark Burton, in addition to raising money to show creation vidoes on television, has also been in the local news for a completely different reason - breast art on Albuquerque's Central Avenue. Burton was on KOB 770 AM radio recently to encourage people to sign his petition, which protested the bare breasts on a mural at the "Snob Hill" merchant in Nob Hill.
Here's the scoop from the "Quirky Burque" Blog:
It's spring in Albuquerque. The breasts are out on parade and the Morality Police are fuming at the indecency. Apparently, the mural at Snob Hill Body Jewelry on Central Ave is the latest target, deemed obscene and patently offensive. So offensive that some hard-up bible-thumper is currently circulating the following petition to homes in Nob Hill.
... note how the little sexless bastard couldn't RESIST from including a photo of those hot juicy breasts in his flyer.
READER UPDATE: If you didn't guess it already -- the address on the flyer happens to be home to the Baptist Conservative Foothills Fellowship -- 12504 Candelaria Rd NE 294-0016.
NEWS UPDATE: The blogosphere reacts to ABQ's Breast Police.
Just when you thought nobody noticed what goes down in dusty little Duke City... the world's blogonauts are VERY UNHAPPY about Albuquerque's Breast Police...
A blogger in London: The Brits are laughing at us and thinking, ahh... quite nice to be rid of the bloody Puritans.
A blogger in Australia who's using the Snob Hill image as his blog header(!): Australian guy named Lambie thinks we're prudish. (Um, that's an affirmative.)
A blogger in NY: Aaron just finds it interesting that we have Breast Police in ABQ. ...
You can ogle the the Lusty & Lecherous "Foothills Fellowship Petition" HERE !
Burton's Foothills Fellowship church is several miles from Nob Hill, but that hasn't stopped the church from telling Nob Hill a thing or two about Morality. The comical thing is that Mark Burton, by being on the radio promoting his petition, and by including the offending breasts on that petition, has helped spread the image of those big knockers all over the world.
The Trib didn't even find out what Unlocking cost the creationists. See what happens when you investigate the rest of the story? Sure, you might say it's a stretch connecting creationism with anti-breast fervor. And it might have been, except - it is the same guy, Mark Burton, doing both of these activities. The Culture Wars are on, people!
Darwin in school, breasts in public art -- nothing is safe.
Georgia Stickers Must GO!
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reported on May 5th that "When Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that the evolution disclaimers in the Cobb County School District's textbooks were unconstitutional, he also ordered the stickers to be removed. Because of the time needed, he subsequently allowed the removal to be scheduled for the summer of 2005. Nevertheless, the Cobb County School District asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the order, pending its decision on the district's appeal of Selman. On May 3, 2005, a three-judge panel denied the Cobb County School District's request. Speaking to the Marietta Daily Journal, Michael Manely, who, along with the ACLU, represented the plaintiffs at trial, commented, "It's the first serious nail in the coffin from the Court of Appeals. They are expressing their preliminary thoughts on the subject. This is like a preview of what is certain to come. It tells the board that this corpse is beginning to smell really bad."...
Kansas Kangaroo Court is Under Way...
For background on the anti-science hearings this week, in what is being dubbed "Scopes II" by many pundits, check out this excellent in-depth report by Tony Ortega, "Your OFFICIAL program to the Scopes II Kansas Monkey Trial."
See also ongoing reports at the Panda's Thumb (http://www.pandasthumb.org/), and check back often on reports from the front lines by correspondent Pat Hayes of Red State Rabble (http://www.redstaterabble.blogspot.com/). Today's "Rabble" has an interesting bombshell: "As intelligent design witness after witness admitted under questioning that they have not read the majority draft of the science standards, board member Kathy Martin jumped in to save the day. 'I've not read it word for word myself,' Martin said as the air went out of the room. ..." Wow.
Big Changes at the Labs...
Los Alamos National Labs head Peter Nanos stepped down on May 6th, 2005. Some says it was because of the Bloggers, writing about complaints at the lab after security-related work stoppages. One particularly vivid blog image appears here:
See Also: http://lanl-the-real-story.blogspot.com
Nanos is the second major Lab director to step down in New Mexico recently. On April 11th, Sandia Labs president C. Paul Robinson stepped down as head of Sandia National Laboratories, in order to chair Lockheed Martin's bid to manage Los Alamos. The Journal's Fleck has this analogy: "For 'Lockheed Martin,' substitute 'New York Yankees.' For 'C. Paul Robinson,' substitute 'Randy Johnson.' Lockheed Martin was already a formidable bidder. Robinson carries with him a sterling reputation from his tenure at Sandia, which has not been marred by the sort of headline-generating scandals that have plagued Los Alamos. ..."
Dennis Lee targets Churches...
The Baptists4Ethics.com site announced on April 15th, that "A man once known for barnstorming the country trying to sell dealerships for a machine he claimed would make free electricity from air is now offering churches grants up to $50 million to help bring 'Christian values' to America. In an introductory video on a Web site promoting 'The Kingdom Grant,' Dennis Lee claims to represent a consortium of Christian businessmen planning to put $50 billion a year back into communities in order to 're-instill Christian values in the United States.' He urges pastors to apply for awards of $5 million for every 100 members in their congregation. That means a church with 500 members would receive $25 million a year. ..."
Maybe that's how Lee plans to avoid Attorneys General? For reports of his exploits and exploitations in New Mexico, see
NEW THIS WEEK AT NMSR...
A new FUMBLES Column (NMSR'S Media Watch): http://www.nmsr.org/fumbles.htm
A new PUZZLE of the MONTH: The Micro-Brewmaster: http://www.nmsr.org/puzzles.htm
Posted April 29th, 2005
Antarctic glaciers in mass retreat...
Nature reports on Apr. 21 that "Almost all the glaciers that flow into the sea off the Antarctic Peninsula are retreating. The discovery comes from an analysis spanning more than half a century of aerial photographs and satellite images. ..."
And John Fleck blogs on the new report by James Hansen and his Goddard Institute for Space Studies colleagues. Fleck says "Hansen and his colleagues have clearly found another fingerprint that matches what is being detected around the world with what the climate models predict we should be seeing if greenhouse gases are driving our climate change. But do we keep having to have this argument? Far more important, it seems to be, is the way the study's contributions to the 'what happens next' part. ..."
New Data on the Question: "Who is For Evolution?"...
This Panda's Thumb blog entry takes a new look at the old question, featuring creationist pastor and parent Ray Mummert's pithy assessment: We`ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture...
LiveScience.com does Science and MORE...
I've been enjoying the LiveScience.com site. Here are three reasons why:
The Top 10 Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths):
Voice of Reason: The Myth of Tsunami Survivors' Sixth Sense, By
The Top 10 Useless Limbs (and Other Vestigial Organs):
AGAIN with the Table-Top Fusion...
Nature reports on April 27th that "At first, it sounds like the biggest science story of the century: scientists have invented a desktop fusion machine. If nuclear fusion can be made to happen at room temperatures and pressures in an average lab, then one might think the world's energy crisis is over. But the inventors of the device stress that their gadget cannot generate power at all, because it does not support a self-sustaining thermonuclear reaction. Instead, they say, it has a whole host of other applications, from treating cancer to powering spacecraft. ..."
Bob Park at the American Physical Society had this to say: "Newspapers around the country reported the amazing result that a UCLA team had demonstrated fusion of deuterium to form helium in a table-top device. They were, of course, scooped by Ernest Rutherford, 71 years ago. Fusion is easy. A self-sustaining reaction is not. ..."
"Mark Boslough double-fooled Snopes.com and probably fooled himself as well..."
Folks, we're not making this stuff up. Following the success of our world-famous prank, www.nmsr.org/alabama.htm, now someone is claiming "Snopes.com, supposedly able to expose urban legends, has been double-fooled by this little piece. ...(This wonderful bit of creative writing began circulating on the Internet in April 1998. Written by Mark Boslough ) ... Snopes goes on to say that no law was passed to redefine pi to 3.0, and that Mark Bosloughs writing is a spoof. But Mark Boslough has fooled Snopes.com. The real deception requires a bit of knowledge of mathematics and also a bit of knowledge of Scripture. Snopes.com lacked the ability, for whatever reason, to expose the real deception, so we will take care of that here. ..."
Posted April 22nd, 2005
IDealogues Salivating Over Pope Benedict XVI...
Will the new pope of the Catholic Church reverse the previous pope's stand regarding evolution? ID's Bill Dembski thinks so... "Unlike John Paul II, who seemed to sign off on conventional evolutionary theory save for the divine infusion of souls at the origin of humanity, we can expect Benedict XVI to single out intelligent design for special favors. Indeed, I wouldnt be surprised to see Michael Behe invited to an audience with the new pope. ..."
Not so fast - consider these statements from the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the Book of Genesis: "It is, rather, the echo of God's history with His people. ... The Bible is not a natural-science textbook, nor does it intend to be such."
My prediction: If Benedict XVI is as conservative as they say, don't look for him to rush out tomorrow to overturn John Paul II's pronouncements on evolution. Or, for that matter, St. Augustine's on scripture versus science.
Russian Astrologist to NASA: KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF THAT COMET! ...
Moscow News reported on April 19th that "...a Deep Impact mission is underway, with a NASA spacecraft scheduled to collide with the Tempel-1 comet on July 4, perhaps blasting it to smithereens. Thats right, its Independence Day. Now, the last thing NASA expected was a lawsuit from Russia. But Russian astrologist Marina Bai gave it a try, and, according to her lawyer Alexander Molokhov, it looks like she may just pull it off. In a lawsuit she filed last month with the Presnensky district court in Moscow, Bai is demanding that NASA call off its $311 million operation, with the spacecraft already in its cruise phase. ... 'The actions of NASA infringe upon my system of spiritual and life values, in particular on the values of every element of creation, upon the unacceptability of barbarically interfering with the natural life of the universe, and the violation of the natural balance of the Universe,' Bai said in her claim. ..."
Science to be Defended in Kansas after all?
The Lawrence (KS) Journal-World reported on April 20th that "... it was decided that proponents of intelligent design -- an idea that the world was started by a supernatural power -- will provide testimony from May 5 through May 7. And in a surprise move, it appears that supporters of evolution will present their side May 12 through May 14. Scientists in Kansas and across the nation had previously said they would boycott the hearings on science standards because they felt that conservative State Board of Education members were using the hearings to criticize evolution and introduce religion in science classes. But on Tuesday, the majority of scientists serving on a committee that composed the pro-evolution science standards for Kansas students indicated they were ready to challenge the conservatives. Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, representing the majority on the science standards committee, blasted the hearings process, criticized the use of taxpayer funds to bring in anti-evolution witnesses, and said he would probably call some witnesses of his own. ...While Calvert's list of 24 [pro-ID] witnesses is already public, Irigonegaray said he may use May 12-14 to present the pro-evolution side, but he would not reveal whom he may call as witnesses. This angered [pro-creationism board members] Morris and Martin. Morris said Irigonegaray should cooperate so that board members could have a 'definite agenda that we could be working on and praying over.' Irigonegaray said he couldn't be compelled to produce a witness list 'so that a prayer service could occur.'..."
And ID Sneakiness in Ohio...
The Ohio Free Times reports on April 21st that "In March 2004, the Ohio Board of Education voted 13-5 to approve a lesson plan for 10th-grade science classes called 'Critical Analysis of Evolution.' Supporters said the intent was to make students aware of possible flaws in the theory of evolution. Opponents argued, however, that there are no significant, scientifically sound challenges to evolution, and that the real intent was to introduce a form of creationism into public schools. ... In January 2005, AU [Americans United] filed another request [to review the new lesson plans] after receiving some materials ... Four months later and a full year after the original request that still hasn't happened. ... Lynn Elfner, CEO of the Ohio Academy of Science, finds himself in a similar situation. His requests to see drafts of plans that will be used to train 7th-to-10th-grade science teachers at Miami University this summer have been denied. He hasn't been told why, but he increasingly suspects it has something to do with intelligent design. 'There should be no reason to hesitate to share drafts,' he says. 'We suspect something in it stinks.' ..."
Jurassic Park? Cretaceous "Dino Blood" Claims, Accusations Considered...
An April 20th Panda's Thumb post by Dr. Gary Hurd sheds some much needed light on the recent announcement of the discovery of "soft" fossilized dinosaur tissues. Hurd begins "On 24 March 2005, a team of paleontologists lead by Mary Higby Schweitzer published their discovery of dinosaur soft tissues recovered from the cortical bone of a T. rex femur. ..." He explains the basic findings, and also discusses the media hype ("Send in the Clones ... The related press reports have created the impression that there are large features with the characteristics of fresh tissue. This is not true. The structures examined are a few millimeters across at most. The last, and rather irritating aspect of this research is not from the Science article, or the supporting material, but from the press interviews given by Schweitzer which repeatedly hint at the recovery of DNA, and even of cloning. ..."). Hurd dissects the expected creationist over-reaction as well ("'IMHO, it would take more faith to believe these soft tissues are 70 million years old than it would take to believe Almighty God brought the universe into existence in 6 days. The invention of man is clever in his own mind and foolishness to God.'..."), and points out professional creationists' foot-swallowing on the matter ("This graph [from the on-line Science article] is David Mentons nightmare; strong indication that there is molecular evidence that birds evolved from the dinosaurs. ...").
If you're at all curious about this unusual find, or how it plays into the creation-evolution wars, give Hurd's essay a read!
Will "Great Ape Trust" experiment lead to Intelligent, Social Apes?
AP News My Way reports on April 20th that "Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh sounds like a proud mother when she speaks about her brood of bonobos, eight ultra-intelligent apes that will take part in unique language research meant to shed light on their nature and maybe our own. ...The bonobos will be able to cook in their own kitchen, tap vending machines for snacks, go for walks in the woods and communicate with researchers through computer touchscreens. The decor in their 18-room home includes an indoor waterfall and climbing areas 30 feet high. The longevity of the project is unlike any other. The animals, which have a life span of up to about 50 years, will be allowed to mate and have families - and develop cultures that will be studied for generations to come, Savage-Rumbaugh said. ..."
In Brief: Sea Levels in History, Early Triassic's Low O2 Levels, Stubborn Popcorn Kernels...
"the level of the oceans varied more dramatically during between ice ages than was previously thought, implying that the global climate during these intervals was not as stable as most scientists think. ..."
"...approximately 250 million years ago. During the 'Great Dying,' more than 90% of creatures in the ocean, and 75% of life on land went extinct. What caused the extinction is still up for debate, but a researcher from the University of Washington thinks that low levels of oxygen in the atmosphere sure didn't help. Oxygen went down to 12% (currently it's 21%), and this made standing at sea level the same as being atop a 5,300 metre mountain (17,000 feet). ..."
"Purdue University researchers found the key to a kernel's explosive success lies in the composition of its hull. Unpopped kernels, it turns out, have leaky hulls that prevent the moisture pressure buildup needed for them to pop and lack the optimal hull structure that allows most kernels to explode. ..."
Posted April 15th, 2005
Yahoo Asia reported on April 12th that "Yale University researchers say their study that used lasers to create remote-controlled fruit flies could lead to a better understanding of overeating and violence in humans. Using the lasers to stimulate specific brain cells, researchers say they were able to make the flies jump, walk, flap their wings and fly. Even headless flies took flight when researchers stimulated the correct neurons, according to the study, published in the April 7 issue of the journal Cell. ..."
What does it really mean? See Carl Zimmer's Loom column, "Zap"
Scientists Boycott Evolution "Hearing" in Kansas...
A perceptive op-ed by Randy Scholfield in the April 12th Wichita Eagle (Kansas) notes that "... In recent weeks, the Kansas Department of Education staff has failed to find any scientists in Kansas or the nation who want to legitimize the upcoming May hearings with their presence. ... Predictably, BOE chairman Steve Abrams, one of three creationists who would preside over the hearings, suggested that the refusal meant the scientific community was incapable of defending evolution. 'It's almost like they're saying, 'We can't defend what's put out there, so we're not going to participate,' Mr. Abrams said. Well, no. It's almost like they're saying, 'This rigged forum, with a predetermined outcome, has no credibility whatsoever in the scientific community. So what's the point?' Baiting scientists won't get them to appear. Because as they rightly perceive, the hearings are a political effort to legitimize ID by parading a small number of 'experts' before the public. ... What scientists see is a monkey trial. What Kansans should see is a waste of time and money and, once again, a train wreck for the state's image. ..."
Read why the AAAS "respectfully declined" the invitation in a letter from AAAS CEO Alan Leshner, in which he states " ... it will most likely serve to confuse the public about the nature of the scientific enterprise."
Scientists Still Struggling to understand the "Pioneer Anomaly"...
John Fleck writes in the May 13th Albuquerque Journal that "[Los Alamos] Physicist Michael Martin Nieto has a problem that won't go away. For the better part of a decade, Nieto and a loose-knit group of colleagues have been poring over data from NASA's old Pioneer interplanetary spacecraft, trying to answer a nagging question. What's holding the spacecraft back? The "Pioneer anomaly" is a tale of scientific persistence that is either a trip into the heart of exciting new physics or a monumental wild goose chase. NASA and the European Space Agency have begun talking in recent months about new space missions to try to figure out which. ..."
Lotto: Bigger Jackpots (and Fewer Winners!)...
Jeff Jones of the Albuquerque Journal writes on April 9th that "For New Mexico Powerball players, first the good news: Starting this summer, you'll likely be seeing many more of those gaudy super-rich jackpots of $100 million or more splashed up on the billboards. Now the bad news: Since the only way the jackpots get that big is by people hitting the jackpot less frequently, your odds of actually winning the big one will be even more dismal to the tune of about 146.1 million to 1. 'Some mathematicians say the lottery is the state's tax on the mathematically slow,' said Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, who crunched some numbers on the new lottery scheme. ...[New Mexico Lottery chief executive officer Tom] Shaheen offered this truism echoed by Powerball optimists everywhere: 'Sometimes it runs to $300 million, and sometimes it runs to $25 million. But in the end, somebody's gonna win.' He added, 'I've met a lot of people who have won millions of dollars. And I've yet to meet anybody who's been struck by lightning.' Thomas countered: 'My neighbor's been struck by lightning.' ..."
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld honored with Slime Mold Beetle Naming...
The Santa Fe New Mexican (via AP) reported on April 14th that "Entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller, who recently had the task of naming 65 newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles, named three species after the president, vice president and defense secretary. The monikers: Agathidium bushi Miller and Wheeler, Agathidium cheneyi Miller and Wheeler, and Agathidium rumsfeldi Miller and Wheeler.... Naming the beetles after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld was intended to pay homage to them, said Wheeler, who taught at Cornell University for 24 years and now is with the Natural History Museum in London. ..."
Computer-generated Gibberish Accepted at a Scientific conference...
CNN reports on April 14th that "In a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference. Jeremy Stribling said Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with "context-free grammar," charts and diagrams. The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida. To their surprise, one of the papers -- 'Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy' -- was accepted for presentation. ..."
Essay of the Week..."The proper reverence due those who have gone before"
P Z Myers at Pharyngula has a moving essay on the Bible, archaeology, anthropology, and proper reverence for our ancestors and their histories. A great read!
Posted April 8th, 2005
Shrek and Gollum Lend a Hand to Dermatologists...
ABC News reports on April 4th "Who knew that characters like Shrek and Gollum would share beauty secrets with leading skin-care scientists? In fact, the same insight that has allowed animators to make digitally generated characters more lifelike on screen is now the interest of researchers aiming to create products that would help customers regain youthful, glowing skin. The key lies in the way light enters and then scatters just below the skin's surface. ..."
Do Sports Adapt to Societal Niches ?
ABC News rported on April 4th that "Different countries may follow different sports but even so, those sports can fill similar niches, said Michael Mandelbaum, author of 'The Meaning of Sports: Why Americans Watch Baseball, Football, and Basketball and What They See When They Do.' For instance, British traditions embrace the ball-and-bat game of cricket rather than baseball, the contact sport of rugby (in two different pro versions) rather than football and the ball-and-goal game of soccer rather than basketball. ...Sports scholars note that individual sports and racing exhibitions mainly predominated into the 19th century when team sports started to become organized. Differing sports cultures then evolved, often under the influence of the British Empire or American power. ..."
Russian Scientists Nix Noah's Ark on Ararat...
The Moscow News reported on March 25th that "What were thought to be the remains of Noahs Arc on Mount Ararat in modern-day Turkey were discovered to be natural formations by a group of Russian scientists. Scientists from the Kosmopoisk Scientific Research Center announced Friday at a press conference that there were no remains of Noahs Ark on the mountain, the Interfax news agency reported. 'Everything that we saw, all the samples that we gathered testify to the fact that there is no Noahs Arc on Ararats western slope,' the news agency quoted Vadim Chernobrov, the centers director, as saying. 'At least after the volcanic eruption of 1840 that destroyed everything, including petrified wood, there can be no talk of the remains of a ship being preserved.' ...
Will We Hit the Moho?
LiveScience.com reported on April 7th that "Scientist[s] said this week they had drilled into the lower section of Earth's crust for the first time and were poised to break through to the mantle in coming years. The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) seeks the elusive 'Moho,' a boundary formally known as the Mohorovicic discontinuity. It marks the division between Earth's brittle outer crust and the hotter, softer mantle. ..."
Teresa Heinz on Evolution...
PittsburghLive.com reports on April 8th that "Teresa Heinz has chimed in on the debate over whether evolution should be taught in high schools to explain life on Earth, as opposed to religious concepts such as creationism. She came down on the side of teaching evolution, saying that in no way conflicts with her personal religious faith. 'I believe God did create us, and that evolution was his tool. I see no contradiction at all between science and religion -- none,' she said during a speech Thursday night at an event in Pittsburgh. 'The purpose of science is to teach science and not religion,' she added. ...Heinz told about 300 participants at the conference that just as scientists are attacked when they offer evidence of global climate changes, teachers and school board members are being intimidated for teaching evolution. 'This abandonment of science is happening...without any fanfare at all,' she said. ..."
Sweet Home, Alabama (pi)...
Rick Couch of the Demopolis Times (Alabama) reports on April 7th that "Our very own Alabama the beautiful was the site of another great April Fools prank when it was announced Alabama had changed the value of Pi. The April 1998 issue of New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter was released with an article claiming the Alabama legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. The article made its way onto the Internet and around the world. The Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. A physicist named Mark Boslough wrote the actual article. ..."
Posted April 1st, 2005
NMSR World Exclusive... "LOST" Lottery Leads Losers to Lumps!
The mysterious numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 were the basis of ABC's "Lost" episode of March 2, 2005. When huge hippie Hurley decides to use these numbers (provided by a friend in a mental institution) in the lottery, he wins millions, only to find himself "cursed" with death and injury in his family, getting busted, and - oh yeah - being in a plane crash and getting marooned. During the episode, it was revealed these same numbers also happened to have lured people to the unlucky island years before. Death, injury, legal problems, plane crashes - who wants a piece of that action? Apparently, hundreds of people do! On March 5th, Christine Rook of the Lansing State Journal (Michigan) wrote "So what did at least 215 people do after the show? They played the numbers for a shot at Friday's $10 million Mega Millions jackpot, lottery officials said. They lost. (Phew.) ..."
I wondered if New Mexicans were also eager to take a chance on the "cursed" numbers, and inquired with the New Mexico lottery as to how many Powerball tickets were purchased with these numbers after the March 2nd "Lost" showing. Lance Ross of the NM Lottery Authority was kind enough to honor my unusual request, even though normally only winning numbers are announced, not losing entries. Lance wrote "There were 158 Powerball tickets in New Mexico that night [Saturday March 6th] that matched the numbers on the previous episode of 'Lost.' Virtually all were player-picked, although there is the possibility that some may have been randomly-generated 'quick picks.' Additionally, there is no way to know if one person may have played the same number more than once. These represented tickets purchased Thursday through Saturday, March 3-5. ..."
As in Michigan, the "cursed" numbers did poorly in practice. Of the nine Powerball drawings in all of March, only three of the special numbers were actually drawn: 8 (March 2nd), 23 (March 9th, 12th and 23rd) and 42 (March 30th). The numbers 4, 15 and 16 weren't drawn at all.
Perhaps the real "curse" is simply that these numbers are no more special than any others.
Hobbit Fossils Damaged...
USA Today reported on March 21st that "In what is being called a true case of scientific skullduggery, the remains of the newly discovered human species have suffered irreparable damage since entering the care of paleontologists. The damage to the bones of this diminutive being named Homo floresiensis and nicknamed hobbit by scientists is so extensive that it will limit scholarly research on the species, say members of the Indonesian Center for Archaeology-based discovery team. Considered the most important discovery in human origins in five decades, the remains are marred by broken jaws and smashed bones. ... In November, the research took a bizarre turn into the politics of paleontology. Teuku Jacob of Gadjah Mada University, an Indonesian scientist unaffiliated with the discovery team, took the partly fossilized bones to his lab in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 275 miles away from their repository in Jakarta. What followed was a standoff that set an older generation of Indonesian and Australian paleontologists against younger scientists. Jacob, 75, is considered Indonesia's most prominent paleontologist, a role with added status in a country that reveres age and seniority. On the other side is the team of scientists that is based at the Indonesian Center for Archaeology but whose work is funded by the Australian Research Council. Aside from four leg bones that remain in Jacob's custody, the fossils were returned on Feb. 23. The team charges the remains were severely damaged by rubber molds made at Jacob's lab..."
More Info: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/307/5717/1848a
Oops - GM Corn Gets Out the Door...
Nature reported on March 23rd that "A strain of genetically modified corn that does not have regulatory approval has been distributed by accident over the past four years, Nature has learned. Syngenta, one of the world's largest agricultural biotechnology companies, revealed the mistake to US regulators at the end of last year. Although the crop is believed to be safe, the fact that it was sold for years by accident raises serious questions about how carefully biotechnology firms are controlling their activities, critics say. ..."
Planetariums =>Moleculariums ...
ABC News said on March 28th that "A children's museum near Albany is debuting something new on its big-domed screen they call a 'Molecularium' show. The 20-minute digital animation piece reinterprets the traditional planetarium experience for kids as likely to stick their nose in a Game Boy as a book. The subject isn't outer space this time, but atomic space. The movie tells the story of an oxygen atom, Oxy, and her nano pals exploring protons and electrons a sort of science meets Shrek story for the early grades. ..."
Evolution and Innovation...
Evolutionary methods beat out direct design to produce Red Flourescent Proteins: Proceedings of the National Aacademy of Sciences, November 30, 2004, vol. 101, no. 48, 16745-16749: "We have now iterated SHM [somatic hypermutation] over 23 rounds of fluorescence-activated cell sorting to create monomeric red fluorescent proteins with increased photostability and far-red emissions (e.g., 649 nm), surpassing the best efforts of structure-based design. ..."
Mutations in a single gene found responsible for major changes in fish scales and plates: the Howard Hughes Medical Institute announces on March 24th that "In a stunning example of evolution at work, scientists have now found that changes in a single gene can produce major changes in the skeletal armor of fish living in the wild. ..."
Do Black Holes Exist?
Nature reports on March 31st that "Black holes are staples of science fiction and many think astronomers have observed them indirectly. But according to a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, these awesome breaches in space-time do not and indeed cannot exist. ... George Chapline thinks that the collapse of the massive stars, which was long believed to generate black holes, actually leads to the formation of stars that contain dark energy. "It's a near certainty that black holes don't exist," he claims. ..."
Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up'...
The Guardian (UK) reports on March 30th "A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure. ..."
Why No Tsunami This Time?
An ABC News report from March 30th has some answers.
PBS NewsHour does Creation vs Evolution...
Genie Scott, Ken Ham, Stephen Meyer and others chime in on the never-ending struggle.
Seattle Takes a Look at the Discovery Institute...
The Seattle Times did a report on Seattle's own Discovery Institute. Included are these comments: "The School Board in Dover, Pa., however, got it wrong, [DI's Stephen] Meyer said, when it required instruction in intelligent design. (The matter is now in court.) Intelligent design isn't established enough yet for that, Meyer says. He also criticizes the Georgia school board that put stickers on biology textbooks with a surgeon-general-like warning that evolution is 'a theory not a fact.' The stickers were a 'dumb idea,' he says bluntly. (A Georgia court ruled they were illegal, and the case is under appeal.) ..."
MSNBC Analyst takes on "Medium" ...
MSNBC analyst (and former FBI Profiler) Clint Van Zandt has a couple of columns on so-called "psychic detectives" at the MSNBC site. His conclusion? "Whether they profess to see dead people or simply rely on a claimed sixth sense that the vast majority of us do not possess, psychics' track record hovers around mere chance rather than statistical certainty. I'd dance with the devil or talk to anyone who had information that could possibly save the life of a missing child, but until psychics establish the track record of multiple successes like those of criminal analysts, I wouldn't bet the farm on their ability to name the next Pope, or tell us who really shot JR or JFK. ..."
Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7295650/ and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7320305/
It's April Fools...
The Toledo Blade reports on March 31st that "An old tradition that popular theory dates back hundreds of years, April Fool's is evidence that, for at least one day a year, we don't have to take ourselves too seriously. And thanks to modern technology, it's easier than ever. 'I think in the past 15 years, there's kind of been a resurgence in April Fool's Day, in large measure because of the Internet' where hoaxes can spread like wildfire, said Alex Boese, a sort of professor of pranks who authored the book The Museum of Hoaxes (Plume, 2002). Topping his list was a 1957 broadcast by a respected British news program announcing that due to a mild winter and the near elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It even showed footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. ... Others that made his top 10 include Burger King announcing the introduction of a "Left-Handed Whopper" in 1998 and reports that same year in the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter that the Alabama state legislature was changing the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. 'The ones that I think are brilliant are the ones that when you first hear them are believable,' Mr. Boese said. 'It's that trick of making it just believable enough but completely ridiculous in hindsight.' ..."
And see how the 1997 Discover Magazine April Fool's stunt (on Neanderthal flutes) is STILL being cited as "good science" by creationists! Jim Foley's timely Panda's Thumb post has all the details.
Posted March 25th, 2005
Dinosaur Tissues Discovered?
The Washington Post/Newsday reported on March 25th that "Paleontologists have recovered what appear to be soft tissues from the thighbone of a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex, potentially enabling dinosaur research to make a leap into the study of the animals' actual physiology and perhaps even their cell biology, they said yesterday. Working with the remains of a T. rex unearthed in northeast Montana's celebrated Hell Creek formation, the research team removed minerals and fossilized deposits from the thighbone, exposing blood vessels, bone cells and possibly intact blood cells with nuclei. ... 'There's no 'Jurassic Park' scenario,' said paleontologist Hans-Dieter Sues, associate director of research and collections at the National Museum of Natural History, but he and others said the ability to isolate soft tissues nevertheless could open up research horizons never before imagined. 'Ultimately if we could establish chemical composition, we would have insights into all kinds of things - diet, sexual maturity, whether the specimen is the male or female,' Sues said. 'There's a lot of biological information locked up in this material.' Team member John R. Horner, of Montana State University's Museum of the Rockies, said the skeleton, of a smallish T. rex about 18 years old and perhaps 40 feet tall, was found beneath 1,000 cubic yards of sandstone at the base of the Hell Creek formation on the Missouri River. ..."
This will be mis-interpreted by creationists. Will the findings hold up at all? Check the Panda's Thumb (http://www.pandasthumb.org/) for a definitive analysis, probably on-line late in the afternoon on Friday, March 25th.
IMAX Caught Up in Evolution Censorship Scandal ...
Digital Home Canada reported on March 23rd that "Some IMAX theatres in South Carolina and Texas are refusing to air the film 'Volcanoes of the Deep Sea,' because the film might offend people who believe in creationism. A theatre director in Charleston was quoted by CNN as saying that the IMAX theatre would not show the movie because 'Many people here believe in creationism, not evolution.' ..."
However, complaints by the public have changed that policy, at least in Fort Worth. Chris Vaughn of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on March 24th that "The film, which had been rejected in part because it describes evolution, is to open 'before summer.' The public erupted, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History moved, and quick. Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, an IMAX film rejected by the museum in part because of complaints about evolution commentary, will appear at the Cultural District institution after all. ..."
Source: http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/local/11218459.htm (subscription)
Nature reported on March 23rd that "In a discovery that has flabbergasted geneticists, researchers have shown that plants can overwrite the genetic code they inherit from their parents, and revert to that of their grandparents. The finding challenges textbook rules of inheritance, which state that children simply receive combinations of the genes carried by their parents. The principle was famously established by Austrian monk Gregor Mendel in his nineteenth-century studies on pea plants. ..."
But what does this discovery mean? Carl Zimmer has some insights in a March 23rd column at The Loom: "Hoping to draw some attention to his research, Mendel wrote to Karl von Nageli, a prominent German botanist. Von Nageli was slow to respond, and when he did, he suggested that Mendel try to get the same results from hawkweed (Hieracium), the plant that von Nageli had studied for decades. Mendel tried and failed. ... Hawkweed raises an important question--one that is particularly important this morning. Does it tells us that Mendel was wrong? Should teachers throw their Mendelian charts into the fire? No. Mendel found a pattern that is widespread in nature, but not a universal law. ... Today in Nature, scientists found another exception to Mendelian heredity. They studied a plant called Arabidopsis (also known as cress) much as Mendel did, tracing genes from one generation to the next. ... in a new generation of plants, some of the vanished genes reappeared. The authors think that the vanished genes must have been hiding somewhere--perhaps encoded as RNA--and were then tranformed back into DNA. Is cress the tip of a genetic iceberg (to mix my metaphors hideously)? Only more experiments will tell. If it is more than just a fluke, it may turn out to play an important part in evolution, joining some other weird mechanisms, such as "adaptive mutation," in which bacteria crank up their mutation rate when they undergo stress. But hold onto those Mendelian charts. These cress plants are wonderfully weird--but no more wonderfully weird than hawkweed. ..."
Outstanding Science Mysteries Detailed...
New Scientist reports on "13 things that do not make sense" in the March 19th issue. The placebo effect, the horizon problem, Ultra-energetic cosmic rays, Belfast homeopathy results, Dark matter and more enigmas are examined.
Doolittle Responds to Behe Accusations...
ID advocate Michael Behe often claims that Russell Doolittle had made a mistake in analyzing the blood-clotting process, and that Behe turned out to be right. Even though Behe continues to repeat this claim, it's got problems. There's a detailed discussion on the Panda's Thumb by Ian Musgrave, from March 22, 2005.
UFO's meet Angels in Roswell:
Source: http://www.ancientofdays.net and http://www.alienstranger.com .
Resurrection Rusty? Take the NMSR Easter Quiz!
Posted March 18th, 2005
Synesthesia on the Brain...
Wired News reports on synesthesia on March 4th: "Imagine every time you hear the telephone ring, you taste a burrito with jalapeño and guacamole. Believe it or not, some people -- synesthetes -- experience things just like that. For them it's like being hooked up to a weird virtual-reality machine. The number 7 may look green, or the color red might smell of soap. G-flat on the piano might look like broken glass. ..."
MIT Web Page on synesthesia: http://web.mit.edu/synesthesia/www/synesthesia.html
WIPP Touted for NSF's Deep Underground Lab ...
The AP reports on March 15th that "New Mexico's five-member congressional delegation on Monday endorsed a proposal to use the government's nuclear waste dump near here for research that needs a site deep underground. The National Science Foundation has been looking for a place for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Research Laboratory, or DUSEL. ..."
Researchers: Global Warming has Inertia...
Maggie Fox of Reuters reports on March 17th that "Even if people stopped pumping out carbon dioxide and other pollutants tomorrow, global warming would still get worse, two teams of researchers reported on Thursday. Sea levels will rise more than they have already risen, worsening the damage caused by extreme high tides and storm surges, and droughts, heat waves and storms will become more severe, the climate experts predicted. That makes immediate action to slow global warming even more vital, the teams at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado report in the journal Science. ..."
Zimmer : Evolution at Work (and creationism nowhere in sight)...
Carl Zimmer's "The Loom" column of March 18th notes that "You may have heard last month's news about an aggressive form of HIV that had public health officials in New York scared out of their professional gourds. ... everyone did agree that the final judgment would have to wait until the scientists started publishing their research. Today the first data came out in the Lancet. One of the figures jumped out at me, and I've reproduced it here. The scientists drew the evolutionary tree of this new strain. ... This tree is a road map for future research on this new strain. It will allow scientists to pinpoint the evolutionary changes caused by natural selection or other factors that made this strain so resistant to anti-HIV drugs. ... So here we have evolutionary trees and natural selection at the very core of a vitally important area of medical research. Yet we are told again and again by op-ed columnists and certain members of boards of education that evolution is nothing but an evil religion and that creationism of one flavor or another is the future of science. You'd expect then that Intelligent Design or some other form of creationism would help reveal something new about this HIV. But it has not. That should count for something. ..."
Rube Goldberg Gadget Cuts the Cheese...
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports on March 16th that "Using a wacky chain reaction of pulleys, levers, electrical circuits and combustion, a group of Bonita High School students has created a massive contraption that cuts the perfect slice of cheese. With the help of kite string, duct tape, a couple dozen mousetraps and other odds and ends, the fairy tale-themed machine starts with a wolf cutout knocking over little pigs' houses and ends five dizzying minutes later with an ax-wielding farmer's wife hacking into a hunk of Pepper Jack. ..."
Posted March 11th, 2005
Starless Galaxy Found?
Scientific American reports on Feb. 24th that "Astronomers announced Wednesday that they have discovered what is believed to be the first dark galaxy ever detected, a starless mass of spinning matter located some 50 million light-years away in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. ..."
Related Story: New Scientist reports on March 11 that "The corpses of three 'dead' galaxies - which to the surprise of astronomers stopped forming stars long ago - have been identified by the Spitzer Space Telescope during a survey of the distant, early universe. The find bolsters a theory that colossal black holes can starve galaxies of the gas needed to create new stars. ..."
McFadden Blames Sunlight for Cracking Rocks...
Joihn Fleck writes in the March 8th Albuquerque Journal that "It seems like such a simple question: What turns big rocks into little ones? The answer has obsessed Les McFadden for much of the past decade, ever since he awoke one night with an idea. Standing in a field of boulders in the foothills above Albuquerque one recent afternoon, McFadden pointed to a rock with a neat crack in it running north to south then another, and another. McFadden's simple answer the sun does it might seem inconsequential or even obvious to a lay person unfamiliar with the scientific history of the question. But, in fact, his answer overturns decades of scientific conventional wisdom. ..."
Hans Bethe, 1907-2005 ...
The Albuquerque Journal's John Fleck remembered his last encounter with Hans Bethe on the Journal's Science Blog: "I was relatively new to the nuclear weapons beat here at the Journal when I got a call in the summer of 1992 telling me that there would be a surprise visitor at panel discussion in Los Alamos on nuclear weapons policy. Bethe's name was whispered. It was a bit of theater, with everyone in the room that evening at Fuller Lodge knowing that the great man was due to put in an appearance. It was the 47th anniversary of the Trinity Test, and the Fuller Lodge meeting room was the same place where Bethe and the other Manhattan Project scientists had gathered for their legendary seminars as the first atomic bombs were taking shape. To see Bethe in that setting - modest but emphatic, 'unpretentious,' as Broad put it - was electrifying. ..."
World's oldest biped skeleton...
New Scientist reports on March 7th that "The fossilised skeleton of a four million-year-old human ancestor able to walk on two legs could provide clues as to how humans' upright walk evolved. The remains, found in north-east Ethiopia, are the oldest yet discovered of an upright hominid, scientists told a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Saturday. ..."
Israeli 'survivor' flower boasts cells in shape of Star of David...
Israel21c reports on March 6th that "It's known as the ultimate survivor. It grows wild in Israel, thriving in the harsh dry conditions that would kill many other plants. And what do the cells of this hardy survivor - a native Israeli Persian buttercup - look like under a microscope? A Star of David. 'It really is symbolic,' says Dr. Rina Kamenetsky, a researcher at Israel's Volcani Institute, who made the surprising discovery while trying to understand the survival mechanisms of this resilient bulb, known in Hebrew as nurit, and in Latin as Ranunculus asiaticus. ..."
Bailey Reasons on Behe & ID...
Ronald Bailey writes in the Feb. 9th Reason Online that "Intelligent design theorists and their claims to scientific legitimacy aside, the only reason the vast majority of people who want intelligent design taught in high school want it is because they believe it will undercut the corrosive effects of evolutionary biology on the religious beliefs of their children. They don't know and couldn't care less about the scientific details of the evolution of blood cascadesthey just want Darwinism kept away from their kids. However, the fact that Pope John Paul II doesn't have any problem with evolutionary biology is a pretty good indication that religious belief and biology can co-exist. ..."
New Letter of the Month...
We get some strange letters to NMSR, folks. Check out the latest here:
Posted March 4th, 2005
Engineers devise invisibility shield...
Philip Ball of Nature reported on Feb. 28th that "The idea of a cloak of invisibility that hides objects from view has long been confined to the more improbable reaches of science fiction. But electronic engineers have now come up with a way to make one. Andrea Alù and Nader Engheta of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia say that a 'plasmonic cover' could render objects "nearly invisible to an observer". Their idea remains just a proposal at this stage, but it doesn't obviously violate any laws of physics. ... The key to the concept is to reduce light scattering. We see objects because light bounces off them; if this scattering of light could be prevented (and if the objects didn't absorb any light) they would become invisible. Alù and Engheta's plasmonic screen suppresses scattering by resonating in tune with the illuminating light. ..."
Hobbits On The Brain... Or, Brain Size of Hobbits
Carl Zimmer's "The Loom" column of March 3 discusses measurements of the brain capacity of Homo floresiensis - a.k.a. "Hobbits" - small hominids which lived on an Indonesian island some18,000 years ago. Zimmer writes "As soon as the news broke of the discovery, some researchers expressed grave doubts. They suggested that H. floresiensis was actually just a group of human pygmies. The fossils discovered on Flores include only a single skull, and these skeptics suggested that its small size might be the result of a genetic defect known as microcephaly. ... The Hobbit skull was scanned in Jakarta at a 1-mm resolution, and the data was then processed at Washington University's medical school. Falk and her colleagues then analyzed the interior of the skull to calculate the size and shape of the brain, and then produced a three-dimensional model of it. ... The most straightforward results are the ones that address the skeptical suggestions about a small-brained human. The Hobbit brain doesn't look anything like the brain of a microcephalic. Microcephalics have smooth brains, for example; the Hobbit has a normal convoluted surface. Microcephalic brains have a pointed top and a sloping forehead; the Hobbit brain is rounded on top and unsloped in front. Nor does the Hobbit brain seem to belong to Homo sapiens. It is small (417 cc, which is less than a third the size of an average human brain), and lacks the distinctive shape of human brain. It is wider from ear to ear than it measures from the front to the back of the head, for example. The brains of human pygmies are indistinguishable from those of taller humans, both in size and shape. Of all the brains that Falk and co. compared to Homo floresiensis, Homo erectus came the closest--in particular, Homo erectus skulls from Java and China. ..."
Anthro Hoax - "Not a German Piltdown"...
We reported last week on a case of fossil fraud in Germany. This week, Jim Foley at the Panda's Thumb writes on Feb. 28th that
German scientist Reiner Protsch had committed a number of scientific frauds. Protsch apparently could not even operate his own carbon-dating equipment, and routinely made up dates for bones that had been sent to him for dating, often giving recent specimens dates that were much too old. Many webpages have repeated the following quote about the significance of these frauds:"Chris Stringer, a Stone Age specialist and head of human origins at London's Natural History Museum, said: 'What was considered a major piece of evidence showing that the Neanderthals once lived in northern Europe has fallen by the wayside. We are having to rewrite prehistory.' "
Stringer, however, says that he never said that:"This is a made-up quote as I never placed great weight on the significance of the Hahnofersand find in the first place. It was never called a Neanderthal as far as I know, but certain people saw 'mixed' features in its morphology. Its removal is certainly not rewriting anything I have ever said about the Neanderthals, let alone rewriting prehistory!" (Chris Stringer, personal communication)
Atlantic Yields Odd New Life Forms...
ABC News reports on March 3rd that "A strange world of see-through shrimp, crabs and other life forms teems around a newly explored field of thermal vents near the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, scientists report. Towering white mineral chimneys mark the field, named the Lost City, a sharp contrast to the better-known black smoker vents that have been studied in recent years. The discovery shows "how little we know about the ocean," lead researcher Deborah S. Kelley of the University of Washington said. 'I have been working on black smokers for about 20 years, and you sort of think you have a good idea what going on,' she said in a telephone interview. 'But the ocean is a big place and there are still important opportunities for discovery.' ..."
Bad Week for Bill Dembski...
Leading "Intelligent Design" theorist William Dembski (www.nmsr.org/dembski.htm) isn't faring well in the press this week. First, in response to news articles about Dembski moving from Baylor to a Baptist college in Kentucky, Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) reader Bill Holt exclaimed in a letter to the editor on Feb. 27th, "Puleeze! With all of the things we have to be embarrassed about, it was entirely unnecessary for you to headline the coming of William Dembski to Louisville. Your quote of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., without immediate qualification, saying that Dembski is 'one of the most skilled philosophers of science in this generation' was a brief affront to the truth. Dembski is a scientist like Elmer Fudd is a hunter. ..."
Well Said, Bill Holt! Numerous other writer also panned ID's darling. No doubt the Discovery Institute will be called in to mop up the mess.
Er, Make That a Really Bad Week for Bill Dembski...
The lads at www.antievolution.org have produced a wicked little satire page showing Bill Dembski on the cover of the National Enquirer, with the bold headline "Mathematician ready for prime time - William Dembski Factors 59 - 'Astounding!' Say Colleagues - 'It was Right There All Along.' ..."
The satire is a reference to a passage in Dembski's book No Free Lunch, in which he discusses a string of consecutive prime numbers, like the sequence that alerted SETI researchers to alien signals in the movie Contact. Dembski's string of consecutive prime is represented by binary digits. Dembski lists the primes and corresponding bits in his book, and then proceeds to make probability statements about the 1000 or so binary digits involved. As explained by Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit in their paper "Information Theory, Evolutionary Computation, and Dembski's 'Complex Specifed Information'," it so happens that "A careful inspection of the string presented on pp. 143-144 of No Free Lunch reveals that it is indeed of length 1000, but omits the unary representation of the prime 59. ..."
Source: http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf (p. 24)
In other words, by omitting the number 59 from his list of Prime Numbers, Dembski is declaring 59 to be a composite number (having whole number factors besides itself an one, such as 12=4*3).
But, 59 IS a prime number! See for yourself!
As a professional mathematician myself, I can assure the general reader that this kind of mistake is about as embarrassing as they get!
Posted February 25th, 2005
German Anthropologist "Retired" for Fraud...
The Guardian (UK) reports on Feb. 19th that "...the professor's [Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten] 30-year-old academic career has now ended in disgrace after the revelation that he systematically falsified the dates on this [a supposedly 36,000-year old skull] and numerous other 'stone age' relics. Yesterday his university in Frankfurt announced the professor had been forced to retire because of numerous 'falsehoods and manipulations.' ... 'Anthropology is going to have to completely revise its picture of modern man between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago,' said Thomas Terberger, the archaeologist who discovered the hoax. 'Prof Protsch's work appeared to prove that anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals had co-existed, and perhaps even had children together. This now appears to be rubbish.' ..."
See Also: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,1564,1493421,00.html
Creationist Reaction: "Of course, the only way to know about the past with certainty is to consult a history book. The Bible is such a history book and gives us the true account of origins. It never changes because God got it right the first time. ..."
Move Over, Archaopteryx - Older Bird Found?
New Scientist reports on Feb. 19th that "A small Chinese dinosaur with large feathers on its leg has stunned the world of palaeontology. The fossilised leg bones of Pedopenna daohugouensis reveal it to be as bird-like as archaeopteryx, till now the oldest known bird. But its discoverers think that Pedopenna may be even older. ..."
"Hobbit" Fossils: Return To Finder...
Carl Zimmer's "The Loom" column notes on Feb. 24th that "The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that the bones of Homo floresiensis, aka the Hobbits, have at last been returned to the team that originally discovered them. The team, made up of Indonesian and Australian scientists, discovered the bones on the Indonesian island of Flores. ..."
Calloway on ID...
Veteran NM commentator Larry Calloway comments on "Science Held Back by Politics" in the Feb. 20th Northern (Santa Fe) edition of the Albuquerque Journal. Included in Calloway's piece are some barbed comments about the "Intelligent Design" column recently published by Michael Behe in the New York Times: "I'm waiting for a Times opinion piece arguing that the sun goes around the earth because of common sense observation and the latest artfully worded public opinion poll...."
More Christians Saying 'Creation Science' is All Wet...
A key plank in the "Intelligent Design" creationist platform is the assertion that one cannot believe in God and also accept evolution. (See http://www.nmidnet.org/theistic_evo.html for a typical example.)
Among the Christians stepping forward to dispute this assertion this week:
In the Feb. 23rd issue of the Lacrosse Tribune (WI), Rev. Kent A. Meyer of Eitzen, Minn. writes "After reading many letters on creationism vs. evolution, I would be more sympathetic to creationist arguments if they didn't keep implying that they are the only 'real' Christians and that Christians who accept evolution as a scientific theory have compromised their faith. ..."
And Patrick Chisholm writes in the Feb. 23rd Christian Science Monitor that "... Suppressing the teaching of evolution or presenting it as a controversial 'theory' would be a huge step backward in education. Save creationism for Sunday school. ..."
The creation/evolution struggle is not between religion and atheism, as creationists would have us believe. It is between a few specific religious sects on the one hand, and everyone else (religious or otherwise) on the other.
ABC does UFO's ... Complaints Abound while Ratings Plummet
Peter Jennings of ABC News hosted a 2-hour special, "The UFO Phenomenon -- Seeing Is Believing," on Feb. 24th. I thought the show was much more balanced and informative than the cheezy promo's had led me to believe.
ABC got in some zingers on Roswell, New Mexico's own UFO Mecca. NM's own Karl Pflock was interviewed. "Roswell has become an article of faith, Pflock said. 'I don't think the hardcore believers will ever give up on Roswell.' ..."
Support for UFOlogy was also on hand: "... Michio Kaku, one of the leading theoretical physicists in the world, says many scientists are too quick to dismiss the idea of other civilizations visiting Earth. ...'When you look at this handful of [UFO] cases that cannot be easily dismissed, this is worthy of scientific investigation,' he said. 'Maybe there's nothing there. However, on that off chance that there is something there, that could literally change the course of human history. So I say let this investigation begin.' ... "
Here's a typical negative reaction from a UFO True Believer, courtesy UFO Updates:
"... this Peter Jennings/ABC journalistic apostasy was a complete, if subtle, Hack-Job! ... I was completely disgusted with this canted partisan display. No points for Jennings, at all..."
But some skeptics were also displeased with the program. Bob Park's What's New column for Feb. 25th notes "Yawn! ABC advertised it as 'a fresh look at the UFO phenomenon,' but there was Stanton Friedman, author of Crash at Corona and a major creator of the highly-profitable Roswell myth. ... It ended with 'one of the worlds leading physicists,' who looked a lot like Michio Kaku, saying 'You simply cannot dismiss the possibility that some of these objects are from a civilization millions of years ahead of us in technology.' Sigh. ..."
The Final Score: ABC's UFO show is far better than the usual dreck shown on the Sci Fi, History, or Learning Channels, but not up to the quality of Nova or Nature.
As for ratings, ABC's show was clobbered by CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. So much for Sweeps!
Posted February 18th, 2005
35,000 Years added to duration of Homo Sapiens...
RedNova reported on Feb. 17th that "Two human skulls discovered in Africa have been confirmed as the oldest known examples of our species, scientists said yesterday. The remains, unearthed in Kibish, Ethiopia, are estimated to be about 195,000 years old and come from around the time that modern humans are thought to have emerged. The fossils, called Omo I and Omo II, were uncovered in 1967, but experts have previously disagreed over their ages. Yesterday's report, published in the journal Nature, shows that the two fossils were the same age and humankind's oldest relics, despite the fact that Omo I's features were distinctly more 'modern' than those of its companion. ..."
And 20 Million Years is added to the span of those Wascally Wabbits!
The BBC reported on Feb. 17th that "The fossilised skeleton of a rabbit-like creature that lived 55 million years ago has been found in Mongolia, Science magazine reports. Gomphos elkema, as it is known, is the oldest member of the rabbit family ever to be found. Gomphos was surprisingly similar to modern rabbits - and probably hopped around on its elongated hindlimbs. ... Prior to this discovery, the oldest, most complete fossil lagomorphs (the family which includes rabbits, pikas and hares) were about 35 million years old. ..."
von Däniken's "Nazca Lines" Explained...
The Feb. 18th issue of "The Triangle Online" (the student newspaper at Drexel University) has an article by Aaron Sakulich, in which Sakulich writes "In the 1960s von Däniken wrote a book called Chariot of the Gods that claimed most of what ancient people worshiped were actually space people. So let me rephrase my thesis sentence: The Nazca lines were not built by, or for, space aliens. ... Let's assume for the moment that the UFO people are right and that Nazca was an ancient alien airport. It's got to be the worst airport on the face of the earth. Why bother building nice, long, smooth runways when you could make, say, an enormous monkey tail? I can just see the alien pilot and co-pilot speaking: 'Sir, should I just touch down at one end of the runway and slow to a stop at the other end?' 'Negative co-pilot. Today, we'll be touching down on the left wing of that enormous hummingbird, crossing into it's beak, and coming to a rest near the left shoulder. This requires several turns at sharp angles. Try not to be too rough though, the people in first class complained last time.' ..."
Kantor on Why We Need Science in School...
Andrew Kantor writes in his Feb. 4th CyberSpeak column for USA Today that "We need to teach our children how the world works, not how we really wish it did and not how some scared, ignorant people try to trick us into thinking it works. Humans and dinosaurs at the same time? Sheesh. ... So much of what we take for granted today wouldn't exist if engineers and scientists didn't understand science. If we still had an Aristotelian view of the world four elements: air, earth, fire, water we'd never accept chemistry. Without chemistry, materials science disappears, and with it an untold number of better cars, safer packaging, more-fuel-efficient airplanes and who knows what else. If we didn't accept quantum mechanics, we never would have realized how electron orbits worked, or how those electrons give off photons as they 'drop' from one energy level to another. So we wouldn't have lasers. No lasers, no CDs. No DVDs. No laser surgery. No fiber optics. ... Lack of science education or bad science education creates a longer-term ripple effect, which is why sometimes it's hard to notice. It can take years for a bad curriculum to start to hurt society, and even then you usually don't notice when something isn't there. Who can tell how many of the kids who get bad science educations would have made a difference? 'Johnny would have developed a cure for Alzheimer's, but he never studied genetics because his school wouldn't teach it.' We'll never know. ... science gets better. That's why we can fit the entire Library of Congress on a few plastic platters, and why my father can come home from open-heart surgery after less than a week. Science learns. Science improves. (Low-intelligence folks try to twist that, not surprisingly. They say, 'Ha ha! Science has been wrong!' as opposed to 'Oh, science corrects its mistakes.') ..."
Life on Mars? Skeptics Weigh In...
The Feb. 16th claim on Space.com was quite surprising: "A pair of NASA scientists told a group of space officials at a private meeting here Sunday that they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water. The scientists, Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke of NASAs Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, told the group that they have submitted their findings to the journal Nature for publication in May, and their paper currently is being peer reviewed. ..."
However, the claims turned out to be quite exaggerated. On Feb. 18th, Space.com had to report that "In response to Space News original article 'NASA Researchers Claim Evidence of Present Life on Mars' posted Feb. 16 on SPACE.com and spacenews.com and picked up by other Web outlets, NASA issued a statement calling the reports incorrect. 'NASA does not have any observational data from any current Mars missions that supports this claim. The work by the scientists mentioned in the reports cannot be used to directly infer anything about life on Mars, but may help formulate the strategy for how to search for martian life. Their research concerns extreme environments on Earth as analogs of possible environments on Mars. No research paper has been submitted by them to any scientific journal asserting martian life.' ...
More on this at John Fleck's weblog, at http://www.abqjournal.com/weblogs/fleck.htm (Journal Subscription required.)
Don't have a Journal Subscription? Try this link
Posted February 11th, 2005
ID's Behe in the New York Times...
Michael Behe, in an op-ed published Feb. 7th in the New York Times, wrote "...the contemporary argument for intelligent design is based on physical evidence and a straightforward application of logic. The argument for it consists of four linked claims. ..."
Read the article here:
But, if you're short on reading time and want the Short Version, that is available on the Panda's Thumb, thanks to PZ Myers:
"The evidence for Intelligent Design. 1. It's obvious. 2. It's obvious! 3. Evolutionary explanations are no good. 4. There aren't any good evolutionary explanations. That's it. That's pathetic. ..."
See Nick Matzke's writeup on the Thumb also:
Culture Wars Twist: Open Warfare breaks out between ID and YEC...
YEC's Henry Morris criticizes ID's Dembski:
ID's Dembski responds to YEC's Morris:
YEC's Jonathan Sarfati responds to ID's Dembski:
Where will it end???
Best Op_ed of the Week...
Ben Fulton writes in the Salt Lake City Weekly on Feb. 10th "Just imagine that, for every question you presented to someone in power, they answered with the words, 'We dont really know. Its a mystery.' Now imagine if you or your child asked a question about the origin of the human species in a science class, only to have a learned instructor tell you, 'We dont really know. Its a mystery.' Would anyone dare call that education? ..."
Most Honest Statement by an Intelligent Design Advocate for the Week...
In an MSNBC report on Feb. 10th, we read that 'Intelligent design promotes a rational basis for belief in God,' said John Calvert, managing director of the Kansas-based advocacy group Intelligent Design Network Inc. ..."
Goal: Barcodes for All Life on Earth...
MSNBC reports on Feb. 9th that "A team of international scientists launched an ambitious project on Thursday to genetically identify, or provide a barcode for, every plant and animal species on the planet. By taking a snippet of DNA from all the known species on Earth and linking them to photographs, descriptions and scientific information, the researchers plan to build the largest database of its kind. ..."
Posted February 4th, 2005
'Nother Big Week for Creationism...
There was so much news on the creationism front that we're just going to give you titles, links, and a soundbite or two.
Boston Globe, January 29, 2005, "Creationists at the gate" : "EMBOLDENED BY the important role social conservatives played in the reelection of George W. Bush, believers in the biblical account of man's origins are redoubling their efforts to have it made an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution in public schools. According to the pro-Darwinism National Center for Science Education, efforts are underway in 43 states to nibble away at the clear line the Supreme Court laid down in 1987, when it banned Bible-based creationism as an intrusion of religion into the classroom. ..."
Newsweek, Feb. 7th, "Doubting Darwin" : "...For Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, there's no mystery about what I.D. proponents believe: "It's another way of saying God did it. It isn't a model of change; it isn't a theory that makes testable claims...."
New York Times, Feb. 2nd, "Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes" : "In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue. Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities...."
The Conservative Voice, Feb. 2nd, "D. James Kennedy Sees 'Wall of Evolution' Eventually Tumbling Down" : "It is Kennedy's opinion that Christians who embrace evolution are compromising their faith. He describes evolution as the most destructive idea ever to enter the mind of man, and a concept that has killed more people than all religions that ever existed. 'Communistic evolution, according to the Senate committee that examined it, is responsible for 135 million deaths in peacetime,' he said. ..."
Wilson County News, Feb. 2nd, "Christianity attacked by ACLU" : "The cross was used by those who hated Christianity, first to kill Jesus and then in an attempt to kill the faith. Today, the symbol of that same cross is so feared in secular society that their own personal terrorist has been sent to rip it away from the followers of Christ. This terrorist has a name, and it is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). ... The ACLU filed suit against a Pittsburgh school district to ban the reference of Adam and Eve in a biology class. In Pennsylvania, a suit was filed to stop the teaching of 'Intelligent Design,' which points out that both evolution and creationism remain theories. ..."
And while IDers and creationists say "It's Just a Theory," real scientists are getting down to the nitty-gritty details of Life As We Know It.
BBC News, Jan. 24th " Whale and hippo 'close cousins'" : "A water-loving mammal that lived 50 to 60 million years ago was probably the "missing link" between whales and hippos, according to a new analysis. ..."
Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 3rd, "Fossils of Early Walkers Fill Evolution Gap" : John Fleck writes "Newly discovered fossils from Ethiopia have filled in a gap in our genealogy with 4.5-million-year-old hominids who were among the first of our ancestors to walk upright. ..."
Source: http://abqjournal.com/scitech/300617metro02-03-05.htm (subscription)
AP News Myway, Feb. 2nd "Organisms Found in Deepest Part of Ocean" : "Tiny single-celled organisms, many of them previously unknown, have been discovered beneath nearly seven miles of water in the deepest part of the ocean. A sample of sediment collected from the Challenger Deep southwest of Guam in the Pacific Ocean Islands yielded several hundred foraminifera, a type of plankton that is usually abundant near the ocean surface. ..."
Giant of Evolution Dies...
The New York Times reported on Feb. 4th that "Dr. Ernst Mayr, the leading evolutionary biologist of the 20th century, died on Thursday in Bedford, Mass. He was 100. Dr. Mayr's death, in a retirement community where he had lived since 1997, was announced by his family and Harvard, where he was a faculty member for many years. He was known as an architect of the evolutionary or modern synthesis, an intellectual watershed when modern evolutionary biology was born. The synthesis, which has been described by Dr. Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard as 'one of the half-dozen major scientific achievements in our century,' revived Darwin's theories of evolution and reconciled them with new findings in laboratory genetics and in field work on animal populations and diversity. ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/04/science/04cnd-mayr.html?oref=login&partner=rssnyt (registration)
More Wrangling Over Shroud of Turin...
Joe Nickell of CSICOP writes "Longtime Shroud of Turin devotee Ray Rogers, a retired research chemist, now admits there is the equivalent of a watercolor paint on the alleged burial cloth of Jesus. By tortuous logic and selective evidence, however, he uses the coloration to claim the 'shroud' image was not the work of a medieval artist (Rogers 2004, 2005). Rogers follows many other shroud defenders in attempting to discredit the medieval date given by radiocarbon testing (Nickell 1998, 150151). ..."
Antigravity has feet of clay...
Nature reports on Jan. 26th "Could astronauts take a leaf out of H. G. Wells's book The First Men in the Moon, and use spacecraft propelled by antigravity devices? Some see the idea as science fiction, but major space agencies take it seriously. In 2001, the European Space Agency (ESA) commissioned two scientists to evaluate schemes for gravity control. They have concluded that, even if such control were possible, the benefits for lifting spacecraft out of the Earth's gravitational field would probably not be worth the effort. But scientists working on such propulsion schemes dispute the report. ..."
Also This Week:
Weds, February 9th MEETING: "Global Warming and PaleoClimate Research" with Peter Fawcett
Friday, February 11th MEETING: "DARWIN DAY 2005" at the UNM SUB
New Feature - MEDIA FUMBLES
Posted January 28th, 2005
NY Times Editorializes on "Crafty Attacks on Evolution"...
The Sunday, Jan. 23rd issue of the New York Times, in an editorial titled "The Crafty Attacks on Evolution," comments that "...If evolution is derided as 'only a theory,' intelligent design needs to be recognized as 'not even a theory' or 'not yet a theory.' It should not be taught or even described as a scientific alternative to one of the crowning theories of modern science. That said, in districts where evolution is a burning issue, there ought to be some place in school where the religious and cultural criticisms of evolution can be discussed, perhaps in a comparative religion class or a history or current events course. But school boards need to recognize that neither creationism nor intelligent design is an alternative to Darwinism as a scientific explanation of the evolution of life. ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/23/opinion/23sun1.html (registration)
And Time Magazine, Too..."Stealth Attack On Evolution"
The Jan. 31st, 2005 article by Michael D. Lemonick, Noah Isackson, and Jeffrey Ressner notes "...A look at where the Discovery Institute gets much of its money and at the religious beliefs of many scientists who support I.D. makes it reasonable to suspect that Scott's assertion is correct: intelligent design is just a smoke screen for those who think evolution is somehow ungodly. And that appalls the many scientists and science teachers who believe in evolution and also believe in God. ..."
And in NM, KNME flap Simmers...
Here are links to some recent articles supporting KNME's decision not to air the creationist 'infomercial', "Unlocking the Mystery of Life":
KNME Put Lock on Infomercial (N.M. Academy of Science )
Albuquerque Tribune Editorial: KNME did right thing to pull
Crosswinds Weekly: "Posing as science" by Steve Lawrence
http://www.crosswindsweekly.com/reliable_sources.htm (will be over-written after this week...)
LANL Scientist: Shroud of Turin Older than Was Thought...
The NY Times reported on Jan. 27th, 2005 that "The Shroud of Turin is much older than the medieval date that modern science has affixed to it and could be old enough to have been the burial wrapping of Jesus, a new analysis concludes. Since 1988, most scientists have confidently concluded that it was the work of a medieval artist, because carbon dating had placed the production of the fabric between 1260 and 1390. In an article this month in the journal Thermochimica Acta, Dr. Raymond N. Rogers, a chemist retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the carbon dating test was valid but that the piece tested was about the size of a postage stamp and came from a portion that had been patched. 'We're darned sure that part of the cloth was not original Shroud of Turin cloth,' he said, adding that threads from the main part of the shroud were pure linen, which is spun from flax. ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/27/science/27shroud.html (registration)
Roeper on Randi & Carson...
Film critic Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times writes on Jan. 25th, 2005 "And now, one Johnny Carson anecdote I didn't see anywhere. In the year 2000, Carson made more than $1 million in charitable donations, including $100,000 to the James Randi Education Foundation of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. James Randi is better known as the Amazing Randi. He's the professional debunker (and occasional 'Tonight Show' guest) who has a standing offer of $1 million to anyone who can prove the occurrence of a paranormal, supernatural or occult event. Apparently, Carson had such little tolerance for hucksterism that he sent Randi a six-figure check just a couple of years ago. Excellent. ..."
Read Randi's Salute to Johnny Carson here: http://www.randi.org/jr/carson.html
Exxon-Mobil Blamed for Causing the Tsunami...
A group which promotes various "Free Energy" schemes, and which calls itself PureEnergySystems.com, writes on Jan. 25th, in a piece called "Indonesian Tsunami Probably Tripped by Exxon-Mobil Works," that "One cubic mile of natural gas extracted every four years at epicenter Aceh facility presents a probable man-made factor in 9.0 earthquake with accompanying tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people. Think of a gigantic boulder sitting precariously, nudged over the edge with a small lever. ..."
Move Over, "Intelligent Design"... Here Comes "Intelligent Math"!
In a Jan. 24th article titled "Intelligent Math' next step in evolution of US education," by Chatterton, the author notes that "The American school at the centre of a debate over the teaching of evolution has announced the next phase in its plan to make its curriculum more palatable to Christians. Starting from next week, all mathematics teachers at Dover Area High School in Pennsylvania will be obliged to instruct their pupils that 'one plus one equals two ...or six, depending on your point of view.' ..."
Posted January 21st, 2005
Vampires Prowling in Merrie Old England?
The Guardian (UK) reports on Jan. 17th that "Urban myths have occasionally been known to nudge the boundaries of credibility, but the people of Birmingham are finding it difficult to laugh off the possibility that a vampire could be lurking in the city. Stories about a man who stalks the streets, sinking his teeth into passers-by, began to emerge from the Ward End area of the city last month. ..."
UK Science Center to Probe Mysteries of the Mind...
Reuters asked on Jan. 14th that "Can there be a predisposition for fundamentalism? Do the faithful cope more easily with pain? Are they faster to recover from illness? Such are the questions scientists and theologians will attempt to answer at a new study center which starts experiments into human consciousness in the next few months. ...Greenfield said its time has come because of people's propensity to go against all logic, based on certain beliefs and faiths. She highlighted the rise of fundamentalist beliefs as a concern. 'We are very mindful as to the state of the world as to the strength of beliefs and what that can do for world peace and well-being,' she said. 'What is it in the brain that, in the presence of evidence, refutes that evidence?' ..."
Scientists find a Meteorite ... on MARS
The Daily Lobo (UNM) reported on Jan. 19th that "In a stroke of luck, the NASA rover Opportunity has discovered a basketball-size metal meteorite sitting on the surface of Mars, the mission's main scientist said Tuesday. Scientists believe the meteorite might lead to clues about how martian winds are reshaping the planet's surface. ..."
Trib Columnist Gardner Slams NMSR: "The BS in PBS"...
Jeffry Gardner, columnist for the Albuquerque Tribune, wrote on Jan. 20 that "In making the decision to cancel the show "Unlocking the Mystery of Life," derisively referred to as "creationism" by the rabidly anti-Christian voices that squeak like greaseless wheels in the so-called science community, KNME-Channel 5's radio marketing manager Joan Rebecchi said "Life's" producers had not just an agenda but a religious agenda. KNME's decision was cheered by a group called New Mexicans for Science and Reason. The Science and Reason folks slammed the show as "religious propaganda" and made it clear we all benefited from their and KNME's collective protection. ..."
And, Questions are Asked on the Panda's Thumb...
I've responded to Gardner's column on the pages of the Panda's Thumb. There may just be a letter about this in the Trib, too!
Posted January 14th, 2005
Discovery Institute Censors Web Bloggers...
The "WedgieWorld" blog reports on Jan. 8th that "In an ironic twist, the Discovery Institute's Center of Science and Culture blogging website has been involved in censoring user comments. Adding to the irony is the fact that the comments were to a posting accusing KNME of censoring the airing of 'Unlocking the Mystery of Life'..."
DI's Blog: http://www.evolutionnews.org/
More on KNME Flap...
WorldNetDaily.com reports on Jan. 7th that "Earlier this week, the PBS station in Albuquerque, N.M., canceled a scheduled showing of a documentary on intelligent design, eliciting charges of 'politically correct censorship.' The station says there was concern about the fact that those who funded the film have religious ties. Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture criticized the station for the cancellation. 'It is simply astounding that a public television station would engage in this sort of politically correct censorship,' said Rob Crowther, director of communications for the organization, in a statement. 'Public television usually prides itself in exploring new ideas, not suppressing them. Doesn't anyone at KNME believe in free speech?' ..."
On Thursday, Jan. 12th, the New Mexico Academy of Science weighed in on the topic in an Op-Ed on page A11 of the Albuquerque Journal, saying "We have found the "documentary" to be an infomercial for creationism rather than a balanced discussion of evolution and biology. ... The producers and funders of "Unlocking" have an agenda. They are predominantly religious groups who wish to change the very nature of science, and to have their own religious views taught in public schools as if they were science. Intelligent Design evolved from Bible-based creationism. Please, do not assume that the NMAS opposes any religious views. We do not. Many of our members are quite religious. But, we are against misusing science to push any specific religious agenda. ..."
Georgia: Science 1, Creationist Disclaimer Label 0...
The Associated Press (Atlanta) reported on Jan. 13th that "A federal judge has ordered the removal of stickers placed in high school biology textbooks that call evolution 'a theory, not a fact.' The judge ruled Thursday that the disclaimers put in the books by Cobb County school officials in 2002 were unconstitutional. 'Adopted by the school board, funded by the money of taxpayers, and inserted by school personnel, the sticker conveys an impermissible message of endorsement and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others they are political insiders,' U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said in his 44-page ruling. ..."
The Discovery Institute is in full Finger-Pointing Mode, reporting on Jan. 13th that "The decision by a federal judge in Georgia to overturn a textbook sticker about evolution may have been aided by the school district's own lawyer, according to the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. Seth Cooper, an attorney and legal analyst with Discovery Institute, faulted school district lead counsel Linwood Gunn for putting on 'an incompetent defense.' ..."
The Tsunami Viewed from Space...
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported on Jan 10 "After reviewing data from four Earth-orbiting radar satellites, NOAA scientists today announced they were able to measure the height of the devastating tsunami that erupted in the Indian Ocean. The ability to make depth surveys from space may lead to improvements in the models that forecast the hazardous effects of tsunamis. ..."
These images are ASTOUNDING! Check them out.
Catch a Flying Comet...
ABC News reports on Jan. 13th that "NASA's Deep Impact comet-busting spacecraft emerged from "safe mode" and was operating normally, the space agency said Thursday. The spacecraft went into protective mode after launch Wednesday from Cape Canaveral, Fla., when it detected higher-than-expected temperatures in its propulsion system. ..."
NASA Salutes Successful Huygens Probe...
NASA announced on Jan. 14th that "NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today offered congratulations to the European Space Agency (ESA) on the successful touchdown of its Huygens probe on Saturn's moon Titan. ... The probe entered Titan's upper atmosphere at about 5:15 a.m. EST Jan. 14. During its two and one-half hour descent to the surface of the moon, it sampled the chemical composition of the atmosphere. The probe continued transmitting data for more than 90 minutes after reaching the surface. ..."
Titan Image Gallery: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/media/index.html
Dinos for Dinner? Mammal Fossils say 'Yes!' ...
MSNBC reported on Jan. 12th that "Villagers digging in China's rich fossil beds have uncovered the preserved remains of a tiny dinosaur in the belly of a mammal, a startling discovery for scientists who have long believed early mammals couldn't possibly attack and eat a dinosaur. Scientists say the animal's last meal probably is the first proof that mammals hunted small dinosaurs some 130 million years ago. ..."
Posted January 7th, 2005
Dinosaur Fossil Hoax Embarrasses Creationists...
NMSR's beloved Onyate Man is still kicking! (How can he do that, with no legs?)
And the story that started it all: http://www.nmsr.org/onyatemn.htm
Grantsburg, Wisconsin Christians join to oppose undermining teaching of evolution...
Rob Zaleski of the Capitol Times (Madison, WI) writes on Jan. 7th that "...Brown, the pastor at Community of Hope United Church of Christ on Madison's far west side, was more than happy to join 187 Christian clergy in signing a letter that was sent to the Grantsburg School Board shortly before Christmas to express dismay that the board would approve policies that undermine the teaching of evolution. 'We the undersigned,' it began, 'believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably co-exist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational science truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rest. To reject this truth or to treat it as 'one theory among others' is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.' ..."
Believers, Beware... is Astrology Dangerous? It is around Lucy Mangan...
In the Wednesday January 5, 2005 edition of The Guardian [UK], Lucy Mangan has a piece titled "Are you a woman who believes in astrology? Then let me back you into a corner - and beat some sense into you." A taste: "The next time a woman (and it is always a woman - men have many flaws but at least they prefer to seek the answers to their problems in Top Gear and Abi Titmuss rather than the waxings and wanings of the moon) asks you what star sign you are, swears by essential oils, magnet therapy or talks about realigning anything but shelves, make a stand. Back her into a corner and talk at her about Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, Crick and Watson and Jeremy Paxman until she admits the error of her ways. For astrology and the rest to flourish it is only necessary that those with an IQ in double figures do nothing. ..."
KUDOS for KNME! Or, "Responsible Programming is Not Censorship"...
This page discusses the ongoing flap over public TV station KNME's refusal to air an "Intelligent Design" video.
Join in the Discussion on , at http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000714.html
AWARD TIME - NMSR's Best and Worst of 2004...
Check out who was naughty and who was nice in 2004, at http://www.nmsr.org/nmsrbest.htm!
See Also Hot News of the Week, or News Summaries for 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 or 2000.
NMSR Site Map