New Mexicans for Science and Reason



Posted December 22nd, 2006

Al Gore on Science and Censorship...

The Pacific Institute blog for Dec. 14th discusses Al Gore's presentation at the 2006 American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting in San Francisco: "He [Gore] reflected on the reports out this week that USGS scientists are being censored. 'How have we as a nation become so vulnerable to this kind of behavior? How have we as a nation become so desensitized that attempts to censor scientists' fail to spark 'widespread outrage?' 'We don't want to know.' If politicians already want to know what policies they want to implement, Gore said, the science is inconvenient. Gore then shifted gears from documenter of attacks on science to that of the General Patton of geophysicists. 'It is time in my opinion for scientists to pay a different role ... defending the integrity of scientific processes. It is time for scientists to consider taking a more active communicating role.' The Vice President then rejected the prevailing wisdom of Washington: that it must wait for a disaster before it reacts. 'As you know,' he said, 'the climate crisis can not be dealt with that way.' If scientists lead, even those currently disengaged become more likely to follow, he suggested. 'We must disenthrall ourselves from a prison of illusions.' The thousands of scientists in the room were supercharged, as were the hundreds in the overflow room watching the closed-circuit presentation. Gore made defending science feel like a cause célèbre. Filing out of the Marriot basement, many were hanging on the would-be President's closing words: 'In the United States, the will to act is a renewable resource.' ..."


Was Santa Fe the Site of an Ancient Asteroid Impact?

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on Dec. 17th that "There is not much to say yet about the day a giant asteroid— or maybe a comet— hit what is now Santa Fe. The impact was certainly enormous, but it is hard to say how big it was, or how long ago, or how massive a crater it made in what is now northern New Mexico. Answers to those questions will come. For now, what is remarkable is that, thanks to the curiosity and persistence of a retired Santa Fe geologist Tim McElvain, scientists can say anything at all about the event. McElvain was walking his terrier, Tintin, on a trail in the Santa Fe foothills two years ago when he spotted an odd bit of rock. ... The discovery had its public unveiling at a scientific meeting in Philadelphia in late October. But scientists' current understanding of the event is more hole than doughnut. 'It's a very early stage here,' said Wolf Elston, geology professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico. Elston, who has traveled to South Africa to study the rocks formed by what may be one of Earth's great impact craters, was the first expert to give McElvain's discovery a serious look. He was convinced as soon as he saw the rock. At 78, Elston is one of the grand old men of New Mexico geology. He uses a cane, but that did not stop him on a recent field trip from scrambling through the snow and up the hillsides to look at the remarkable rocks McElvain found. ..."

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Who's the Better Bulldog, Huxley or Dawkins?

Mark Vernon has written a piece called "Thomas Henry Huxley: a better bulldog" for Spiked .com (Dec. 18th). Vernon writes "Richard Dawkins has published a rant against religion. He could learn much from an earlier Darwinian bulldog, Thomas Henry Huxley. ...Today’s Darwinian bulldog is Richard Dawkins. The parallels between him and Huxley are striking. But although both are passionate advocates of evolution, and have made distinctive contributions to the theory, Dawkin’s new book, The God Delusion, shows Huxley to be different in one key respect. In a word: God. For while Huxley, too, hoped that science would scotch the mysteries and authority that he believed Christianity perpetuated to the detriment of human progress, he knew that science itself was not the final answer. The term he coined in 1869 is one now frequently forgotten in the tussle between science and religion. It is the word agnosticism. His neologism was meant as a rebuke to all ‘gnostics’ who dogmatically present their beliefs as truth. He wrote: ‘In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.’ This is important because it expresses an intellectual humility. With respect to science, it acknowledges that when it comes to the big questions in life, what science has established ‘amounts at present to very little’ – Huxley’s words – compared with the wisdom of, say, history and literature. With respect to religion, it acknowledges the ethical idealism of the life of faith: Huxley was theologian enough to realise that the question of God was one on which he had to remain a committed agnostic. Dawkins is not an agnostic. In the new book he is a proselytising atheist. And he tries to claim Huxley for his own, saying he would have become an atheist in time. This does Huxley a grave disservice. ... Dawkins accuses believers of having minds ‘hijacked by religion’. Replace the word religion with science, and he could be writing about himself. Intolerance leads him to fundamentalist rhetoric. He is entitled to his opinion. But it is time to claim the debate back from the extremists – scientific or religious. What would be progressive would be a revival of the humanly richer, intellectually humbler and socially tolerant terrain of the committed agnostic. ..."


Georgia Creationist Sticker Case is Settled...

The AP reports on Dec. 20th that "A suburban school board that put stickers in high school science books saying evolution is "a theory, not a fact" abandoned its legal battle to keep them Tuesday after four years. The Cobb County board agreed in federal court never to use a similar sticker or to undermine the teaching of evolution in science classes. In return, the parents who sued over the stickers agreed to drop all legal action. 'We certainly think that it's a win not just for our clients but for all students in Cobb County and, really, all residents of Georgia,' said Beth Littrell of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. ..."


Eye Color Genetics Breakthrough...

The BBC reported on Dec. 20th that "Scientists have made a breakthrough in their understanding of the genetics behind human eye colour. They found that just a few 'letters' out of the six billion that make up the genetic code are responsible for most of the variation in human eye colour. The research, by a team of scientists from Queensland, Australia, will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics. The findings are based on a genetic study of nearly 4,000 individuals. Differences in eye colour are largely down to 'single nucleotide polymorphisms' (SNPs - pronounced 'snips'); variations in the sequence of letters that make up a single strand of human DNA. ..."


Wacky Website 'O the Week...

How does Science stack up with Norse Mythology? Don't get too cocky, you scientists!


Tips on using Google Books...

This tidbit from James Randi's Dec. 22nd update describes some secret tips for getting the best results from Google's new Books search engine. Randi's recommendation: "I’ve used it, and it’s been very useful to me…"


Posted December 15th, 2006

Bush policy angers USGS scientists...

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post reports on Dec. 14th that "A new Bush administration policy for reviewing scientific documents before publication has angered some U.S. Geological Survey scientists, who say the elaborate internal review of their work may impede them from conveying information to the public. The new requirements, which were unveiled in July but are still being put into practice, call for staff scientists to submit all reports and prepared talks to managers to determine if they meet the agency's scientific standards. They also require researchers to alert the agency press office of any work involving 'potential high visibility products or policy-sensitive issues.'..."


Scientists Angered by Closure of 6 Federal Libraries...

The Los Angeles Times reported on Dec. 8th that "The NASA library in Greenbelt, Md., was part of John C. Mather's daily routine for years leading up to the astrophysicist's sharing of the 2006 Nobel Prize for shedding new light on the big bang theory of creation. He researched existing space hardware and instrumentation there while designing a satellite that collected data for his prize-winning discovery. So when he learned that federal officials were planning to close the library, Mather was stunned. 'It is completely absurd,' he said. 'The library is a national treasure. It is probably the single strongest library for space science and engineering in the universe.' Mather is one of thousands of people who critics say could lose access to research materials as the government closes and downsizes libraries that house collections vital to scientific investigation and the enforcement of environmental laws. ..."


New Scientist visits "The God Lab"...

Celeste Biever of New Scientist reports on Dec. 16th "Pay a visit to the Biologic Institute and you are liable to get a chilly reception. 'We only see people with appointments,' states the man who finally responds to my persistent knocks. Then he slams the door on me. I am standing on the ground floor of an office building in Redmond, Washington, the Seattle suburb best known as home town to Microsoft. What I'm trying to find out is whether the 1-year-old institute is the new face of another industry that has sprung up in the area - the one that has set out to try to prove evolution is wrong. ... The reticence cloaks an unorthodox agenda. 'We are the first ones doing what we might call lab science in intelligent design,' says George Weber, the only one of Biologic's four directors who would speak openly with me. 'The objective is to challenge the scientific community on naturalism.' ... Last week I learned that following his communication with New Scientist, Weber has left the board of the Biologic Institute. Douglas Axe, the lab's senior researcher and spokesman, told me in an email that Weber 'was found to have seriously misunderstood the purpose of Biologic and to have misrepresented it'. Axe's portrayal of the Biologic Institute's purpose excludes religious connotation. He says that the lab's main objective 'is to show that the design perspective can lead to better science', although he allows that the Biologic Institute will 'contribute substantially to the scientific case for intelligent design'. ..."


Diabetes breakthrough in Canada?

Tom Blackwell of the National Post (CA) reported on Dec. 15th that "In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians. Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas. 'I couldn't believe it,' said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. 'Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more.' ..."


Wacky Website 'O the Week...

It's a one-stop-shop, with articles on geocentrism, creationism, the NASA Apollo Hoax, even 9-11 conspiracies!



NASA Apollo Hoax:

Wacky links page (9-11+):

Posted December 8th, 2006

"Academic Freedom" is the new Creationism...

The Discovery Institute's "News" section reports on Dec. 1st that "The Ouachita Parish School Board in Louisiana drew praise this week for adopting a Resolution on Teacher Academic Freedom to Teach Scientific Evidence Regarding Controversial Scientific Subjects. The policy states in part that 'teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.' 'We’re very happy to see them take a stand protecting the academic freedom of teachers to answer student questions and discuss scientific issues in the classroom,' said Casey Luskin, an attorney and education policy specialist with Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. ..."


But, Progress inOhio...

The AP reported on Dec. 6th that "Gov. Bob Taft said the four people he appoints to the state school board before he leaves office will support science lessons that focus on evolution and not intelligent design. 'I want people who are really committed to teaching good science in school, and I think that intelligent design does not play a role in the science curriculum,' he told The Columbus Dispatch for a story Wednesday. ..."


Cell Phone Use NOT Linked to Cancer Risk... reports on Dec. 5th that "Long or short-term cell phone use is not associated with increased cancer risk, according to a study in current issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The latest findings contradict the widely published analysis of two Swedish studies which reported an increased risk of brain tumors linked to use of wireless phones over more than 10 years. ..."


Sloan: "Doctors aren't chaplains" ...

Richard P. Sloan, director of the behavioral medical program at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, opined on "misguided effort to meld religion and medicine" in the Dec. 2nd Los Angeles Times. Sloan writes "A concerted effort is underway to make religious practices part of clinical medicine. About two-thirds of U.S. medical schools now offer some form of training on the role of religion and spirituality in medicine, according to Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University. ... Of course, religion is not utterly irrelevant to patients. If it were, hospitals would not have chaplains and chapels. But before organized medicine decides that religion has any value in physical healing, several things ought to be considered. First, the scientific evidence supposedly linking religious practices with better health is shockingly weak — so bad, in fact, that if we were discussing drugs, the Food and Drug Administration would have to find them unsafe and ineffective. Most research studies that claim to show how religious involvement is associated with better health fail to rule out other factors that might account for the relationship. ..."


Water on Mars ... Recently?

The Dail Mail (UK) reports on Dec. 7th that "Striking new images of the Red Planet have raised hopes life could be found on Mars after all. Scientists say they have photographic evidence that suggests liquid water may have been on the planet as little as five years ago. ... Now a new set of photographs has suggested that liquid water may have flowed on the planet a mere five years ago. ... Scientists in the USA decided to retake images of the gullies to search for any sign of recent activity. Two of those originally photographed in 1999 and 2001 then photographed again in 2004 and 2005 showed changes consistent with water having flowed down the side of the crater. ..."


Do Galaxies Follow Darwinian Evolution?...

The ESO Announced on Dec. 6th that "Using VIMOS on ESO's Very Large Telescope, a team of French and Italian astronomers have shown the strong influence the environment exerts on the way galaxies form and evolve. The scientists have for the first time charted remote parts of the Universe, showing that the distribution of galaxies has considerably evolved with time, depending on the galaxies' immediate surroundings. This surprising discovery poses new challenges for theories of the formation and evolution of galaxies. ..."



The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works announced on Dec. 8th that "Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the outgoing Chairman of Environment & Public Works Committee, is pleased to announce the public release of the Senate Committee published booklet entitled “A Skeptic’s Guide to Debunking Global Warming Alarmism. Hot & Cold Media Spin Cycle: A Challenge To Journalists who Cover Global Warming,"

The color glossy 64 page booklet -- previously was only available in hardcopy to the media and policy makers -- includes speeches, graphs, press releases and scientific articles refuting catastrophe climate fears presented by the media, the United Nations, Hollywood and former Vice President turned-foreign-lobbyist Al Gore. ..."


Websites O' The Week...

Who says ID has no scientific basis?  Here's ID actually applied, in the world's fastest Intelligent Design-based Sorting algorithm:

Of course, that site is tongue-in-cheek. Not so for this one, which presents a "Complete Unified Field Model" by Nicholas J.R. Dalton : Relativity, Electrodynamics, and the rest of science is Wrong: "The monumentally complicated mathematical constructs of Twentieth Century Atomic Theory are far too complicated to have spontaneously occurred. In addition, their rejection of normal laws of motion and time is simply not sound logic. ..."

Posted December 1st, 2006

One Impact Did In the Dinos - Study...

RedOrbit News reported on Nov. 28th that "The dinosaurs, along with the majority of all other animal species on Earth, went extinct approximately 65 million years ago. Some scientists have said that the impact of a large meteorite in the Yucatan Peninsula, in what is today Mexico, caused the mass extinction, while others argue that there must have been additional meteorite impacts or other stresses around the same time. A new study provides compelling evidence that 'one and only one impact' caused the mass extinction, according to a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher. 'The samples we found strongly support the single impact hypothesis,' said Ken MacLeod, associate professor of geological sciences at MU and lead investigator of the study. ..."


Google Nukes...

John Fleck's Inkstain blog for Nov. 27th notes "If you’ve ever wondered where those “secret” underground bunkers are where they keep all our nukes, the Nuclear Notebook guys, Hans Kristensen and Stan Norris, have poked virtual pushpins into a Google Earth map. (Hint to Albuquerque readers: some are right under your nose, and I don’t mean at the Ghost Mall.) ..."

Interesting stuff!


Kansas Outlaws Practice Of Evolution...

The Onion reports on Nov. 28th that "In response to a Nov. 7 referendum, Kansas lawmakers passed emergency legislation outlawing evolution, the highly controversial process responsible for the development and diversity of species and the continued survival of all life. ... The sweeping new law prohibits all living beings within state borders from being born with random genetic mutations that could make them better suited to evade predators, secure a mate, or, adapt to a changing environment. In addition, it bars any sexual reproduction, battles for survival, or instances of pure happenstance that might lead, after several generations, to a more well-adapted species or subspecies. ..."


Hawking: Leave Earth!

The Telegraph (UK) reported on Dec. 1st "Mankind will need to venture far beyond planet Earth to ensure the long-term survival of our species, according to the world's best known scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking. Returning to a theme he has voiced many times before, the Cambridge University cosmologist said today that space-rockets propelled by the kind of matter/antimatter annihilation technology popularised in Star Trek would be needed to help Homo sapiens colonise hospitable planets orbiting alien stars. And he disclosed his own ambition to go into space. "Maybe Richard Branson will help me," he said, a reference to the space tourism plans of Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson, using the privately built SpaceShipOne to take people into space from 2008. ..."


Website O' The Week...

Stop Sylvia Browne - A look at the claims, predictions and behavior of a media "psychic". By Robert S. Lancaster.


Posted November 26th, 2006

Creationist Schism Splits Groups...

The Kentucky-based young-earth creationist group Answers in Genesis is in a huge row with the Creation Ministries International. The latter group is composed of organizations from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada which were all formerly united with the Kentucky group under the "Answers in Genesis" name. Accusations are flying in the acxrimonious dispute, which involves whether or not other creationists can be criticized, editorial control of magazines and publications, and (of course!), money. Jim Lippard has the gory details on the Lippard Blog.


Free-for-All on Science and Religion at Salk Institute...

In the Nov. 21st New York Times, George Johnson describes a forum held earlier this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif. He writes "Maybe the pivotal moment came when Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,” or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for “progress in spiritual discoveries” to an atheist — Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book “The God Delusion” is a national best-seller. Or perhaps the turning point occurred at a more solemn moment, when Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration, hushed the audience with heartbreaking photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects — testimony, he suggested, that blind nature, not an intelligent overseer, is in control. ..."

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New Blog Highlights "Junk Food Science"...

Sandy Szwarc, RN, BSN, CCP, has a new blog titled "Junkfood Science."  It's about "The truth about food, fat and health. Learn the science that mainstream media doesn't report and how to critically think about the junk they do that's not fit to swallow." Check it out!


Posted November 17th, 2006

New Think Tank to Promote ... Thinking!

Thge Washington Post reported on Nov. 15th that "Concerned that the voice of science and secularism is growing ever fainter in the White House, on Capitol Hill and in culture, a group of prominent scientists and advocates of strict church-state separation yesterday announced formation of a Washington think tank designed to promote "rationalism" as the basis of public policy. The brainchild of Paul Kurtz, founder of the Center for Inquiry-Transnational, the small public policy office will lobby and sometimes litigate on behalf of science-based decision making and against religion in government affairs. ..."


Yes, Virginia, Creationists DID Notice There Was an Election...

You'd never know there had even been an election if you got all your news from the Intelligent Design Sycophants' Blog, That site has blithely ignored ID Nov. 7th election losses in Ohio, Kansas, Pennsylvania (Santorum) and Michigan (DeVos).

The Baptist Press News isn't as reticent, reporting on Nov. 14th that "In Ohio and Kansas, the midterm elections brought gains for evolution backers on state boards of education that determine science standards in public school classrooms, which means proponents of Intelligent Design suffered some setbacks. ..."

No mention of Santorum or DeVos here, either, but hey - at least they noticed something!


Did Global Climate Change Doom the Dinosaurs?

National Geographic reports on Oct. 30th that "Offshore of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula is a 110-mile-wide (180-kilometer-wide) crater dubbed Chicxulub, widely believed to be the site of an asteroid impact 65 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs. ... But a single asteroid impact doesn't tell the whole story, says a small but vocal group of geologists led by Princeton University paleontologist Gerta Keller in New Jersey. Keller and her collaborators believe that the Chicxulub impact predated the K-T extinction by about 300,000 years. The dinosaurs, they say, were killed not by a lone asteroid strike but by the quadruple whammy of global climate change, massive volcanism, and not one but two gigantic collisions. ..."


Speaking of Asteroids, Can They Be STOPPED?

The Guardian (UK) reports on Nov. 17th that "It is the stuff of nightmares and, until now, Hollywood thrillers. A huge asteroid is on a catastrophic collision course with Earth and mankind is poised to go the way of the dinosaurs. To save the day, Nasa now plans to go where only Bruce Willis has gone before. The US space agency is drawing up plans to land an astronaut on an asteroid hurtling through space at more than 30,000 mph. It wants to know whether humans could master techniques needed to deflect such a doomsday object when it is eventually identified. The proposals are at an early stage, and a spacecraft needed just to send an astronaut that far into space exists only on the drawing board, but they are deadly serious. A smallish asteroid called Apophis has already been identified as a possible threat to Earth in 2036. ..."


Posted November 10th, 2006

Election Affects Science...

Science Magazine reports on Nov. 8th that "Intelligent design (ID) received a drubbing yesterday, with pro-evolution candidates taking control of the Kansas State Board of Education and strengthening their representation on the Ohio State Board of Education. Many scientists also cheered the defeat of Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), one of the most politically influential supporters of the ID movement. ..."


They forgot to mention Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, about whom the Detroit News reported "Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos says he supports giving local school districts the option of teaching the theory of intelligent design in science classes as an alternative to evolution. ..."


Did Michigan voters approve DeVos?  Nope.


Creationists and Their Legal Problems...

Even without considering the elections, it's not been a good couple of weeks for creationists.

For starters, you can surf over to the Escambia County Sheriff's Office to check out convicted felon (and creationist minister) Kent Hovind's grim-looking mug shot:

(A better aspect ratio appears on the image itself:

Or, you can pop over to YouTube and watch scandal-plagued Ted Haggard's incredibly unctuous performance while being interviewed by biologist Richard Dawkins several months ago:

Or, you can check out what Florida papers are reporting about Ann Coulter. The Palm Beach Post reported on Nov. 2nd that "TV political pundit and best-selling author Ann Coulter may be one step closer to being prosecuted for allegedly casting her vote in the wrong precinct in a Town of Palm Beach election. Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson said Wednesday he would refer the case to State Attorney Barry Krischer's office as early as today or Friday. ..."


Review of Coulter's "Godless" anti-evolution diatribe:

Of course, this doesn't prove that all creationists are lawbreakers. Just some of them.

Former Brit Ministry of Defence official: "Aliens could attack at any time"...

Don Rumsfeld was not the only defense chief who resigned this week. The Daily Mail (UK) reported on Nov. 10th that "During his time as head of the Ministry of Defence UFO project, Nick Pope was persuaded into believing that other lifeforms may visit Earth and, more specifically, Britain. His concern is that 'highly credible' sightings are simply dismissed. And he complains that the project he once ran is now 'virtually closed' down, leaving the country 'wide open' to aliens. Mr Pope decided to speak out about his worries after resigning from his post at the Directorate of Defence Security at the MoD this week. ..."


Bigfoot research makes professor a campus outcast...

CNN reports on Nov. 3rd that "Jeffrey Meldrum holds a Ph.D. in anatomical sciences and is a tenured professor of anatomy at Idaho State University. He is also one of the world's foremost authorities on Bigfoot, the mythical ape-man of the Northwest woods. And Meldrum firmly believes the lumbering, shaggy brute exists. That makes him an outcast -- a solitary, Sasquatch-like figure himself -- on the 12,700-student campus, where many scientists are embarrassed by what they call Meldrum's 'pseudo-academic' pursuits and have called on the university to review his work with an eye toward revoking his tenure. One physics professor, D.P. Wells, wonders whether Meldrum plans to research Santa Claus, too. ..."


A Dolphin with 'Legs' - Evolutionary Throwback?

MSNBC reported on Nov. 6th that "Japanese researchers said Sunday that a bottlenose dolphin captured last month has an extra set of fins that could be the remains of hind legs, a discovery that may provide further evidence that ocean-dwelling mammals once lived on land. Fishermen captured the four-finned dolphin alive off the coast of Wakayama prefecture in western Japan on Oct. 28, and alerted the nearby Taiji Whaling Museum, according to museum director Katsuki Hayashi. ..."


Posted November 3rd, 2006

"Russian Scopes" Trial Begins...

The St. Petersburg Times reports on Oct. 27th that "The court of Oktyabrsky district begun its proceedings of the suit from a school student against the teaching of Darwinism in her school. In the lawsuit of Maria Shrayber v. Russia's Ministry of Education and Science it states that presenting Darwin's origin of the species as the only true evolution theory offends the girl's religious beliefs and violates her right of ideology choice, Interfax reported Monday. According to Kirill Shrayber, who represents the interest of his juvenile daughter in court, their suit aims to limit study of the theory in Russia's schools due to the fact that so far none of the evolution theories has been scientifically proved, Interfax reported. The next hearing is planned for December 13. ..."


Poll: Almost half of Americans uncertain God exists... reported on Oct. 31st that "Nearly half of Americans are not sure God exists, according to a poll that also found divisions among the public on whether God is male or female or whether God has a human form and has control over events. The survey conducted by Harris Poll found that 42 percent of US adults are not 'absolutely certain' there is a God compared to 34 percent who felt that way when asked the same question three years ago. Among the various religious groups, 76 percent of Protestants, 64 percent of Catholics and 30 percent of Jews said they are 'absolutely certain' there is a God while 93 percent of Christians who describe themselves as 'Born Again' feel certain God exists. ..."


Dr. Dino Guilty of Federal Tax Fraud...

Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind is a well-known creationist who stumps the world bashing evolution in fast-paced presentations and "debates." At one such presentation in Pennsylvania in 1999, Hovind endorsed the site for its convincing evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. However, this site was actually the NMSR April Fool's prank for 1999. Upon receiving one of NMSR's annual awards, Hovind promptly challenged NMSR to a live debate, which we declined, explaining that he can put on a circus if he wants to, but that we were under no obligation to serve as the clowns. In turn, Hovind has refused NMSR's offer of a written Internet debate. His barnstorming bluster and ridicule work much better in a crowded room of believers than in cold hard print.


Hovind has a museum, sells many videos and books, and takes in hundreds of thousands of dollars at his Pensacola, Florida ministry. But, he has signed on to the "Taxation is Illegal" movement, and hasn't paid taxes on his employees in years. Even though he has complained about IRS "harassment" for years, Hovind's defense was that he was never notified by the IRS that he was violating a "specific law." On Nov. 2nd, after presenting no evidence and calling no witnesses in his defense, Hovind was convicted by a federal jury of 58 counts of evading bank-reporting requirements, and could face up to 288 years in prison. His wife was also convicted on 44 counts, and could face up to 225 years of hard time.

Maybe now he'll have time for that written debate with NMSR.


'Only 50 years left' for fish in the sea?

The BBC reported on Nov. 2nd that "There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study. Stocks have collapsed in nearly one-third of sea fisheries, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Writing in the journal Science, the international team of researchers says fishery decline is closely tied to a broader loss of marine biodiversity. But a greater use of protected areas could safeguard existing stocks. ..."


Not so fast, say other scientists interviewed for the Seattle Times, which reported on Nov. 3rd that "'It's just mind-boggling stupid,' said Ray Hilborn, a University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences. 'I'm worried about some areas of the world — like Africa — but other areas of the world have figured out how to do effective fishery management.' For example, most of the harvests in the North Pacific off Alaska — where most Seattle fleets fish — are not in sharp decline. ..."


N.M. Archaeologist Starring on new Sci Fi Channel series...

The Albuquerque Journal reported on Oct. 27th that "They say lightning never strikes twice, but it has for New Mexico archaeologist Bill Doleman. He's one of four stars of 'Sci Fi Investigates,' a reality show airing Wednesdays at 8 on the Sci Fi Channel. On the show, the career archaeologist serves as the serious 'science guy' on a team that investigates some of the world's most enduring mysteries, like cattle mutilations, Bigfoot, voodoo and life after death. It's the second time in four years that Doleman has snagged a role on a nationally televised show. In 2002, Doleman played a large role in 'The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence,' a two-hour Sci Fi Channel documentary that chronicled the first archaeological dig at the so-called debris field left by what some believe was an alien craft near Roswell. ..."

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There is a new "mockumentary" about the 2002 Sci Fi Roswell show, titled "The Top Secret UFO Project," by filmmaker R. J. Thomas. PRLeap reports on Oct. 27th that "Billed as 'the movie the government does not want you to see,' 'The Top Secret UFO Project,' is a parody of UFO documentaries, from the upscale films like 'The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence,' to the cheesy docs of the 1970s like 'Overlords of the UFO.' ..."


Posted October 27th, 2006

Randi on "New Mexico Nutters" and 2012 "End of the World"...

In his October 20th commentary, James Randi notes "...since the current Mayan calendar cycle covers the period 3113 BC to 2012 AD, the calamatists have decided that in that year, a “total collapse of time” will occur, and our species will enter “post history.” (Folks, I just report these matters; I don’t explain them.) ... All over this doomed Earth, “spirituality conferences” are convening. In New Mexico, as we’d expect, the nutters will gather for a '2012 Ascension Symposium' which promises to 'offer humanity global reassurance and change the consciousness of the world.' ..."


It appears New Mexico's reputation as a happy home for woo woo wingnuts is secure, perhaps until both Roswell and Santa Fe secede. At least we're not Sedona!

PR Evolving into "Science"?!? Big Willies and the Press...

Ben Goldacre of The Guardian (UK) writes on Oct. 21st that "All men will have big willies, said the headline in the Sun. This was the story of Oliver Curry, 'evolution theorist' from the Darwin@LSE research centre. 'By the year 3000, the average human will be 6ft tall, have coffee-coloured skin and live for 120 years, new research predicts. And the good news does not end there. Blokes will be chuffed to learn their willies will get bigger - and women's boobs will become more pert.' Where did this story come from? Does it stand up? Well, what has been represented as important "new research" is a rather fanciful essay from a political theorist at LSE, and while it's not ridiculous, there's a lot to take issue with. ... the trivial problems in this trivial essay are not the issue: what's odd is how it became a science story, all over the media, with the BBC, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Scotsman, and many more lapping it up. How does this happen? The 'research' was paid for by Bravo, a bikini and fast-car 'men's TV channel'. More and more, empty 'science' stories are being generated by PR companies who pay academics to produce some spurious piece of 'research'. ..."


Evo - Evo - Evo - Lu - tion ...

This 39-second movie features a gaggle of science types singing "A Story of Intelligent Design" to the tune of "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah." Clever!


Creo Craziness in Poland..

AFP/Yahoo reported on Oct. 23rd that "Poland's far-right League of Polish Families (LPR), which is part of the coalition government, claims Darwin's theory of evolution is all wrong, that humans lived alongside dinosaurs and that Neanderthal man is still among us. Last week, Poland's deputy education minister Miroslaw Orzechowski, a member of the LPR, bluntly rejected British naturalist Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and his postulate that man is descended from apes. ... This weekend, Orzechowski was given some high-level support when European lawmaker for the far-right party, Maciej Giertych -- the father of LPR leader Roman Giertych -- told a seminar that Neanderthal man still roams the planet, notably in the United States where examples can be spotted in a boxing ring. 'A scientist showed me a picture of an American boxer. He had all the traits of Neanderthal man. These people are among us. They are part of the human race, probably more prevalent once upon a time, but who still exist,' Giertych, who has a doctorate in biology, told the seminar. ..."


However, the AP reported on Oct. 26th that the younger Giertych is not echoing his father's line. "Poland's schools will continue to teach the theory of evolution, the education minister said Thursday, distancing himself from a deputy who recently called Darwinism a 'lie.' Roman Giertych, leader of ultra-Roman Catholic League of Polish Families, said he saw no conflict between the theory of evolution and the Biblical teaching that God created the world. 'As long as most scientists in our country say that evolution is the right theory, it will be taught in Poland's schools,' Giertych told a news conference. ..."


DOE relinquishes "Voodoo" Polygraphs...

Physicist/physician Alan Zelicoff comments in the Oct. 20th Albuquerque Journal that "The U.S. Department of Energy has quietly slipped a new 'rule' of great significance into the Code of Federal Regulations: The program of lie-detector 'screening' at the premiere national laboratories has been rescinded. This change reflects an unflattering judgment on positions staked out by a bipartisan collection of political and lab leaders. First proposed in 1999 by Gov. Bill Richardson — then secretary of energy — during the uproar over alleged spying at the national labs, the lie detector policy elicited the derision of scientists everywhere. The American Psychological Association, the Federation of American Scientists, the Senior Scientists at Sandia Labs and the National Academy of Sciences uniformly rejected the Richardson’s contention that polygraphs would improve security. The expedient (though hardly inexpensive) attempt to paper over extraordinarily damaging security lapses with polygraphs has failed catastrophically. ..."


Hat tip, John Fleck:

"Jesus Power and Light"...

John Higgins of the Beacon Journal (Ohio) reported on Oct. 2nd that "'Jesus Power and Light' -- a free-electricity promotion denounced by scientists, consumer advocates and state attorneys general -- was pitched at an Akron City Council member's Sept. 5 ward meeting. The salesman, Fred Gissendaner, a respected local sports hero and community figure, believes in it so much that he says he has invested more than $10,000....Gissendaner says he is a certified dealer for the Hummingbird Motor & Sundance Generator, which purportedly harnesses the energy of permanent magnets to produce more electricity than it uses. But Gissendaner is not selling the generators; he's selling the DVD ($19.95 plus $7 shipping and handling) that explains the technology. Those who buy the DVD will be among 1.6 million 'witnesses' invited to football fields across the country (and in 10 provinces in Canada) on July 10, 2007, for the unveiling. After that, they will be entitled to free electricity for life by allowing a generator to be installed in their homes. International Tesla Electric Co. actually will own the generators and sell the excess energy back to utilities, Gissendaner said. 'This is nonsense,' said Lawrence M. Krauss, director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University. 'Magnets do not give up energy.' Authorities in several states have warned consumers to be wary of theNew Jersey traveling salesman behind Gissendaner's investment: Dennis Lee. ..."


Dennis Lee's visits to New Mexico:

Martian Rovers fighting Boredom by Acting Out...

The Onion reports on Oct. 24th that "NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists overseeing the ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission said Monday that the Spirit's latest transmissions could indicate a growing resentment of the Red Planet. 'Spirit has been displaying some anomalous behavior,' said Project Manager John Callas, who noted the rover's unsuccessful attempts to flip itself over and otherwise damage its scientific instruments. 'And the thousand or so daily messages of 'STILL NO WATER' really point to a crisis of purpose.' ... 'Granted, Spirit has been extraordinarily useful to our work,' Callas said. 'Last week, however, we received three straight days of images of the same rock with the message 'HAPPY NOW?' ' ..."


Hat Tip: Larry Crumpler

Posted October 19th, 2006

Antarctic Ice Collapse Linked To Man-Made Greenhouse Gases...

ABC News reports on Oct. 16th that "Scientists said on Monday that they had found the first direct evidence linking the collapse of an ice shelf in Antarctica to global warming widely blamed on human activities. Shifts in winds whipping around the southern Ocean, tied to human emissions of greenhouse gases, had warmed the Antarctic peninsula jutting up towards South America and contributed to the break-up of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002, they said. ..."


"Boffins" go Heavy Metal...

The Register (UK) reports on Oct. 17th that "Russian and American scientists yesterday announced they'd 'discovered' a new superheavy element - 118, aka ununoctium. According to Reuters, teams at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, 'bombarded californium with calcium ions' to create the element which has 'only existed in three different atoms lasting a fraction of a second over months of experiments'. The boffins explained they found the first 118 atom in 2002, followed by another two in 2005. The atoms lived for a fleeting 0.9 milliseconds. ..."


What are Boffins?

'Anti-religion' group joins Academy's church program...

World Net Daily reported on Oct. 17th that "A group that rejects any religious belief, thought or practice in favor of "reason" has joined a religious instruction program at the United States Air Force Academy. Officials for the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs say they want to inspire the "non-religious" cadet to become the 'noble animal' he or she can, just as Christian groups seek to have cadets become like Christ, or Jewish students seek to study, know and follow the Torah. ...The school's religion program had been accused by several, including academy graduate Mikey Weinstein, of providing a platform for evangelical Christians at the academy. He's filed a lawsuit over it, according to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette. ..."


"Dr. Dino" (Kent Hovind) Trial Begins...

The Pensacola News Journal reported on Oct. 18th that "Defense attorneys said it's a case of a Pensacola couple's ignorance of the law and their religious beliefs. A federal prosecutor said it's a case of a couple refusing to pay payroll taxes for their employees. Opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of Pensacola evangelist Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo. Between them, the Hovinds are charged with 58 counts of tax fraud involving their Creation Science Ministry. The ministry includes Dinosaur Adventure Land on North Palafox Street, a creationist theme park dedicated to debunking evolution. ..."


Posted October 13th, 2006

More on Alaskan Swell Breaking Massive Iceberg in Antarctica...

We reported on this last week, but you'll want to check out John Fleck's article on the New Mexican connection! Writing in the Oct. 7th Albuquerque Journal, Fleck notes "Following a trail of scientific bread crumbs, a team of scientists has established a connection: a massive wave that traveled more than 8,000 miles across open ocean, shaking the 60-by-20-mile iceberg until it fell apart. Scientists have long known ocean waves can circle the planet. But this is the first time they have found evidence of such a dramatic effect, according to New Mexico Tech geophysicist Rick Aster, a member of the scientific team that pulled the clues together. ..."

Source: (Subscription)

Montana Governor called "Incredibly Bigoted" for saying Earth is over 4,000-6,000 Years Old...

Yahoo reported on Oct. 9th that "A Republican state lawmaker is criticizing Gov. Brian Schweitzer for comments he made to a newspaper here about the lawmaker's belief that the planet is not millions of years old. Rep. Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, called Schweitzer's statement 'incredibly bigoted.' Speaking to a crowd of school children, parents and teachers in Bozeman on Friday about global warming, Schweitzer asked how many in the crowd thought the Earth was hundreds of millions of years old. Most of the children in the audience raised their hands. He then asked how many believed the planet was less than a million years old. At least two people, including Koopman, who was in the crowd, raised their hands. ... Schweitzer said he needs support from a state Legislature that will help move Montana's agenda forward, 'not people who think the Earth is 4,000 years old.' Koopman called the comments insulting. 'He insulted many Christian people and other people of faith that arrived at that position other than the way I arrived at it,' he said. ..."


City of Roswell Takes Over UFO Fest from Museum...

The Roswell Daily Record reported on Oct. 10th that "In an attempt to end the turf wars that come with planning a city-wide event during the week of July 4, the City of Roswell will coordinate the 2007 UFO Festival. The 2007 event marks the 60th anniversary of the Roswell Incident and the 10-year anniversary of the festival itself. ... Jack Swickard, president of the International UFO Museum and Research Center Board of Directors, said the board is happy about the city’s decision to step up to the plate. 'It has been our hope at the museum that the city would take command of the festival,' said Swickard. 'We met with (Mayor Sam LaGrone) right after this year’s festival and he indicated that he wanted to get involved.' Swickard said the museum took over coordinating the festival three years ago and it has not been profitable during that time. ..."


Searching for CLues to Origin of Life ... in Kamchatka?

The Baltimore Sun reports on Oct. 8th that "In the unspoiled land of Kamchatka, nearly as far east as one can go in the Russian Far East, in a vast volcano crater reachable only by helicopter, American geologist Christopher Romanek crouches in thigh-high rubber boots and dips an electronic temperature probe into a hot spring's trickling stream. The pool's bubbling source is a steamy 164 degrees. And in it may lie clues to one of the most puzzling conundrums of science: how life on earth began. Romanek is part of a team of American and Russian scientists who, for four years running, have used Kamchatka as a laboratory for the study of extremophiles - organisms which, as their name suggests, live in extreme environments. ..."


Hat tip, John Fleck: "No politics here, no big breakthroughs, just some delightful writing."

"Hobbit" at Two...

Carl Zimmer has a update on the latest back-and-forth regarding Homo floresiensis, called the Indonesian "Hobbit" from 18,000 years ago. Zimmer observes on his Oct. 9th blog that "As we come up on the second anniversary of the initial announcement of Homo floresiensis, we're in a strange spot. Microcephaly turns out to be a very peculiar condition that makes it very hard to distinguish humans from a possible species of very small hominids. Many different genes can give rise to the same conditions, producing different shapes to the brain, as well as different changes to other parts of the body. ... At this point it's not even clear if discovering more tiny hominids on Flores would make the case for a separate species. Under some conditions, it might be possible that a small population of islanders had a high proportion of microcephaly-triggering genes floating about. But that may be moot if nobody's actually digging in the Liang Bua cave. Now, if Homo floresiensis is the result of evolutionary dwarfing, then perhaps the debate might be advanced a bit if someone could find hominid fossils on other islands around southeast Asia that have also followed the Homo floresiensis path. ..."


Posted October 6th, 2006

Weather in Alaska causes Iceberg to Splinter .. in ANTARCTICA!

ABC News/Reiters reports on Oct. 2nd that "A bad storm in Alaska last October generated an ocean swell that broke apart a giant iceberg near Antarctica six days later, U.S. researchers reported on Monday. The waves traveled 8,300 miles to destroy the iceberg, said Douglas MacAyeal of the University of Chicago and Emile Okal at Northwestern University. ..."


Gore, Cigarettes. and Global Warming...

On Inkstain, John Fleck opines "There’s a fascinating meme echoing around the Internet in recent days suggesting Al Gore said something idiotic. The source is a NewsMax story about a talk Al Gore apparently gave last week at the United Nations.

The NewsMax article suggests Gore claimed that 'Cigarette smoking is a ’significant’ contributor to global warming'. It’s obviously an idiotic claim, and it seems extremely unlikely to me that Gore, practiced in the delivery of his global warming schtick and careful in his scientific citations, would have made it. ... It’s a great example of the way it’s far easier to dismiss one’s political opponents as venal or stupid than it is to actually engage the substance of their argument. ..."


Chris Mooney Causes Radio Station "New Talk 106.3 FM" to Fold...

Fleck also opined on Sept. 29th that "Yesterday afternoon, Chris Mooney swung through town on a book tour visit, including a talk radio appearance. Today comes news that KAGM is being shut down, replaced with an all-Spanish music format of some kind. It would be a mistake, of course, to confuse correlation with causation. ..."


TIME Tells it like it Is...

... about human evolution. In the cover story for the Oct. 1st issue, the Time staffers write "You don't have to be a biologist or an anthropologist to see how closely the great apes--gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans--resemble us. ... Scientists figured out decades ago that chimps are our nearest evolutionary cousins, roughly 98% to 99% identical to humans at the genetic level. When it comes to DNA, a human is closer to a chimp than a mouse is to a rat. Yet tiny differences, sprinkled throughout the genome, have made all the difference. ..."


War against evolution could deeply harm future of U.S. science...

In the Oct. 5th Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Paul A. Hanle argues that "By teaching intelligent design, this nation will be discouraging technological innovation."  He adds "Already, U.S. high school students lag near the bottom in math skills compared with students in other developed nations, and high school seniors are performing worse in science than they were 10 years ago. These trends can only worsen if students come to regard evolution as questionable or controversial. Thirty-seven percent of the high school Advanced Placement biology examination tests knowledge of evolution, evolutionary biology and heredity, according to the College Board. Students who do not thoroughly understand evolution cannot hope to succeed on this exam. By teaching intelligent design or other variants of creationism in science classes at public schools -- or by undercutting the credibility of evolution -- we are greatly diminishing our chances for future scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations, and are endangering our health, safety and economic well-being as individuals and as a nation. ..."


FINALLY - DOE trims Polygraph Use...

KOB TV reports on Oct. 5th that "The US Energy Department is ending required polygraph tests for thousands of workers at its nuclear weapons facilities. That includes most scientists at the government’s national research labs, such as Los Alamos and Sandia. The department no longer will require polygraph tests as part of a general screening of new applicants, or automatically for employees in areas of high security. The agency says tests will be required for narrow purposes where there is specific cause. Applicants still will undergo broad security reviews, as will current workers on a periodic basis. But the department says that, with narrow exceptions, these workers will no longer automatically be subject to lie detector tests. The new requirements are to go into effect October 30th. ..."


It's about time!

Who says there aren't Psychics?

Take a look at this YouTube video, just over a minute in length, and see if you think this policeman is having a premonition...


Posted September 29th, 2006

Mona Lisa, Soccer Mom...

The Independent (UK) reported on Sept. 28th that "As if her enigmatic smile had not inspired enough debate over the centuries, the mysterious Mona Lisa was the subject of renewed controversy yesterday. Scientists now claim the young woman depicted in Leonardo da Vinci's 16th century masterpiece was either pregnant or had recently given birth. 'Thanks to laser scanning, we were able to uncover the very fine gauze veil Mona Lisa was wearing on her dress. This was something typical for either soon-to-be or new mothers at the time,' explained Michel Menu, of the French Museums' Centre for Research and Restoration. ..."


Brit Ministry of Defense didn't want us to know how much they studied UFOs ...

The Guardian (UK) reported on Sept. 25th that "The Ministry of Defence went to extraordinary lengths to cover up its true involvement in investigating UFOs, according to secret documents revealed under the Freedom of Information Act. The files show that officials attempted to expunge information from documents released to the Public Records Office under the '30-year rule' that would have revealed the extent of the MoD's interest in UFO sightings. In particular, the ministry wanted to cover up the operation of a secret unit dedicated to UFO investigations within the Defence Intelligence Staff. UFO conspiracy theorists have likened the unit, called DI55, to a sort of 'Men in Black' agency for defending the Earth against invasion but the released documents show this is far from the truth. ... The files were made public following FOI requests by David Clarke, a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University and his colleague Andy Roberts. 'These documents don't tell us anything about UFOs but they do show how desperate the MoD have been to conceal the interest which the intelligence services had in the subject,' said Dr Clarke. ..."


Sen. Inhofe disses Global Warming...

Senator James Inhofe, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment And Public Works Committee, stated on the Senate floor on Sept. 25th that "Recently, advocates of alarmism have grown increasingly desperate to try to convince the public that global warming is the greatest moral issue of our generation. ... In 2006, both the National Academy of Sciences and an independent researcher further refuted the foundation of the “hockey stick. ..."


What the National Academy of Sciences REALLY said: "The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on icecaps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years. ..."


Sen. Inhofe responded to the resultant "firestorm" on television news stations like CNN, and the Internet, on Sept. 28th. And he knows he's right, because of the "the flood of overwhelming positive feedback" he received, from Janet of Saugus, Massachusetts, Al of Clinton, Connecticut, Kevin of Jacksonville, Florida, Steven of Phoenix, Arizona, and Craig of Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Opportunity Knocks on the Rim of Victoria...

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Sept. 28th that "Opportunity, the tireless rover exploring the surface of Mars, has finally reached the steep rim of a broad crater called Victoria, after a 21-month journey over sand dunes, rock-studded plains and smaller Martian craters, mission scientists reported Wednesday. At the crater's edge, the six-wheeled explorer positioned its panoramic camera to peer across the half-mile width of bowl-shaped feature and transmitted images of rugged walls with dark layers of rocky outcrops and a floor blanketed with sand dunes, said astronomer Steven Squyres of Cornell, chief scientist for the rover mission. 'This is a geologist's dream come true,' he said in an e-mail to reporters. 'Those layers of rock, if we can get to them, will tell us new stories about the environmental conditions on Mars long ago.' ..."


Scientists: That's IT, We've gotta ORGANIZE...

The New York Times reports on Sept. 28th that "Several prominent scientists said yesterday that they had formed an organization dedicated to electing politicians 'who respect evidence and understand the importance of using scientific and engineering advice in making public policy.' Organizers of the group, Scientists and Engineers for America, said it would be nonpartisan, but in interviews several said Bush administration science policies had led them to act. The issues they cited included the administration’s position on climate change, its restrictions on stem cell research and delays in authorizing the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception. In a statement posted on its Web site (, the group said scientists and engineers had an obligation 'to enter the political debate when the nation’s leaders systematically ignore scientific evidence and analysis, put ideological interest ahead of scientific truths, suppress valid scientific evidence and harass and threaten scientists for speaking honestly about their research.' ..."

Source: (registration)

Posted September 22nd, 2006

Paul Nelson Speaks at Calvary ABQ...

Dr. Paul Nelson is one of the few Discovery Institute Fellows who openly admits to being a young-earth creationist. (This is confirmed by Nelson on ID blogger Denyse O'Leary Sept. 15, 2005 blog: "I became a fellow at Discovery in 1996, and published a chapter defending YEC with John Mark Reynolds (in the Zondervan volume Three Views on Creation and Evolution) in 1999. ... I've never made any effort to hide my YEC convictions, which are mainly theological in origin. To my knowledge, I'm the token (i.e., only) YEC among the Discovery fellows. ..."

A commenter notes that "Paul has recently been demoted from a Senior Fellow to a Fellow of the DI, but he has said this is due to his tardiness in publishing his long-awaited monograph 'On Common Descent'. ..."


On Sept. 6th, 2006, Nelson spoke in Albuquerque at Calvary Chapel, on "What Does Natural Selection Really Explain?" You can watch the 94-minute talk online at the Calvary website.


'Walking' Shark Surprise in Indonesia...

The BBC reports on Sept. 18th that "Discoveries of hugely diverse fish and coral species in the Indonesian archipelago have amazed researchers. The Bird's Head region in Papua may be the most biologically diverse in all the oceans, say scientists from Conservation International (CI). Among 50 species believed to be new are bottom-dwelling 'walking' sharks and 'flasher' wrasse, which feature colourful male courting displays. ..."


PFAW publishes on "Defending Science Education in Your Community"...

People For the American Way has published "An Online Toolkit for Students and Parents Whose Public School Science Curriculum is Under Attack." The announcement of the publication asks "Is there an effort in your state, locality or neighborhood school to introduce creationism or sideline evolution in the science classroom? If so, this toolkit was made for you." Resources include "How to Respond to Religiously-Based Curricula," "Students: Points to Raise with Parents and School Personnel," "Parents: Points to Raise with Other Parents, School Personnel and Elected Officials," and "Evolution FAQs."


Stunning Cassini Images...

Feast your eyes on these new images of Saturn, released by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Sept. 19th. The release notes that "Saturn sports a new ring in an image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Sunday, Sept. 17, during a one-of-a-kind observation. Other spectacular sights captured by Cassini's cameras include wispy fingers of icy material stretching out tens of thousands of kilometers from the active moon, Enceladus, and a cameo color appearance by planet Earth. ..."


"Lucy's Baby"...

The BBC reported on Sept. 20th that "The 3.3-million-year-old fossilised remains of a human-like child have been unearthed in Ethiopia's Dikika region. The female Australopithecus afarensis bones are from the same species as an adult skeleton found in 1974 which was nicknamed 'Lucy.' Scientists are thrilled with the find, reported in the journal Nature. ..."

While the tiny hominid is Small, the importance of this find is Big. Stay tuned!


Richardson wants School Districts to support Students at 2007 International Science Fair...

The Rio Rancho Observer reports on Sept. 20th that "Russ Fisher-Ives issued a call for action here Tuesday afternoon, and Gov. Bill Richardson threw down the gauntlet. Fisher-Ives, a former Rio Rancho High School science teacher, made his plea for school districts around the state to allocate funds for students and teachers to travel to Albuquerque in May for 2007's Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, which will be held in the Albuquerque Convention Center. 'This is a call to action for our communities statewide, making sure our education community is ready to set aside funds so that our teachers and students have field-trip money, buses, subs, for the end of the school year, so they know they're going to be part, whether their kids are going to compete up to the regional or state (fair), or they're going to come as visitors, and those field trips are incredibly important,' he explained. ..."


Amazing New Images of Mars Cydonia Region ...

The European Space Agency has some incredibly sharp images of the Cydonia region of Mars, long hyped as the location of the "Face on Mars."  ESA announced on Sept. 21st the new "perspective view showing the so-called 'Face on Mars' located in the Cydonia region. The image shows a remnant massif thought to have formed via landslides and an early form of debris apron formation. ..." Why is ESA calling the formation the "so-called 'Face on Mars' "?  You should check it out!


Expect Richard Hoagland to be all over this. He still thinks the "Face" is artifical, and evidence of a long-dead Martian civilization. Here's the location of an image of what he thinks it looked like in its prime.


Hat tip to John Fleck.

Posted September 15th, 2006

Big Bang in Trouble? reports on Sept. 7th that "A new analysis of 'cool' spots in the cosmic microwave background may cast new doubts on a key piece of evidence supporting the big bang theory of how the universe was formed. Two scientists at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) looked for, but couldn't find, evidence of gravitational 'lensing' where you might expect to find it, in the most distant light source in the universe -- the cosmic microwave background. Results of this research by Dr. Richard Lieu, a UAH physics professor, and Dr. Jonathan Mittaz, a UAH research associate, were published Monday in the 'Astrophysical Journal.' ..."


Creationists define "Dogmatic" for Once and for All...

The Intelligent Design movement prides itself on not letting those awful "Dogmatic Darwinists" get away with their shenanigans. Here's a typical instance, from a piece by the Discovery Institute's "Media Watch" division called  "Dogmatic Darwinists Strike Again": "...Darwinists aren't interested in keeping non-evolutionary views just out of the science classroom, they want non-evolutionary views out of students minds completely. If anyone ever doubted the full measure of Darwinist dogmatism, this lawsuit should dispell those doubts. ..."


The trouble is, science is really the antithesis of "dogmatism." However, here comes David C. Pack of "The Real Truth" magazine with a discussion that should help those at the Disco Institute understand the true meaning of "Dogma."  Pack writes "Evolutionists invariably use terms like 'We suspect…We are coming to believe…What may have happened…We may theorize that…It is our opinion…What probably occurred…We do not know…,' etc. These terms do not inspire much confidence. The dogmatic statements of the Bible DO! The God of the Bible never speaks in such uncertain terms. He does not have to. He not only knows He created mankind, but that it also can be proven. Thus, He speaks boldly—with AUTHORITY—about what He has done! ..."


Glad you guys straightened that out for us!

Pope Benedict: "Evolution is Unreasonable..." ?

ANSA (Italy) reports on September 12th that "Pope Benedict XVI on Monday issued his strongest criticism yet of evolutionary theory, calling it 'unreasonable'. Speaking to a 300,000-strong crowd in this German city, the former theological watchdog said that, according to such theories derived from Charles Darwin's work, the universe is 'the random result of evolution and therefore, at bottom, something unreasonable'. The homily appeared to throw the Catholic Church's full weight behind the theory of intelligent design (ID) - a subject of massive controversy in the United States . The Catholic Church has for over 50 years accepted Darwin's theory of random selection as the most probable cause of development, but has alway stressed God's role. ..."


This is from the same speech that has also sparked immense anger from some in the Muslim community. The transcript does not square that well with the ANSA report above, however. From the transcript, it appears the main point Benedict wanted to make was this: "This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvellous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is - as you yourself mentioned, Magnificent Rector - the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which belongs to the essential decisions of the Christian spirit. The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith. ..."


Polar Flip - for Real?...

Maggie Wittlin of Seed Magazine reports on Sept. 11th that "Eight hundred million years ago, the world flipped. In research recently published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin, scientists argue that a sudden imbalance of mass on the Earth caused the whole planet to tilt 60° from its axis of rotation. This event, called 'true polar wander,' may have moved entire land masses, shifting some continents into the tropics and others out of them. The research team—which included Princeton geoscientist Adam Maloof and Galen Halverson of the Université Paul Sabatier in France, and was funded by the National Science Foundation—based its findings on observations of sediment in Svalbard, Norway. Limestone deposits from the region contained minerals that during sedimentation orient themselves along Earth's magnetic field, and in some samples, the researchers noticed that the minerals showed two sudden changes in orientation—each corresponding to a change in the position of the magnetic north pole relative to the rocks. The researchers deduced that about 800 million years ago the Earth's continents shifted with respect to the planet's spin axis and magnetic field. ..."


Even Football Guys are Getting It...

Baylor used to be a big name in Football. But the team has been floundering for a decade, prompting the sports writer for the Washington State Cougs to write "To the chagrin of Baylor football fans, once steeped in the steady success of Grant Teaff during his Hall of Fame coaching career that concluded in 1992, their East-Central Texas school is now better known for its controversial role in the dubious effort to move the study of creationism, typically limited to philosophy and religion classes, into the arena of science. ... Nowadays you mention Baylor and you're more likely to get a blank stare or a reference to Charles Darwin rolling over in his grave. Indeed, on the gridiron, the Bears of the last decade could have used a heavy infusion of intelligent design. They’ve gone 10 straight seasons without a winning record. Last year’s 5-6 showing marked the first time in eight campaigns they won more than three games. ..."


Belshaw quietly puts a 9-11 Conspiracy Theory to bed...

Albuquerque Journal columnist Jim Belshaw had a column on Sept. 13th about the aftermath of the 9-11 terror attacks. And, at the end of the piece, he quietly but firmly puts the Kabosh on one of the "9-11 Conspiracy" claims, namely that NO plane crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11th, 2001. Belshaw's op-ed was about former New Mexican Michael Campana, whose sister, Ann Campana Judge, perished when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. Belshaw writes "Sept. 11 stays with him every day, usually quietly, usually privately. No fanfare, no ceremony, no speeches. But every once in a while an exception intrudes. 'You'll love this,' he e-mailed. 'My wife called me after her first Pilates lesson this a.m. Without knowing our connection to 9/11, the instructor started going off on how the remains of AA Flt. #77 were never found, and continued with the usual conspiracy theory stuff. My wife then told (the instructor) that she was welcome to drop by our house any time and examine Ann's (personal) effects (recovered from the wreckage). The woman was speechless.' ..."

Source: (Subscription)

For a flavor of the burgeoning 9-11 conspiracy theory industry, check out this page on the Pentagon and Flight 77

For some skeptical resources, check out these sites:

Pentagon & Boeing 757 Engine Investigation

Examining Famous "Conspiracies" by Robert Sheaffer - The Debunker's Domain

Xena NO MORE!...

Phil Plait at the Bad Astronomy Blog notes that solar orbiter Xena is no more! Plait writes on Sept. 13th "Phew! I was worried that 2003 UB313 was going to be stuck with the name of Xena, but the IAU just announced that it will be named Eris. This is an interesting choice; Eris was the goddess of strife and discord (the Roman equivalent is Discordia), continuing the trend that the outer planets will be named after evil (or at least badly acting) gods. The moon of Eris, formerly known as Gabrielle, is now Dysnomia, the goddess of lawlessness. ..."


Phelps pronounces Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert to be "Mockers and Scoffers that Blaspheme God"...

Rev. Fred Phelps of "" is featured in this mind-boggling 10-minute-long YouTube video. He sure puts Stewart and Colbert in their place!


See Also:

hat tip: John Fleck

Priest Found to have Insufficient Faith...

The Daily Record (UK) writes on Aug. 30th that "A priest has died after trying to demonstrate how Jesus walked on water. Evangelist preacher Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation he could repeat the biblical miracle. But he drowned after walking out to sea from a beach in the capital Libreville in Gabon, west Africa. One eyewitness said: 'He told churchgoers he'd had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus. He took his congregation to the beach saying he would walk across the Komo estuary, which takes 20 minutes by boat. He walked into the water, which soon passed over his head and he never came back.' ..."


It's in High Def, it's on Free TV, and it's the Original STAR TREK..

My sister Debbie writes today that "The new digitally remastered Star Trek (The Original Series...TOS) will air tomorrow, Saturday, September 16th, at 9:00 p.m. on KASY 50. This is the broadcast over-the-air channel 50, NOT the cable channel 50 (which is called G4). KASY has 'My50TV' as their logo in the lower right hand corner. The website at Star has trailers and photos to click on detailing the remastering of the Enterprise, etc. They have not altered the dialogue in any way, just enhanced the special effects and music. This should be a lot of fun to watch! Live long and prosper."

Posted September 8th, 2006

Math Prof. John Allen Paulos on "What's Wrong With Creationist Probability?"...

Head over to ABC News to check out John Allen Paulos's new column on major flaws in creationist probabilities. He writes in the Sept. 3rd column "Now if we shuffle this deck of cards for a long time and then examine the particular ordering of the cards that happens to result, we would be justified in concluding that the probability of this particular ordering of the cards having occurred is approximately 1 chance in 10 to the 68th power. This certainly qualifies as minuscule. Still, we would not be justified in concluding that the shuffles could not have possibly resulted in this particular ordering because its a priori probability is so very tiny. Some ordering had to result from the shuffling, and this one did. Nor, of course, would we be justified in concluding that the whole process of moving from one ordering to another via shuffles is so wildly improbable as to be practically impossible. The actual result of the shufflings will always have a minuscule probability of occurring, but, unless you're a creationist, that doesn't mean the process of obtaining the result is at all dubious. ..."


Vatican Position on Evolution in Stasis?

Science Magazine reports on Sept. 8th "Don’t look for a big change any time soon in the Catholic Church’s views on evolution. Although supporters of evolution had feared that the Pope would embrace so-called intelligent design, Pope Benedict XVI gave no sign at a gathering last week as to how he thought the topic should be taught. The pope said little during the meeting, which included his former theology Ph.D. students and a small group of experts near Rome. Peter Schuster, a chemist at the University of Vienna and president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, attended the meeting and gave a lecture on evolutionary theory. 'The pope … listened to my talk very carefully and asked very good questions at the end,' he says. And the Church’s most outspoken proponent of intelligent design, Cardinal Schönborn, seemed to distance himself from the theory. ..."


Can we blame Superstition on Evolution?

The Australian reports on Sept. 6th that "Humans have evolved over tens of thousands of years to be susceptible to supernatural beliefs, a psychologist has claimed. Religion and other forms of magical thinking continue to thrive - despite the lack of evidence and advance of science - because people are naturally biased to accept a role for the irrational, said Bruce hood, professor of experimental psychology at the University of Bristol. This evolved credulity suggests that it would be impossible to root out belief in ideas such as creationism and paranormal phenomena, even though they have been countered by evidence and are held as a matter of faith alone. ... Superstition may also give people a sense of control that can reduce stress. 'I don't think we're going to evolve a rational mind because there are benefits to being irrational,' Professor Hood said. 'Superstitious behaviour - the idea that certain rituals and practices protect you - is adaptive. If you remove the appearance that they are in control, both humans and animals become stressed. During the Gulf War, in areas attacked by Scud missiles there was a rise in superstitious belief.' ..."


"Answers in Genesis" uses Croc Hunter's Death to Pimp Creationism...

Leave it to the young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis to take advantage of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin's untimely death to spread their Biblical message. AiG head Ken Ham, an ex-Aussie himself, writes on Sept. 4th that "Sadly, Steve Irwin wasn’t a creationist. He mentioned evolution and the concept of millions of years many times in his television programs. For example, he once told Larry King on CNN’s Larry King Live cable program that crocodiles had been around for 200 million years, and if you weren’t careful they would kill you. ... At Answers in Genesis, we have written many articles about why death and suffering exist in this fallen world. ... For all Steve Irwin’s popularity, for all the worldly goods he may have obtained, none of this could save him from the penalty that we are all under as children of Adam—death."


Is Roswell UFO Fad becoming a "Thing of the Past"?

Roswell researcher Dennis Balthaser comments on Sept. 1st "Is the Roswell UFO Museum & Annual UFO Festival becoming a thing of the past? As one who remains dedicated to researching the Roswell Incident, it concerns me that the International UFO Museum and Research Center and the annual Roswell UFO Festival seem to have deteriorated to an embarrassment for the city of Roswell and those of us that remain interested in obtaining the truth. ... This past July the number of visitors to Roswell for the annual event was pathetically low, and no one with the UFO committee involved in organizing this year’s festival, headed up by Museum Director, Julie Shuster, has come forward with any numbers of how few attended. The loss of revenue to the museum and the city of Roswell this year appears to be staggering, and many believe it can be directly attributed to the UFO committee, and the manner in which it was presented. ... perhaps changes are needed not only with the Director and certain board members but also with the need to work with the community for the benefit of all of Roswell, and finally to make the 'Roswell Incident' a household name again worldwide as it was in the 90’s. ..."


Creos Protest Museum Hominid Displays in Kenya...

The Middle East Times reports on Sept. 5th that "The global debate between scientists and conservative Christians over evolution has hit Kenya, where an exhibit of one of the world's finest collections of early hominid fossils is under threat. As the famed National Museum of Kenya (NMK) prepares to re-open next year after massive EU-funded renovations, evangelicals are demanding that the display be removed or at least shunted to a less prominent location. The 'Origins of Man' exhibit, comprised of prehistoric finds from around Africa's Great Rift Valley considered by many to be the cradle of humanity, is offensive as it promotes Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, they say. 'When museums put it out there that man evolved from apes, theologically they are affecting many people who are Christians, who believe God created us,' says Bishop Boniface Adoyo, who is leading a campaign against the exhibit. 'It's creating a big weapon against Christians that's killing our faith,' he said, calling evolution theory an 'insult' and dangerous to youths. 'When children go to museums they'll start believing we evolved from these apes. ' ..."


Tree of Life Analysis Beginning to Bear Fruit...

National Geographic reports on Sept. 6th that "New cures, supercrops, and secrets of evolution may emerge from the fast-growing branches of the 'Tree of Life,' scientists say. The increasing availability of genetic information—and the computer technology to analyze it—is allowing researchers to begin drawing a detailed picture of how life on Earth originated, adapted, and diversified. 'A huge amount of progress has been made over the last decade,' said Michael Donoghue, a biologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. ... Donoghue ... says scientists can use the tree to understand where emerging infectious diseases originate and to search for organisms that have evolved resistance to the diseases in question. Such clues can lead to the development of new drugs, he says. 'Applications are everywhere,' he said. So too are discoveries, he adds. For example, Tree of Life researchers have learned that fungi—mushrooms and the like—are more closely related to animals than plants. 'This is not just dotting I's and crossing t's,' Donoghue said—assembling the tree is more than simply organizing previously known information. 'There are some really exciting things being discovered.' ..."


NYC Nuke Threat Predictions Expanded...

For a while there, the folks at were predicting a nuclear explosion in New York City every weekend, only to revise the prediction for the next weekend on Monday Morning. Now, they are learning to make the predictions a little fuzzier. It improves the chances of getting a prediction correct, and it saves them from having to eat crow on a weekly basis. The new Prediction: "The UN in Midtown Manhattan will be hit by a sea borne nuclear bomb on the Jewish Sabbath from Sundown Friday to Sundown Saturday September 8th/9th or 15th/16th or 22nd/23rd."


Posted September 1st, 2006

Scientists going after Building Blocks of Hurricanes...

The Sydney Morning Herald (AU) reports on August 29th that "As Ernesto, the first hurricane of the season, threatened the coasts of Cuba, Haiti and the US, US scientists were working in west Africa to unearth the secrets of tropical storms. Eighty per cent of tropical storms that hit the US start life in the waters off Africa, but little is known about why some collapse and others turn into deadly hurricanes. To find out what happens, meteorologists are flying planes through tropical disturbances off the west African coast. ..."


Sylvia Browne Melts Down on Montel...

This week's YouTube offering shows notorious "psychic medium" Sylvia Browne fumbling completely while trying to "divine" the cause of an audience member's loved one's death. The segment only lasts a minute - and that should be more than enough to end the "career" of Browne, forever. (Not that it will -but it should!)


SMART 1 to Smack Into Moon this Weekend...

Sky & Telescope reports on August 30th that "A largely unheralded spacecraft, which has been in lunar orbit for nearly two years, is about to end its mission in dramatic fashion. This weekend, flight controllers for the European Space Agency will allow SMART 1 to crash into the Moon's surface — with enough force, they hope, to create a brief flash visible through telescopes on Earth. ..."


Vatican exorcist says Hitler and Stalin were possessed by the Devil...

The Dail Mail (UK) reports on August 28th that "Adolf Hitler and Russian leader Stalin were possessed by the Devil, the Vatican's chief exorcist has claimed. Father Gabriele Amorth who is Pope Benedict XVI's 'caster out of demons' made his comments during an interview with Vatican Radio. Father Amorth said: "Of course the Devil exists and he can not only possess a single person but also groups and entire populations. 'I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed. All you have to do is think about what Hitler - and Stalin did. Almost certainly they were possessed by the Devil.' ..."


Interest Group Urges Wal-Mart to Ban MORE Books...

Wal-Mart has repeatedly banned certain "undesirable" books from being sold in its stores, such as George Carlin's book When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004).


Now, a special interest group has stepped forward to demand that Wal-Mart ban yet another book, this one containing "numerous passages ... that are repulsive, stridently offensive and/or illegal." Will they succeed?  Probably not this time. Check it out at .

"Killer" Fossil Illuminates Early Whale Evolution...

National Geographic reports on August 16th that "The discovery of a bizarre species of fossil whale from Australia with huge eyes and flesh-ripping jaws provides valuable new insights into the evolution of whales, researchers say. The previously unknown species lived about 25 million years ago and was an early ancestor of modern baleen whales, which feed by filtering plankton from seawater. This group includes the blue whale, the largest animal ever to inhabit the planet. But the newfound predatory whale likely hunted sharks and other fish despite its relatively small size and suggests that baleen whales weren't always the toothless gentle giants we see in our oceans today. ..."


The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, FISKED...

The crew at the Panda's Thumb is producing a chapter-by-chapter fisking of Jonathan Wells's horrid new pro-ID book. Reed Cartwright at the Thumb writes "One thing is for sure, Jonathan Wells is too modest. His recently published, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, is not only politically incorrect but incorrect in most other ways as well: scientifically, logically, historically, legally, academically, and morally. ..."


Genetic Algorithms for Uncommonly Dense Software Engineers

I've posted a little tutorial on the Panda's Thumb I’ve decided to call "Genetic Algorithms for Uncommonly Dense Software Engineers." Given some of the bizarre commentary issuing from the ID community over at Uncommon Descent regarding my past posts on Genetic Algorithms, I’ve developed this guide to help the folks over there figure out if the Genetic Algorithms (GAs) they are working on employ a “fixed-target” approach (like Dawkins’s Weasel), or if they are instead un-targeted, like most GAs used in research and industry are. The post also includes a complete roadmap to this summer's "War of the Weasels."


Posted August 25th, 2006

Russian says NYET! to Math's Highest Honor...

ABC News reports on Aug. 22nd that "A reclusive Russian won the math world's highest honor Tuesday for solving a problem that has stumped some of the discipline's greatest minds for a century but he refused the award. Grigory Perelman, a 40-year-old native of St. Petersburg, won a Fields Medal often described as math's equivalent of the Nobel prize for a breakthrough in the study of shapes that experts say might help scientists figure out the shape of the universe. John Ball, president of the International Mathematical Union, said that he had urged Perelman to accept the medal, but Perelman said he felt isolated from the mathematics community and 'does not want to be seen as its figurehead.' ... Besides shunning the award for his work in topology, Perelman also seems uninterested, according to colleagues, in a separate $1 million prize he could win for proving the Poincare conjecture, a theorem about the nature of multidimensional space. ..."


NASA Finds Direct Proof of Dark Matter...

NASA announced on Aug. 21st that "Dark matter and normal matter have been wrenched apart by the tremendous collision of two large clusters of galaxies. The discovery, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, gives direct evidence for the existence of dark matter. 'This is the most energetic cosmic event, besides the Big Bang, which we know about,' said team member Maxim Markevitch of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. These observations provide the strongest evidence yet that most of the matter in the universe is dark. Despite considerable evidence for dark matter, some scientists have proposed alternative theories for gravity where it is stronger on intergalactic scales than predicted by Newton and Einstein, removing the need for dark matter. However, such theories cannot explain the observed effects of this collision. ..."


Pluto Demoted...

The AP reported on Aug. 25th that "The 93-year-old widow of astronomer Clyde Tombaugh says she was frustrated about the decision to strip Pluto of its status as a planet. 'I'm not heartbroken. I'm just shook up,' Patricia Tombaugh of Las Cruces said Thursday. But Mrs. Tombaugh also said her husband, who discovered Pluto in 1930, probably would have endorsed the action by the International Astronomical Union. 'He was a scientist. He would understand they had a real problem when they start finding several of these things flying around the place,' Mrs. Tombaugh said. ..."


Of course, the AP article did not mention the one group that will be severely impacted by the IAU decision. What are astrologers to do with all their now-obsolete charts?  And for those born from October 24 to November 22 (Scorpios), what will they do without a Ruler for their Sign? I bet those pesky scientists didn't even realize how far-reaching the change would be...


God Unleashes Hell on Rio Rancho?...

Not long after Rio Rancho amended its back-door Intelligent Design Policy, summer monsoons began to clobber that city week after week, destroying roads and isolating neighborhoods. Coincidence?  Not according to "Unconfirmed Sources," who report "God Unleashes Hell on Rio Rancho - Experts Say It’s Payback for No Intelligent Design Being Taught As Science in Public Schools." You will want to see what they found!


Birds of a Feather Flock Together...

With all the flap about D. James Kennedy and his “no Darwin, no Hitler” pseudo-documentary (see Pharyngula and Dispatches from the Culture Wars for the sordid details), I was reminded of some incidents that took place three years ago in New Mexico involving D. James Kennedy and the NM chapter of the Intelligent Design Network. ... The purpose of my Panda's Thumb post this week is to show that D. James Kennedy and Joe Renick are integrity-challenged “Birds of a Feather.” Since D. J. Kennedy is getting a lot of negative press this week, I focused on Joe Renick, who hired the Zogby Polling Firm in 2003 for some extremely dubious research that purported to show New Mexican scientists were in favor of teaching ID in schools. A rather large flap ensued, and even the heads of Sandia and Los Alamos Labs entered the fray. When the dust settled, Renick promised to stop using the poll. That was over three years ago. However, as of August 25th, 2006, Renick’s group is still using those bogus Zogby polling results.

Three years of broken IDnet promises. I’m shocked - shocked!

Continued on:


Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

The "War of the Weasels" Heats Up...Design "Theorist" Learns the Hard Way that "Evolution is Smarter than You"

After I announced last week's "Design Challenge" on the Panda's Thumb (involving finding the "Steiner Solution" for a rectangular grid of six fixed points), dozens of responses were received. About 15 correspondents nailed the tough problem, and an equal number weighed in with incorrect (but close) answers. I posted the results at Panda's Thumb on Monday, Aug. 21st. Although almost all of the Intelligent Designs submitted were not derived by members of the “Intelligent Design” movement, which had been officially invited to respond, the ID community did indeed weigh in, via the efforts of Salvador Cordova, one of the IDers running the show at William Dembski’s blog Uncommon Descent. Now that the contest is over, the story can at last be told - Cordova, who has been contending that all Genetic Algorithms sneak in their results by "front-loading" in the fitness function, was not able to use that principle to see what the solution to the posed problem would turn out be, even though he was encouraged to examine my publicly posted genetic algorithm code. Instead, he tried an old-fashioned analytical answer to the tricky math question. Unfortunately, he blew it, and got the wrong answer. Meanwhile, the evolutionary algorithm found not one but two correct answers (differing in handedness only). I asked Mr. Cordova "What is it going to be like having to go to Bill Dembksi and admit that you’ve learned the hard way of the true meaning of what Daniel Dennett terms Leslie Orgel’s Second Law: 'Evolution is smarter than you are?' Even after a week’s worth of effort, you still couldn’t find the correct Answer. You were close, but it’s Charlie Darwin (along with some very Intelligent Designers) who got the cigar. I predict there’ll be some ‘splainin’ to do backstage at Uncommon Descent. ..."


The original Challenge:

Posted August 18th, 2006

Rapidly-evolving Gene Key to Human Brains?

Ronald Kotulak of the Chicago Tribune reports on August 17th that "One of the most intriguing mysteries of biology is why humans are the only species with a brain big enough to ponder their own existence. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, say they have discovered a possible answer: a gene that has undergone powerful mutational changes in the past 5 million years that may partly account for the accelerated evolution of the human brain. Reporting yesterday in the online version of the British science journal Nature, the scientists said that they do not know exactly what the gene does but that it is active at a key time and place in embryonic development when the brain is growing at its fastest pace. ..."


Is "Pleistocene Park" in the Works?

The Times (UK) reported on Aug. 15th that "Bodies of extinct Ice Age mammals, such as woolly mammoths, that have been frozen in permafrost for thousands of years may contain viable sperm that could be used to bring them back from the dead, scientists said yesterday. Research has indicated that mammalian sperm can survive being frozen for much longer than was previously thought, suggesting that it could potentially be recovered from species that have died out. Several well-preserved mammoth carcasses have been found in the permafrost of Siberia, and scientists estimate that there could be millions more. Last year a Canadian team demonstrated that it was possible to extract DNA from the specimens, and announced the sequencing of about 1 per cent of the genome of a mammoth that died about 27,000 years ago. ..."


NASA can't find original tape of moon landing ...

Scientific American (via Reuters) reported on Aug. 14th that "The U.S. government has misplaced the original recording of the first moon landing, including astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous 'one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,' a NASA spokesman said on Monday. Armstrong's famous space walk, seen by millions of viewers on July 20, 1969, is among transmissions that NASA has failed to turn up in a year of searching, spokesman Grey Hautaloma said. 'We haven't seen them for quite a while. We've been looking for over a year and they haven't turned up,' Hautaloma said. The tapes also contain data about the health of the astronauts and the condition of the spacecraft. In all, some 700 boxes of transmissions from the Apollo lunar missions are missing, he said. ..."

Conspiracy Theorists, START YOUR ENGINES...


Freudian Slip of the Week..."The old creation science is the new intelligent design."

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (NW Arkansas) reported on Aug. 13th that "Some candidates for major offices this year say students in Arkansas schools should have access to information on “intelligent design,” a theory on the origins of mankind often offered as an alternative — if not a rebuttal — to the theory of evolution. ... One of the assembly’s officers, former state lawmaker Gunner DeLay of Fort Smith, is the Republican candidate for attorney general. DeLay said he wrote a paper in law school on what he says is a teacher’s “right to academic freedom” under the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution to teach subjects that are 'scientifically valid.' He said that could include intelligent design. ... 'The old creation science is the new intelligent design. And yes, I think it’s scientifically valid,' DeLay said. ..."


Where is Solver of Poincaré Conjecture?

The New York Times reports on Aug. 15th that "Three years ago, a Russian mathematician by the name of Grigory Perelman, a k a Grisha, in St. Petersburg, announced that he had solved a famous and intractable mathematical problem, known as the Poincaré conjecture, about the nature of space. ... Perelman disappeared back into the Russian woods in the spring of 2003, leaving the world’s mathematicians to pick up the pieces and decide if he was right. ... there is a growing feeling, a cautious optimism that they have finally achieved a landmark not just of mathematics, but of human thought. ... But at the moment of his putative triumph, Dr. Perelman is nowhere in sight. He is an odds-on favorite to win a Fields Medal, math’s version of the Nobel Prize, when the International Mathematics Union convenes in Madrid next Tuesday. But there is no indication whether he will show up. ..."

Source: (registration).

The article has a neat graphic of a rabbit covered with latitude and longitude lines, with the caption "To a topologist, a rabbit is the same as a sphere. Neither has a hole. Longitude and latitude lines on the rabbit allow mathematicians to map it onto different forms while preserving information."

Hmmm... thinking about what rabbits like to eat, and also about all those little rabbit pellets, makes me wonder - isn't the Rabbit more like a Coffee Cup (e.g. Torus) than a Sphere?

Who cited Piltdown Man as Legit? Oh, maybe L. Ron Hubbard ...

The "Mental Floss" blog mentioned on Aug. 11th that "[Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard] was an amateur paleontologist! In his book Scientology: A History of Man, Hubbard wrote about a toothy human ancestor who was 'quite careless as to whom and what he bit.' For perhaps the only time in his life, he could cite real scientific evidence: fragments of a humanoid skull and a powerful jaw that had been dug up in England and christened Eoanthropus dawsoni in 1912, four decades before his book was published in 1952. Alas, just twelve months after Hubbard’s book was published, scientists announced that Eoanthropus dawsoni was a fake, planted by some unknown trickster. The 'fossil' — a patchwork of a medieval human skull, a 500-year-old orangutan jaw, and some fossil teeth from a chimp, all stained with chromic acid and iron to look older — came to be known as Piltdown Man and ceased to be taught in biology classes. ..."


Take the Design Challenge at Panda's Thumb...

I’m giving Intelligent Design proponents (and everyone else!) a chance to actually Design something! You may recall my Panda's Thumb post on a Genetic Algorithm I developed for finding Steiner Trees, the shortest networks of straight-line segments connecting a given collection of fixed points. These networks may include additional variable “Steiner Points” where segments may meet.

The Challenge: Find the Steiner Solution for a rectangular grid of six fixed points (see the post for the details). Dozens of replies from all over the world have already poured in. The contest winners will be announced Monday, Aug. 21st.


Posted August 11th, 2006

Psychics: the Panda is Pregnant...

CNN reports on Aug. 5th that "Lun Lun the giant panda may be pregnant. That, at least, is the consensus of two psychics, enlisted Friday by Zoo Atlanta to predict the 8-year-old female panda's pediatric prospects. It was all done 'in the spirit of good fun,' according to a news release from Zoo officials. Atlanta-born psychic Helene Frisch said she telepathically connected with Lun Lun using 'tone vibration,' the release said. Frisch said she discerned that not only is Lun Lun pregnant, but she will likely bear a male cub by September 4. Another psychic -- Andy Liu, a native of China -- used the ancient I Ching to calculate a 65 percent chance that Lun Lun is pregnant. ..."


Single Mutation in Mice Changes Their Coloration...

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced on July 7th that "It's a pitiless lesson—adapt or die—but the sand-colored mice that scurry around the beaches of Florida's Gulf Coast seem to have learned the lesson well. Now researchers have identified a genetic mutation that underlies natural selection for the sand-matching coat color of the beach mice, an adaptive trait that camouflages them from aerial predators. In the July 7, 2006, issue of the journal Science, evolutionary geneticist Hopi Hoekstra and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, report that a single mutation causes the lifesaving color variation in beach mice (Peromyscus polionotus) and provides evidence that evolution can occur in big leaps. 'This is a striking example of how protein-coding changes can play a role in adaptation and divergence in populations, and ultimately species.' [said] Hopi Hoekstra ..."


Ken Miller - the Video...

Thanks to YouTube, here's a video of biologist Ken Miller's January 03, 2006 talk on Intelligent Design, given at Case Western University in Ohio. "Ken Miller basically rips Intelligent Design apart in a 2 hour long exposé of the claims of intelligent design and the tactics that creationists employ to get it shoehorned into the American school system ..."


Can a tumor become a new form of life?...

Yes, in a freaky sort of way. Check out Carl Zimmer's Aug. 9th article, "A Dead Dog Lives On (Inside New Dogs)" on The Loom.


At Least the USA beat Turkey...

Nick Matzke reports on The Panda's Thumb on Aug. 10th that "Science magazine has just published the results of international polls assessing public acceptance of evolution around the world: Jon D. Miller, Eugenie C. Scott, and Shinji Okamoto (2006), Science Aug 11 2006: 765-766 (Supporting Online Material: ... Only one country beats the U.S. in the race to the bottom: Turkey, probably the only country in the list with more severe fundamentalism vs. modernism issues than the U.S. But the people in the U.K. can take heart ..."


Physicist James Van Allen Dies at 91...

The AP reports on Aug. 9th that " Physicist James A. Van Allen, a leader in space exploration who discovered the radiation belts surrounding the Earth that now bear his name, died Wednesday. He was 91. The University of Iowa, where he taught for years, announced the death in a statement on its Web site. ..."


Learn Semiconductor Physics with Britney Spears...

The site "Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics" claims "It is a little known fact, that Ms Spears is an expert in semiconductor physics. Not content with just singing and acting, in the following pages, she will guide you in the fundamentals of the vital laser components that have made it possible to hear her super music in a digital format. ..."


Posted August 4th, 2006

A Cure for Global Warming?

The Independent (UK) reports on July 31st that "A Nobel Prize-winning scientist has drawn up an emergency plan to save the world from global warming, by altering the chemical makeup of Earth's upper atmosphere. Professor Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work on the hole in the ozone layer, believes that political attempts to limit man-made greenhouse gases are so pitiful that a radical contingency plan is needed. In a polemical scientific essay to be published in the August issue of the journal Climate Change, he says that an "escape route" is needed if global warming begins to run out of control. ..." The rest of the article requires a fee, but here's a hint: Sulfur.


Prof. Barbara Forrest on Kitsmiller vs Dover...

CSICOP's current Creation Watch column features Professor Barbara Forrest's fascinating description of her direct involvement in the Dover ID trial. It's an excellent read. A snippet, concerning the contrast between scheduled "Design" witnesses like William Dembski (who suddenly dropped out during the course of the trial), and pro-science witnesses:"Not only did I show up for my deposition, but I also testified at the trial despite being delayed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Moreover, I had the distinction of being the only witness whom the defense tried to exclude from the case. When they failed, the Discovery Institute tried to discredit me with ridicule. ..."


YouTube is #1 Internet Video Source...

CBS News reports on Aug. 4th that "Started in February 2005, YouTube's popularity is exploding. In June alone, according to NielsenNet, YouTube drew 19.6 million visitors, almost triple the number from this past January. YouTube is, according to The Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith, mushrooming into the world's first online video network, featuring the latest and, in many cases, strangest videos from all over the world. It boasts a collection of some 70 million video clips, from the comedic, to the connoisseur, and averages 60,000 uploads a day. There's no fee for uploads. ..."


I began to notice YouTube just this week, as video after video came crawling through my e-mail doggie door. Here are some of the ones I liked:

Stephen Colbert (Comedy Central) encourages viewers to hack the Wikipedia website, specifically the entry on elephants:

(More on this here: )

Microsoft's official Windows Vista (sound recognition software) demo goes NUTS:

Finally, here's Jon Stewart on Godwin's Law (innappropriate labeling of opponents as Nazis):


Kansas: "Darwin Won"...

The Lawrence (Kansas) Journal World reported on Aug. 2nd that "Darwin won. Moderate Kansas State Board of Education candidates pulled off a victory Tuesday, gathering enough might to topple the board’s 6-4 conservative majority. A victory by incumbent Janet Waugh, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Lawrence, and wins by Republican moderates in two districts previously represented by conservatives left the tables turned heading into the Nov. 7 general election. ..."


See also the frequently-updated Red State Rabble Blog:

"Functional" Pseudogene sent back to the Locker Room...

The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh announced on Aug. 1 that "Scientists led by a Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh geneticist have found new evidence that a category of genes known as pseudogenes serve no function, an important finding that bolsters the theory of evolution. There are approximately 20,000 pseudogenes in the human and other mammalian genomes. In recent years, there has been growing discussion about the nature of these pseudogenes. The issue centers on whether pseudogenes are functional or merely evolutionary relics with no function. It was long believed by geneticists that they were relics, until basic science research published in 2003 found a mouse pseudogene located within the Makorin family of genes that did have a function, namely to cause polycystic kidney disease and a bone disease known as osteogenesis imperfecta. This finding, discovered in a mouse model, was hailed by proponents of "Intelligent Design" (ID). ... However, researchers at Children's and the Wadsworth Center in New York, including first author Todd A. Gray, PhD, have found scientific evidence that contradicts this finding. The pseudogene in question – Mkrn1-p1 – indeed is not the cause of those diseases, according to senior author Robert D. Nicholls, DPhil, director of the Birth Defects Laboratories at Children's. Instead, according to Dr. Nicholls, it merely is an inactive copy of a gene, an evolutionary relic as previously believed. Results of this study are published in the Aug. 8 print issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ..."


Over at the Panda's Thumb, biologist Andrea Bottaro has an excellent summary of the tricky science for the layperson: "Rumors of pseudogenes’ demise greatly exaggerated, new study says" :

Answers in Genesis on Bible Disclaimer Stickers...

Kevin Eigelbach of the Cincinnati Post writes on August 3rd "God bless the people at Answers in Genesis. They keep sending me things to write about. Last month, the Boone County-based apologists for the view that God created the world 6,000 years ago sent me a scare letter. The author, Answers in Genesis President and CEO Ken Ham, was trying to scare people into donating money. I mean, he was making an appeal for funds. Ham fears that one day we'll find stickers inside our Bibles that tell us the Bible is fictional. A friend of his found one in a Gideon Bible in Salt Lake City. The sticker says the Bible contains religious stories regarding the origin of living things. They are theories, not facts, it says. 'This material should be approached with an open mind, and a critical eye towards logic and believability,' it concludes. That may sound like good advice to you, but not to Answers in Genesis, which defends the Bible from the first verse to the last. The sticker looks like a parody of disclaimers that the creationism-minded Cobb County, Ga., school board stuck in textbooks about evolution. Ham wonders if a federal judge could one day order stickers placed in our Bibles, as a judge ordered the Cobb County stickers removed. ..."


Posted July 28th, 2006

A second Code in DNA?

The New York Times reported on July 25th that "Researchers believe they have found a second code in DNA in addition to the genetic code. The genetic code specifies all the proteins that a cell makes. The second code, superimposed on the first, sets the placement of the nucleosomes, miniature protein spools around which the DNA is looped. The spools both protect and control access to the DNA itself. The discovery, if confirmed, could open new insights into the higher order control of the genes, like the critical but still mysterious process by which each type of human cell is allowed to activate the genes it needs but cannot access the genes used by other types of cell. The new code is described in the current issue of Nature by Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute in Israel and Jonathan Widom of Northwestern University in Illinois and their colleagues. ..."

Source: (Registration)

Stuck in the Climate Skeptic Closet?

Peter Doran, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, complains in a July 27th opinion piece in the New York Times about his being championed as a "global warming skeptic."  Doran writes "Our study did find that 58 percent of Antarctica cooled from 1966 to 2000. But during that period, the rest of the continent was warming. And climate models created since our paper was published have suggested a link between the lack of significant warming in Antarctica and the ozone hole over that continent. These models, conspicuously missing from the warming-skeptic literature, suggest that as the ozone hole heals — thanks to worldwide bans on ozone-destroying chemicals — all of Antarctica is likely to warm with the rest of the planet. An inconvenient truth? Also missing from the skeptics’ arguments is the debate over our conclusions. Another group of researchers who took a different approach found no clear cooling trend in Antarctica. We still stand by our results for the period we analyzed, but unbiased reporting would acknowledge differences of scientific opinion. The disappointing thing is that we are even debating the direction of climate change on this globally important continent. And it may not end until we have more weather stations on Antarctica and longer-term data that demonstrate a clear trend. In the meantime, I would like to remove my name from the list of scientists who dispute global warming. I know my coauthors would as well. ..."

Source: (Registration)

Ruling by Judge Miles Davis makes Kent Hovind "Kind of Blue"...

Michael Stewart of the Pensacola NewsJournal writes on July 28th that "Pensacola evangelist and tax protester Kent Hovind won't be lecturing on creationism in South Africa next month, prompting an irate letter from a sponsor of the trip to the prosecutor. U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers this week denied Hovind's motion to lift travel restrictions pending his Sept. 5 trial on 58 federal charges that include evading nearly $470,000 in employee taxes. Hovind, who calls himself 'Dr. Dino,' operates Dinosaur Adventure Land, a theme park on North Palafox Street dedicated to creationism. He believes evolution is a religion and says man did not evolve from dinosaurs but, rather, lived alongside them. ... At Hovind's first federal court appearance July 13, U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis agreed with prosecutors that Hovind posed a flight risk. Hovind was ordered to surrender his passport his travel was restricted to the local judicial district, stretching from Pensacola to Gainesville. ..."


And Hovind is finally blogging about his trials:

Lebanese Psychic Flooded With Calls...

The Associated Press reported on July 26th that "Michel Hayek, Lebanon's most famous psychic, predicted an Israeli incursion into the south - and since the fighting began, he's been fielding calls from frantic Lebanese and Arabs asking how long the conflict will last, if the economy will crash and if they should leave the country. Hayek tells his callers they have to make their own decisions. But he also said he is not fleeing Lebanon. ..."


NYC Nuke Countdown Passes ...

Last week the folks at the "True" Bible Code website announced that "The UN in Midtown Manhattan will be hit by a sea borne nuclear bomb sometime in the Biblical month of Tammuz, i.e. before Sundown July 28th, 2006. We expect this to happen on 2006Tammuz28/29 i.e. between Sundown Tuesday July 25th and Sundown Thursday July 27th, 2006. ..."

This week, they explain that "We have now made 6 or 7 nuclear bomb prophecy mistakes. But fortunately we do not hold to the doctrine of papal infallibility. So we can learn from our mistakes rather than pretending that we never make any. The new info we learn from each mistake helps us to home in on the precise date. This is what we have learned... The UN in Midtown Manhattan will be hit by a sea borne nuclear bomb on 2006Ab3/4 i.e. between Sundown Sunday July 30th and Sundown Tuesday August 1st, 2006. Our new and 7th/8th attempt at the date should now be correct, according to 1 Kings 18, since Elijah told his attendant to go back and look for a man made mushroom cloud 7 times after the first no show, giving 8 attempts in all..."


Posted July 21st, 2006

Wayne Adkins at the American Chronicle gets it Right...

In a July 15th American Chronicle opinion piece, Wayne Adkins gets it right: "Each time an article appears somewhere that carries the words “intelligent design” and “creationism” in the same sentence the Discovery Institute feels compelled to respond. They desperately want to distance themselves from biblical creationists because they know it will hurt their chances of slipping intelligent design into classrooms in our public schools. ...In the Discovery Institute’s 'So What' response to the Wedge Document (, they say 'Even so, our critics insist that the 'Wedge Document' shows that the case for intelligent design is unscientific because it is based on religious belief. But here again they fail to grasp an obvious distinction- the distinction between the implications of a theory and the basis of a theory.' It is the Discovery Institute that repeatedly fails to make that distinction. An implication is 'a logical relationship between two propositions in which if the first is true the second is true' (Merriam-Webster’s). ID proponents have assumed the second proposition (creation by God) is true and their stated goal for advancing the first proposition (intelligent design) is to support the second proposition. That makes creationism the basis for their “theory”, not an implication of it. ..."


And so does John Derbyshire of the National Review...

In "The Kitzmiller Case Reviewed" (National Review Online, July 20th)  John Derbyshire writes "Intelligent Design proponents David DeWolf, John West, Casey Luskin and Jonathan Witt talk to a reporter about their new book on the Kitzmiller case, here
( Sample:

Judge Jones' rejection of intelligent design sprang from his willingness to go beyond the facts of the case and attempt to decide an important scientific debate by judicial decree. Unfortunately, in his zeal to decide the validity of intelligent design for everyone else, Judge Jones ended up attacking a straw man. As we document in our book, his opinion is filled with distortions and basic errors of fact. For example, he asserts that intelligent design scientists don't published peer-reviewed scholarship, which is patently false.

Sorry, but this is not 'an important scientific debate.' It all comes down to the point I hammered at in my response to George Gilder: That the I.D. people are claiming a place at science's table, without having done any science. That just won't fly. You can't claim to be one side in 'an important scientific debate' if you don't have any results to offer. ..."


Rove Flubs on Stem Cells...

In a July 19th story written before President Bush's veto of the latest stem-cell bill, The Chicago Tribune writes "When White House political adviser Karl Rove signaled last week that President Bush planned to veto the stem cell bill being considered by the Senate, the reasons he gave went beyond the president's moral qualms with research on human embryos. In fact, Rove waded into deeply contentious scientific territory, telling the Denver Post's editorial board that researchers have found 'far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells.' ... But Rove's negative appraisal of embryonic stem cell research--echoed by many opponents of funding for such research--is inaccurate, according to most stem cell research scientists, including a dozen contacted for this story. .... '[Rove's] statement is just not true,' said Dr. Michael Clarke, associate director of the stem cell institute at Stanford University, who in 2003 published the first study showing how adult stem cells replenish themselves. If opponents of embryonic stem cell research object on moral grounds, 'I'm willing to live with that,' Clarke said, though he disagrees. But, he said, 'I'm not willing to live with statements that are misleading.' ..."


More Cool Desktop Wallpaper...

The Daily Mail provides a great shot of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas being tagged by a Bolt of Lightning.


The image itself:

Flying Spaghetti Monster Sighted on ABQ's West Mesa...

Nora Heineman-Fleck blogs on July 14th that "Apparently we have a large image of His Holiness the Flying Spaghetti Monster ( on the surface of the West Mesa. I think that there needs to be a nice pasta restaurant out there—you know, to spread the holy word. ..."

Nora's piece links you right to a large photo of HHTFSM (apparently).


Hovind To Miss South African Missionary Trip...

The Pensacola (FL) News Journal reports on July 21st that " A Pensacola evangelist facing federal charges that include tax evasion is asking the government to lift pretrial travel restrictions, saying they violate his freedom of religion. A missionary group in South Africa sponsoring evangelist Kent Hovind's planned trip to that nation next month hopes the travel restrictions are lifted. ... At the hearing last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer argued "like-minded people" might secret Kent Hovind away if he was allowed to leave the country. Davis agreed, took Kent Hovind's passport and confined his travel to the Northern District of Florida. ...


The article allows comments, and one has come in from South Africa itself. "Fri Jul 21, 2006 2:03 am: South Africa can do without Hovind. As a South African, I can attest that we have more than enough fraud and corruption as it is! No need to import more of it."

Well said!

NYC Nuke Countdown Nears ...

The folks at the "True" Bible Code website announce that "The UN in Midtown Manhattan will be hit by a sea borne nuclear bomb sometime in the Biblical month of Tammuz, i.e. before Sundown July 28th, 2006. We expect this to happen on 2006Tammuz28/29 i.e. between Sundown Tuesday July 25th and Sundown Thursday July 27th, 2006. ..."

They've goofed before! Ah, but they will explain...


Posted July 14th, 2006

Bird drops snake onto power line in Las Cruces...

Bruce Daniels of ABQnewsSeeker (at the Albuquerque Journal) writes on July 12th that "Some 2,000 customers on Las Cruces' West Mesa lost power Tuesday morning when a bird dropped a bull snake onto a power line, shorting out the line, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported today on its Web site. The outage affected residents in the Picacho Hills West area around 8:44 a.m. Tuesday, and power was restored about an hour later, El Paso Electric Co. spokeswoman Teresa Souza told the Sun-News. ... The snake was identified as a bull snake, and though Souza didn't know how big the snake was, the non-venomous reptile -- which is common in New Mexico -- can grow up to 7 feet in length, the Sun-News said. The bird was not identified. ..."


Creationism=>Creation Science=>Intelligent Design=>Critical Analysis...

As creationism continues to evolve, it appears as though "Critical Analysis" is the new buzzword. Nick Matzke of NCSE has an excellent analysis at the Panda's Thumb, from July 11th: "No one here but us Critical Analysis-ists…" He writes "I know this is just a part of their shameless election strategy for the Kansas Board of Education primaries coming up on August 1, but it is still gratifying to see the Discovery Institute frantically running from ID in an attempt to avoid an election defeat for the 'Critical Analysis of Evolution' 'intelligent design' crypto-creationist science standards they are attempting to push onto students in Kansas. ..."


Desktop Wallpaper Alert...

Here's a stunning photo of lightning against a rainbow backdrop...



Hovind Arrested on Tax Evasion...

The Elmer Gantry of modern creationism, Kent Hovind, has been arrested. In a July 13th story by Michael Stewart of, Stewart writes "A Pensacola evangelist was arrested Thursday and indicted in federal court on 58 charges that include income tax evasion, making threats against investigators and filing false complaints against Internal Revenue Service agents. U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis handed down the indictment against Kent Hovind, who operated a creationist theme park Dinosaur Adventure Land, off Old Palafox Road. Hovind’s wife, Jo Hovind, was also indicted on 44 of the counts and appeared in court alongside her husband. Arraignment for the Hovinds is scheduled for2 p.m. Monday. The couple was released pending their trial but are not allowed to travel outside the Northern District of Florida. ..."


Help design Hovind's creation bus!

Maybe now Hovind will have more time for Internet Debates:

Where does an 800-Pound Duck Swim?...

Anywhere it wants! USA Today reports on a weird new fossil menagerie from Australia in the July 12th issue: "Paleontologists working in Australia say they have found the fossilized remains of a fanged killer kangaroo and what they have dubbed a 'demon duck of doom.' University of New South Wales researchers say the fossils were among 20 previously unknown species uncovered in northwest Queensland state during a recent two-week dig. The remains of a meat-eating kangaroo with wolf-like fangs were found, as well as a galloping kangaroo with long forearms that could not hop like a modern kangaroo, researcher Michael Archer told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio Wednesday. ... Many of the fossils are older than 24 million years; one of the deposits is thought to contain fossils up to 500 million years old, according to Archer, the university's dean of science. The team also found evidence of prehistoric lungfish and carnivorous, giant 10-foot-tall, 881-pound duck-like bird. The remains of ancient tree-climbing crocodiles and marsupial lions were also uncovered in the rocks. ..."


Posted July 7th, 2006

PNM Steam Release Caused the Big Noise...

Last week we reported on a strange, loud boom in NW Albuquerque on June 27th. The Albuquerque Journal reports on June 30th that "The cause of the baffling boom that echoed across the North Valley during Tuesday evening's vicious storm turns out to have been caused by lightning striking at a PNM power plant, company spokesman Don Brown said. The plant, Reeves Generating Station, is on El Pueblo Road just west of Journal Center. 'Lightning struck somewhere on plant property at 9:10 p.m.,' Brown said. 'This caused two units at the plant to shut themselves off as a preventative measure.' Brown said all of the steam used to produce the electricity— enough to power 80,000 homes— had to be released very quickly through pressure release valves. The release caused a giant hiss that lasted from 10 seconds to a minute, he said. ..."


Calvary Rio Rancho to teach Creationism in Church...

The Albuquerque Journal reported on July 1st "Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This may be a question for everyone from philosophers to grade schoolers, but to Pastor Robert Hall of Calvary Rio Rancho, the real issue is where the chicken and the egg came from. He is presenting his answer from a Christian worldview perspective with an eight-week series on creation. The creationism-evolution controversy has been a polarizing issue nationally. 'The debate for intelligent design is raging across our country,' Hall said. The controversy recently hit home with the Rio Rancho school board's adoption of a policy that would allow for the discussion of alternative ideas to evolution in science class. Eventually, controversial language was removed from the policy. The amended policy restates the state standard— that students be allowed to discuss alternative ideas to evolutionary theory. ..."


(Sorry - last we heard from the Public Education Department, "In no way do the science standards support the teaching of notions of intelligent design or creation science or any of its variations.")

King Tut and the Amazing Alien Necklace...

New Scientist Blogs reports on July 3rd that "Crackpot theories linking the pyramids to aliens abound. So I am surprised to learn that one such link has a solid basis in science. It turns out that King Tut's necklace was made with the help of a meteorite. A glass scarab beetle in the necklace appears to have been made from sand melted by a meteorite crashing in the Egyptian desert. The necklace was excavated from the pharaoh's tomb in the 1920s, but no one had any inkling of its meteoritic origins until 1999, when Italian scientists chemically tested the glass. They found it to be made of "Libyan desert glass", which comes exclusively from the Great Sand Sea at the Egyptian-Libyan border. Chemical and geological evidence suggest the greenish-yellow desert glass was made in an impact by either a meteorite or comet. Scientists have even dated the impact at 29 million years ago. For a long time, though, scientists were puzzled by the lack of a crater related to the event. But in March, geologist Farouk El-Baz announced the discovery of a 30-kilometre-wide crater in the Great Sand Sea area. If that crater turns out to be unrelated to the desert glass, physicist Mark Boslough has recently suggested that the meteorite or comet left no crater because it disintegrated before it hit the ground. He says the heat from the vaporising object would have still been enough to melt sand and make glass. ..."


Artificial Life in the Blogosphere...

If you've seen any of my ID talks in the last few years, you've probably seen some slides on a genetic algorithm I wrote that solves a class of network optimization problems. I wanted an algorithm that, unlike Dawkins' "Weasel" algorithm, has no specified distant target in mind. I've a new post with all the details, plus cool photographs of similar networks in soap films and lumber, over at the Panda's Thumb. (By the way, Nature just announced that PT is one of THE top web-logs for scientists.) Look for the article "Target? TARGET? We don't Need No Stinkin' Target!"


And the Blogosphere is reacting! (see esp. comment # 80)

Oh - that's the Science Blogosphere. From the ID Blogosphere:

Posted June 30th, 2006

Snake Caught Doing Chamelon Act...

The BBC reported on June 26th that "A snake with the ability to change its colour has been found in the rainforested heart of Borneo. Researchers from Germany and the US discovered the water snake's chameleon-like behaviour by accident when they put it into a dark bucket. The environmental group WWF, which supports conservation work in Borneo, says wildlife in the region is threatened by deforestation. It believes the newly described snake may exist only in one river basin. ..."


ID in the UK: "Taught with a Twist"...

The Times (UK) reports on June 23rd that "Creationism is finding its way into university lecture halls, raising concerns with some academics that the biblical story of creation will be given equal weight to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Compulsory lectures in intelligent design and creationism are going to be included in second-year courses for zoology and genetics undergraduates at Leeds University, The Times Higher Education Supplement (June 23) reveals. But there’s a twist: lecturers will present the controversial theories as being incompatible with scientific evidence. “It is essential they (students) understand the historical context and the flaws in the arguments these groups put forward,” says Michael McPherson, of Leeds University. Despite the clear anti- creationist stance of these lecturers, the move has set warning bells ringing across the UK science community. ..."


Big Boom Mystifies ABQ...

The Albuquerque Journal reported on June 29th that "Residents across Albuquerque's far North Valley reported hearing a deafening boom that sounded like a plane crash in the midst of Tuesday evening's raucous storm. Their subsequent 911 calls set off a search by Albuquerque police and Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputies for a possible downed plane. They found nothing, and the search was later called off when the FAA reported that all planes were accounted for. Residents from north of Alameda to south of El Pueblo said it was a loud roar that lasted several seconds. More than 10 people called the sheriff's department, and APD reported receiving numerous calls as well. So if not a plane crash, what was the boom? Speculation ran from the supposed plane crash to a slippery three-car crash to a lightning strike on an electrical pole. ..."

Source:   (Subscription)

Posted June 23rd, 2006

1976 UFO over Clovis ... Now there's Even A Fuzzy Photo!

In the June 17th Portales News-Tribune, Marlena Hartz reports that "Thirty years after UFOs were reportedly sighted hovering over Clovis skies, another photograph of the event has surfaced. A UFO researcher said this week he has a photo — albeit fuzzy — of a tubular-shaped craft that danced above Clovis on Jan. 21, 1976. Canadian resident Brian Vike said he obtained the photo about a week ago from a former Eastern New Mexico University journalism student. Vike would not reveal the identity of that photographer, but said his source was threatened in 2004 after discussing the events on a radio talk show. ..."


The photo itself is now online at HBCC UFO Research,, here:

I predict this compelling photograph will settle the debate once and for all! ;-)

National Council of Churches : OK To Embrace Both Science and Faith...

The National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy recently released a position statement titled "Science, Religion, and the Teaching of Evolution in Public School Science Classes."  The statement emphasizes the following: "Often today we hear about the teaching of evolution in public schools framed as though it were a debate between people of faith and people of no faith. This short resource seeks to assist people of faith who experience no conflict between science and their faith and who embrace science as one way of appreciating the beauty and complexity of God’s creation. ..."


Scientists Unite Against Creationism...

The Scotsman reports on June 22nd that "The world's leading scientists have issued a damning statement against the teaching of creationism in schools, arguing that denying the facts of evolution damages the development of children. The national science academies of 67 countries, including the Royal Society, issued a joint statement warning that scientific evidence about the origins of life was being 'concealed, denied, or confused' in many schools. It added that teaching children about Darwinian evolution and the natural world was integral to protecting the planet. The statement aims to present a united front against the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in schools in the United States, the UK and elsewhere. ..."


Argento on Coulter...

Mike Argento of the York Daily Record, at Ground Zero of last year's epic Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District court case on "Intelligent Design," writes on Ann Coulter's warped view of the Dover decision in her new book. Argento writes on June 18th that "... Her latest missive - I won't name it because it doesn't need the publicity - is yet another of her fact-free exercises in what comedian Stephen Colbert calls truthiness, which is essentially cattle excrement that tries to pass itself off as truth. ... One part of her latest book that's getting little notice is the part that deals with Dover and what is purported to be the 'debate' over evolution. She begins her screed by saying that liberals have contempt for science. What? She offers as proof that liberals support stem-cell research. Yes, I know, I don't get it either. ... Moving on, she then says liberals worship the theory of evolution. Which is science. Which she says liberals hate. ... 'A make-believe story'? 'No proof'? I suggest that Ann do some reading. Tons of laboratory work and the fossil record clearly support evolution. She has no idea what she's talking about. But that doesn't stop her. ..."


Farewell to One of Darwin's Contemporaries...

Yahoo News reports on June 23rd that "A 176-year-old giant tortoise believed to have been studied by famed English naturalist Charles Darwin, has died in Australia after a short illness. The extremely elderly tortoise, Harriet, was hatched on the Galapagos Islands in 1830 but lived out her final years at Australia Zoo in southeast Queensland where she was the star attraction. Senior veterinarian John Hangar said the 150-kilogram (330-pound) reptile died on Thursday night after a short illness. ..."


Posted June 16th, 2006

Judge Jones - "I didn't check my First Amendment rights at the door when I became a judge..."

Knight-Ridder reports via the Kansas City Star that "U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III could have taken the safe route and retreated to the privacy of the courthouse after issuing his landmark ruling in December against intelligent design. Most judges are loath to go public about their cases at all, let alone respond to their critics. But Jones - angered by accusations that he had betrayed the conservative cause with his ruling, and disturbed by the growing number of politically motivated attacks on judges in general - came out from his chambers swinging. 'I didn't check my First Amendment rights at the door when I became a judge,' Jones said in a recent interview. While keeping his normal caseload, Jones has embarked on a low-key crusade to educate the public about the importance of judicial independence. He has been flooded with more invitations than he can accept to speak to organizations and schools about issues that arose from the Dover, Pa., case on intelligent design and other emotionally charged cases. ... Jones had anticipated he would be targeted by hard-line conservatives after concluding that teaching intelligent design in public schools as an alternative to evolution was unconstitutional. But he was surprised by how ignorant some of his critics were, in his view, about the Constitution and the separation of powers among the three branches of government. ... One particularly strident commentary piece by conservative columnist Phyllis Schlafly, published a week after the ruling, really set Jones off. Schlafly wrote that Jones, a career Republican appointed to the federal bench by President Bush in 2002, wouldn't be a judge if not for the 'millions of evangelical Christians' who supported Bush in 2000. His ruling, she wrote, 'stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.' 'The implication was that I should throw one for the home team,' Jones said. ... He wants to remind audiences, he said, that the judicial branch was not designed to react to public opinion as the executive and legislative branches were. 'If a poll shows a majority of Americans think we should teach creationism in schools, we should just go with the flow?' he asked. 'There's this messy thing called the Constitution we have to deal with.' ..."


Earliest waterfowl fossils found in China...

The AP reports on June 16th that "No humans were around to roast them, but spectacular new fossil evidence from China shows feathered birds not much unlike today's loons and ducks swam and dove on lakes there 110 million years ago. Details of five fossil specimens of the ancient birds, published today in the journal Science, are helping to fill in the avian family tree and suggest modern birds may have gotten their start in watery environments. ... The bird - called 'Gansus yumenensis,' after the region and town near where the remains were found - 'is very close to a modern bird and helps fill in the big gap between clearly nonmodern birds and the explosion of early birds that marked the Cretaceous period, the final era of the Dinosaur Age,' said Peter Dodson, a professor of anatomy and earth and environmental sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. ..."


Busy Week for Stephen Hawking ... reports on June 15th that "Acclaimed British physicist Stephen Hawking has said that humanity is finally getting close to understanding the origin of the universe. Speaking at a lecture in Hong Kong, Hawking said that despite some theoretical advances in the past years, there are still mysteries as to how the universe began. ..."


Breitbart also notes that "World-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said Thursday that the late Pope John Paul II once told scientists they should not study the beginning of the universe because it was the work of God. Hawking, author of the best-seller "A Brief History of Time," said John Paul made the comments at a cosmology conference at the Vatican. He did not say when the meeting was held. ..."


And on June 13th, Myway news reports that "The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth, world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday. ..."


NMSR Prank is Ruler Against Which Canadian Hockey League is Measured...

You heard that right, folks. On June 10th, R.J. Cooper of The Daily Reporter-Herald (Colorado) wrote "Four days have passed since the CHL announced its new playoff format, and I’m still waiting for the punch line. ... Maybe the Board of Governors was just a little delayed in the delivery of an April fools joke. There seems to be no other logical, rational, sane explanation for what transpired in Scottsdale, Ariz. last weekend. The CHL announced Tuesday that it is expanding the playoffs from eight teams to 12. In the second round, once three teams remain from each conference, the league then will bring back the highest-seeded team eliminated in the opening round. This would rank right up there with when Taco Bell announced it had purchased the naming rights to the Liberty Bell on April 1, 1996, or when an April 1998 newsletter of New Mexicans for Science and Reason announced the Alabama legislature had changed the value of Pi to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. ..."



Posted June 9th, 2006

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III Speaks to Anti-Defamation League...

... about the historic Dover ID Trial. And, the text of his talk is online! A worthy read...


1006 Supernova Recorded on Petroglyph?

The Tucson Citizen reports on June 6th that "A star twinkles for eons, then suddenly shines brighter than any other heavenly object save the sun and moon. It's a supernova, the titanic explosion of a great star somewhere in the Milky Way galaxy. The show in the sky can last for days or weeks. One such stellar event, recorded around the globe in 1006, is thought to have been recorded in Arizona by an ancient Hohokam stargazer who depicted the event in rock art, said two astronomers, John Barentine of Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico and Gilbert A. Esquerdo, research assistant with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson. The two scientists presented their theory at the American Astronomical Society meeting this week in Calgary, Alberta. ..."


Stanford School of Medicine takes on ID ...

In the 2006 Summer Edition of Stanford Medicine Magazine, Mark Shwartz writes about the "Intelligent Design" movement, and its designs on the very nature of Science. The apt conclusion draws heavily from NM's own Marshall Berman: "Retired New Mexico physicist Marshall Berman may be the ideal role model for activist scientists everywhere. When fundamentalist members of the New Mexico State Board of Education proposed deleting all references to evolution and the age of the Earth from the state science curriculum, Berman, then a manager at the Sandia National Laboratories, decided to challenge an incumbent and ultimately defeated her in a statewide election. During his term from 1999 to 2003, Berman helped convince fellow board members to adopt new standards grounded in solid science. But the anti-evolution forces have not surrendered, he warns: 'These people are dedicated and determined. They’re absolutely convinced they are doing God’s work, and they’ll never stop. After 10 years of fighting them, I’m still scared to death.' While the I.D. battle continues, the religious right may be taking aim at other sciences, including astrobiology — an emerging field that seeks to explain the biochemical origins of life in the universe — and neuroscience, which offers physiological rather than spiritual explanations for the human mind. No matter what the future target may be — neuroscience, global warming or even the big bang theory — Berman argues that now is not the time for defenders of science to remain silent. 'We are in a battle for our U.S. Constitution and the very nature of our society,' he says. 'It’s hard for me to imagine a bigger threat that all of us face. It’s time to take action. Get involved in politics and take a stand for science.' ..."


UFOlogist Karl Pflock Dies...

Back in the 1990's, UFOlogist Karl Pflock thought the Roswell Incident was worthy of investigation, because of the actual physical evidence involved. But, after years of research, Pflock concluded that the entire "Incident" had been sparked by a lost "Project Mogul" balloon experiment launched from Alamogordo in the summer of 1947. This earned him contempt from several other Roswell investigators, who evidently were only giving lip-service to their claims of following the evidence "wherever it may lead."  He will be missed by many in both the UFO and skeptical communities.


Karl's Editorial Hangout:

"Divine Strake" on HIATUS...

The Government at first denied that the 700-ton explosive test in Nevada had simulation of tactical nukes as its goal. Then, the Government admitted that was indeed the case. Now the test, originally set for June 2, has been put on indefinite hold. More details are linked from John Fleck's AbqJournal blog.


Cool Picture of the Week...

In a June 8th article titled "Rainbow that set the sky on fire," The Daily Mail (UK) reports that "In a breathtaking blaze of glory, Nature puts on one of its most spectacular sky shows. Reds, oranges, blues and greens create a flaming rainbow that stretches above the clouds. But this circumhorizon arc, as it is known, owes more to ice than fire. It occurs when sunlight passes through ice crystals in high cirrus clouds. It is one of 15 types of ice halos formed only when the most specific of factors dovetail precisely together. This blanket of fire, covering hundreds of square miles, is the rarest phenomenon of them all. It was spotted in the US on the Washington-Idaho border around midday last Saturday. ..."


If you haven't changed your Desktop Background image in a while, this would be an excellent time to do so!


Posted June 2nd, 2006

Atlanta Paper: Georgia Bio-book Stickers are Religious Pseudoscience...

On May 31st, Mike King of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board wrote "While U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper has been ordered to rehear evidence in the Cobb County school board's evolution stickers case, it's hard to see how he could reach a different conclusion about its merits. He was correct in his initial ruling last year when he decided that the stickers, which disclaimed evolution as a 'theory, not a fact,' constituted an endorsement of religious belief. Nonetheless, going back to court is the right thing to do. Teachers in America's classrooms need to have this trumped-up, pseudo-scientific 'controversy' settled once and for all, and local school boards need to be told in no uncertain terms that they can't bend the Constitution to pacify vocal religious advocates. ..."

Source: (free registration)

Evolution in action? Fish Species show Speciation In Process...

Sara Ball of Cornell News Service writes on June 1st that "Avoiding quicksand along the banks of the Ivindo River in Gabon, Cornell neurobiologists armed with oscilloscopes search for shapes and patterns of electricity created by fish in the water. They know from their previous research that the various groups of local electric fish have different DNA, different communication patterns and won't mate with each other. However, they now have found a case where two types of electric signals come from fish that have the same DNA. The researchers' conclusion: The fish appear to be on the verge of forming two separate species. 'We think we are seeing evolution in action,' said Matt Arnegard, a neurobiology postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Carl Hopkins, Cornell professor of neurobiology and behavior, who has been recording electric fish in Gabon since the 1970s. ..."


Spotlight Shines on NM's "UFO Guy"...

Andrew Webb of the Albuquerque Journal writes on May 28th that "Visitors to Bob Lazar's hard-to-find hilltop property are greeted by a sign that says, 'Warning: Trespassers Will Be Used For Science Experiments.' ... A two-story building next to the couple's Southwest-style stucco home serves as headquarters for United Nuclear Science Supply, a mail-order company with a handful of employees who manufacture scientific instruments and package small chemical orders— the company's specialty. Lazar, a do-it-yourself scientist who in the 1980s made Area 51 a household name, is back in the limelight. He and his wife, Joy White, operate United Nuclear. They say the Consumer Product Safety Commission, through the Department of Justice, wants them to stop selling chemicals it says could be used to make explosives— and Lazar wonders if that really is not an attempt to stifle his development of a cheap, alternative fuel supply. The problem with the commission's list, Lazar says, is that it includes everyday chemicals used in all kinds of experiments. 'I'm going to fight this— people need to know what's happening to science,' he says of the commission's legal actions against his company. ... Henry LaHai, assistant director of the DOJ's Office of Consumer Litigation, said that he could not comment specifically on United Nuclear but that no official action has been taken against the company in either civil or criminal court. LaHai said he 'could not confirm nor deny' Lazar's assertion that federal agents raided United Nuclear in 2003, taking computers and records, which Lazar says were later returned. ... Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, said he had not heard of Lazar's situation, but he could see how someone might think the government is stifling science. 'At first blush, I can sympathize,' he said. 'Laws against meth shouldn't be used to deter training young people to appreciate science.' ... Renowned 'UFOlogist' Stanton Friedman has called Lazar an articulate con man and theorized he was seeking investments for various inventions as a motive for the Area 51 stories. ..."

Source: (subscription)

Potter's "Cloak Of Invisibility" is Possible in Theory ...

Andrew Bridges of the Chicago Sun Times writes on May 26th that "The key to creating a Harry Potter-like invisibility cloak lies in man-made materials unlike any in nature or the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, researchers say. They're laying out a blueprint for turning science fiction into reality. 'Is it science fiction? Well, it's theory and that already is not science fiction. It's theoretically possible to do all these Harry Potter things, but what's standing in the way is our engineering capabilities,' said John Pendry, a physicist at the Imperial College London. Details of the study, which Pendry co-wrote, appear in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science. ..."


Praying Woman Struck by Lightning...

WSB-TV in Atlanta reports on May 30th that "Worried about the safety of her family during a stormy Memorial Day trip to the beach, Clara Jean Brown stood in her kitchen and prayed for their safe return as a strong thunderstorm rumbled through Baldwin County, Alabama. But while she prayed, lightning suddenly exploded, blowing through the linoleum and leaving a blackened area on the concrete. Brown wound up on the floor, dazed and disoriented by the blast but otherwise uninjured. She said 'Amen' and the room was engulfed in a huge ball of fire. The 65-year-old Brown said she is blessed to be alive. ..."


Posted May 26th, 2006

NY Mayor Bloomberg: Intelligent Design is Path to "an inferior education"...

The New York Sun reports on May 26th that "By warning a graduating class of doctors to reject 'faith-based science,' Mr. Bloomberg yesterday signaled yet again that he plans to use his second term to take the national stage. The mayor railed against letting 'ideology get in the way of truth,' and singled out creationism, global warming, and stem cell research as topics where science is under attack. ... 'It boggles the mind that nearly two centuries after Darwin, and 80 years after John Scopes was put on trial, this country is still debating the validity of evolution,' Mr. Bloomberg told graduating medical students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he earned his bachelor's degree. Mr. Bloomberg combined two of his favorite topics, science and education, when he criticized school districts in Kansas and Mississippi that want to teach 'intelligent design,' the theory that human life cannot be explained solely by evolution. He said schools would be 'condemning these students to an inferior education' by promoting faith over settled science. ... The deputy director for the National Center for Science Education, Glenn Branch, commended Mr. Bloomberg and said he was in line with the scientific establishment, which has fought challenges to teaching human evolution as an authoritative theory in the classroom. 'It's not as though he's flying in the face of the established scientific consensus,' Mr. Branch said. 'Bloomberg's view is at one with the National Academy of Sciences, which is the nation's most prestigious scientific organization. It is also one with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, with the Royal Society of London, and with dozens of other major scientific organizations.' ..."


Georgia Bio-text Sticker Case Vacated, Remanded...

The NCSE reports on May 25th that "The ruling in the appeal of Selman et al. v. Cobb County School District et al. -- the case in which a federal district court ruled that textbook stickers describing evolution as 'a theory, not a fact' violate the First Amendment -- was issued by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on May 25, 2006. The three-judge panel vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further evidential proceedings. '[W]e leave it to the district court whether to start with an entirely clean slate and a completely new trial,' the ruling states, 'or to supplement, clarify, and flesh out the evidence that it has heard in the four days of bench trial already conducted.' ..."


New Dino named in Honor of Harry Potter's Hogwarts School...

MSNBC/AP reported on May 22nd that "The 66 million-year-old skull of a dinosaur whose name was inspired by the Harry Potter series has found a permanent home in the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Dracorex hogwartsia will be housed permanently at the museum, officials and paleontologist Robert Bakker announced Monday. The dinosaur's name was taken from the Latin words for dragon and king, and the fictional Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. Rowling agreed to the name because her two children are dinosaur fans. 'The naming of Dracorex hogwartsia is easily the most unexpected honor to have come my way since the publication of the Harry Potter books,' Rowling said in a written statement. ..."


Weird Creature "halfway between a shrimp and a mud lobster"...

MSNBC/AP reports on May 19th that "French scientists who explored the Coral Sea said Friday they discovered a new species of crustacean that was thought to have become extinct 60 million years ago. The 'living fossil,' a female designated Neoglyphea neocaledonica, was discovered 1,312 feet (400 meters) under water during an expedition in the Chesterfield Islands, northwest of New Caledonia, the National Museum of Natural History and the Research Institute for Development said in a statement. ... Bouchet, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, described the nearly 5-inch (12-centimeter) creature as 'halfway between a shrimp and a mud lobster.' ... "


State Sen. Dede Feldman: "Stand for Science"...

In a commencement address to the University of New Mexico Biology Department on May 13, State Sen. Dede Feldman said "... If you intend to pursue biology, health care, research or any scientific calling, that puts you on the front line of a controversial, cultural clash that will only grow as science edges closer to the roots of human life. You will be very important. And I am here today to ask you to stand up for science. The basic integrity of science is under siege. For the past two decades, polls have shown consistently that more than half of all Americans believe that humans were created directly by God. And only about 22 to 23 percent say that we evolved from an earlier species, with most believing that the universe was created about 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. That is why you are so important. Just as that Tennessee biology teacher, John Scopes, was called upon to defend evolution in a climate of old-time religion, you may be called upon, as teachers, researchers or health care professionals to answer other, more troubling challenges. So, when they ask you, do you believe in abstinence only, do you believe in global warming or stem-cell research or intelligent design, as scientists, your answer need only be: 'I believe in data.' But that will take courage. ..."

Kudos to the Trib for printing the address in its May 23rd edition.


Moroccan Tsunami Scare sparked by "Aliens"...

Al Jazeera reports on May 25th that "A website warning of a tsunami has spread panic in Morocco, despite the government's assertion that the alert was merely rumour - and the dubious nature of its source. The Ufological Research Centre said on its website last week that a tsunami could hit the Atlantic after a comet passes close to earth on Thursday, May 25. Eric Julien, author of La Science Des Extraterrestres (Science of Aliens), claimed that the impact of a comet fragment would trigger powerful volcanoes in the Atlantic and generate a giant tsunami that would be destructive across the coasts of several countries, including Morocco. Julien, who claimed to have received the information psychically, said that waves up to 200 metres high will reach coastlines of countries bordering the Atlantic. The alert caused fear and panic among Moroccan citizens, though the Moroccan meteorological office dismissed it on Monday as insignificant. ... "


Posted May 19th, 2006

Big Genetic Hiccup Gave Us Flowers...

Penn State University announced on May 10th that "Researchers from the Floral Genome Project at Penn State University, with an international team of collaborators, have proposed an answer to Charles Darwin's 'abominable mystery:' the inexplicably rapid evolution of flowering plants immediately after their first appearance some 140 million years ago. By developing new statistical methods to analyze incomplete DNA sequences from thirteen strategically selected plant species, the researchers uncovered a previously hidden 'paleopolyploidy' event, an ancient whole-genome duplication that preceded the appearance of the ancestral flowering plant. ..."


Dover Coming to NOVA...

Kathy Stevens of The York Dispatch reports on May 16th that "In an attempt to better define science, evolution and intelligent design, filmmakers are preparing a documentary that reviews lessons delivered last year in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg. Crews from 'NOVA,' a popular PBS science television series, will be in Dover, York and Harrisburg this summer conducting interviews and obtaining footage for a two-hour show centered on Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District. ... 'People said (the trial) was like the biology class you wish you would have taken,' said Barbara Moran, senior researcher for 'NOVA.' '(Documentary) seems like a good way to get at the tough scientific issues.' ... 'The idea is to allow viewers to walk away and make up their own minds,' Moran said. 'There seems to be a false dichotomy between evolution and religion, and we're hoping this show can make it clear.'..."


Humans & Chimps: Separation Delayed by On-again, Off-again Trysts...

National Geographic reports on May 17th that "Early human ancestors and chimpanzee ancestors may have mated and produced offspring, according to a new DNA study. The study suggests that the human and chimp lineages initially split off from a single ape species about ten million years ago. Later, early chimps and early human ancestors may have begun interbreeding, creating hybrids—and complicating and prolonging the evolutionary separation of the two lineages. The second and final split occurred some four million years after the first one, the report proposes. ..."


Were "Hobbits" just Diseased Humans?...

National Geographic reports on May 18th that "The 'hobbit' humans that lived on the Indonesian island of Flores some 18,000 years ago were actually a population of modern humans stricken with a genetic disease that causes small brains, a new study says. The argument is being made by a group of scientists who have analyzed all the scientific evidence presented so far about the evolution of the proposed species Homo floresiensis. ..."


Carl Zimmer has been tracking the Hobbit Wars at the Loom. He writes on May 18th "Today we have the latest development in the hobbit wars, a critical paper from a team of American and British scientists and a response from the original team of scientists. They appear in the journal Science. I wish I could report some big surprising news, but these papers seem to be circling around two of the same questions that scientists have been asking for some time. The new critical report comes from Robert Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago and his colleagues. The fact that Martin is not happy with the initial reports on Homo floresiensis is no secret. ...There are two points to Martin's complaint. 1. They picked the wrong human brain for their comparison. ... 2. You can't get a Hobbit by shrinking down Homo erectus. ... in the same issue of Science, Falk and her colleagues responded to both points. 1. Our scans beat your sketches. ... 2. Who said anything about a dwarf Homo erectus? Falk and her colleagues point out that while the brain had a Homo erectus-structure, they wrote that it 'is too small to be attributed to normal dwarfing on H. erectus and further showed that its relative brain size is consistent with those of apes/australopithecines.' ..."


FOX Fumbles on Brown's Gas...

The Chicago affiliate of FOX TV reported on May 16th that "Denny Klein has just patented his process of converting H2O to HHO, producing a gas that combines the atomic power of hydrogen with the chemical stability of water. 'It turns right back to water; in fact, you can see the H2O running off the sheet metal.' Klein originally designed his water-burning engine for cutting metal. He thought his invention could replace acetylene in welding factories. 'No other gas will do this.' Then one day as he drove to his laboratory, he thought of another way to burn his HHO gas. 'On a 100- mile trip, we use about four ounces of water.' Klein says his prototype 1994 Ford Escort can travel exclusively on water—though he currently has it rigged to run as a water and gasoline hybrid. ..."


See the incredibly credulous segment here:

This scheme appears to be an update on "Brown's Gas," promoted by one Yull Brown. The same "technologies" have been used by Dennis Lee of "Free Electricity" fame. There's quite a bit on Brown's Gas at Eric Krieg's site, by Tom Napier: "... to generate 168 grams of [Brown's] gas requires one kilowatt-hour of electrical input or about 10 cents worth of electricity. Suppose we wanted to run an internal combustion engine on this gas. How much energy would we get out? If we burn Brown's Gas we get pure water vapor. Burning 18 grams releases 242000 Joules of heat energy or 229.5 btu. (Allowing the vapor to condense would yield an additional 44500 joules, 42.4 btu, but in any conventional engine this output would only appear as waste heat and will be ignored.) Thus if we drove an engine with 168 grams of gas per hour we would be putting 2.26 million joules per hour of heat energy into it. Operating at a plausible combustion temperature the thermal efficiency might be as high as 50% so we would get out 1.13 million joules per hour or 314 joules per second, that is 314 watts. The bottom line is that we have put in about a kilowatt of electrical energy to get out under a third as much in mechanical energy. Considering that the efficiency of an electric motor would be over 85% there is no justification at all for using a Brown's Gas generator and an internal combustion engine. An electric motor would do better at less cost and with far greater reliability. ..."


Posted May 12th, 2006

Nuclear Engineers in Short Supply...

The Albuquerque Tribune/Scripps reported on May 8th that "As the nuclear industry stirs with the first plans in 30 years to build power plants in the United States, there is an unexpected hurdle to be overcome: There might not be enough nuclear engineers to build and run them. But what's worse, the generation that built and ran America's nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities is aging and headed toward retirement, taking away decades of know-how that have kept them operating safely. ..."


Feds Tampering with Abstinence Panel...

Jackie Jadrnak of the Albuquerque Journal reports on May 12th that "Albuquerque public health physician Bruce Trigg recently landed in the middle of a national fracas over science, politics and sex. The subject was abstinence education and sexually transmitted diseases. The controversy erupted when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reconfigured a panel Trigg organized for a national medical conference in Florida this week. The panel, which originally included only critics of abstinence education programs, ended up with two critics and two supporters. The change, prompted by a congressman's complaint, renewed charges from scientists that the Bush administration is mixing politics with science. 'There was quite a stir,' Trigg said in a telephone interview from the conference. 'This is a level of interference in the public health community that I don't think we've seen before.' ..."

Source: (Subscription)

UK: UFOs caused by natural forces...

Tim Castle of Reuters writes on May 7th that "Hopes -- or fears -- that the Earth has been visited by alien life forms have been dismissed in an official report by British defense specialists. The Ministry of Defense confirmed on Sunday a secret study completed in December 2000 had found no evidence that "flying saucers" or unidentified flying objects were anything other than natural phenomena. The 400-page report, released under freedom of information laws to an academic from the northern city of Sheffield, concluded that meteors and unusual atmospheric conditions could explain UFO sightings such as bright lights in the sky. ..."


It's Lisa Simpson versus "Intelligent Design" this Sunday...

The new episode of "The Simpsons" will cover the ID wars. A FOX  affiliate reports that "Larry Hagman and Melanie Griffith guest-voice in 'The Monkey Suit' episode of THE SIMPSONS Sunday, May 14 (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT). After visiting an evolution exhibit narrated by guest voice Griffith, Flanders pushes Mayor Quimby to appoint Reverend Lovejoy as a 'Morality Czar' in charge of spreading the theory of creationism. Darwin's theories are quickly outlawed, and Lisa finds herself as the only supporter of the scientific theory. After holding secret evolution classes, Lisa is arrested and retains Southern lawyer Wallace Brady (guest voice Hagman) to help defend her beliefs in front of a judge. While Flanders is on the stand in court, Homer's antics cause him to crack under pressure and he calls Homer an ape, which leads the judge to believe Homer resembles the missing link – putting a monkey wrench in the prosecutors' case. ..."


Posted May 5th, 2006

Starlings' Listening Skills May Shed Light on Language Evolution...

Carl Zimmer, writing in the May 2nd New York Times, observes "In the current issue of Nature, scientists report that starlings recognize song patterns based on rules of the sort that make language possible. Their paper has drawn sharp reactions pro and con from linguists and animal communication experts. The debate is over what, if anything, the results mean for human language. Some scientists believe that the findings offer new clues to how it evolved. Others dismiss the notion. ..."


And Speaking of Starlings and Evolution...

The 20 April 2006 issue of Nature has an article titled "Evolution of cooperative strategies from first principles." The authors "bred" digital organisms that could interact in various ways, in order to see if behaviors like cooperation could be evolved.


A popular exposition by Richard B. Hoppe at the Panda's Thumb explains the work for the layperson: "The study had two main conditions: detectable markers vs. undetectable markers. ... In that history of research where agent phenotypes are indistinguishable, three main ‘strategies’ for interactions among agents recur: hawk, dove, and bourgeois. In the hawk strategy, agents cross cell boundaries to attack other agents, stealing their victims’ resources. Doves never attack and attempt to escape from other agents when they ‘see’ them. A bourgeois agent stays put in its home cell, and attacks invaders of that cell while ignoring critters in neighboring cells. In Burtsev & Turchin’s no-marker condition, those three strategies did indeed emerge: the population evolved critters with all three strategies. Whether the bourgeois strategy evolved depended on the food supply to cells; below some critical value, too low to support a sedentary critter, only hawk and dove evolved. When food supply is sufficient, the bourgeios strategy comes to dominate the population. In the second and most interesting experimental condition of the Burtsev & Turchin study, marker recognition was turned on, so the potential for discriminating similar-to-self from dissimilar agents was available. In that condition, three strategies not heretofore seen evolved: cooperative dove, starling and raven. Cooperative doves ignore out-group critters bearing markers dissimilar to their own, but ‘cooperate’ with in-group critters by leaving cells with other doves bearing similar markers to avoid competing with them for food. Ravens similarly leave cells with similar in-group critters, but they also attack dissimilar critters when they are encountered. Starlings stay at home with in-group critters, but as a group attack interlopers much as real starlings mob an invading hawk or owl...."


But Wait, there's More! Now it's Monkeys and Maths...

Seed Magazine reports on May 4th that "Behavioral researchers at Duke University announced 'the strongest evidence to date' that monkeys and humans share a basic system for comparing numerical values. The finding could help illuminate the evolution of mathematical skill. ... In their experiment, two monkeys—Feinstein and Mikulski, named after the female US senators from California and Maryland, respectively—ranked pairs of even values between two and 30 by touching a video screen. (The value of four, for example, was represented on-screen by four dots inside a box.) Human subjects performed the same task but were told to do so as quickly as possible and not to count out each set of dots to themselves—basically, to behave like monkeys. The humans were slightly more accurate than the monkeys—87% vs. 80%—but the monkeys completed the task faster. When controlling for speed, the results show that humans and monkeys share an equally accurate, nonverbal system of numerical representation. 'Adult humans, you'd think, would be flawless at this task,' said Brannon. But when forced to react quickly, humans access a more instinctual method of counting, she added. 'We can talk about the fact that 29 and 30 are equally different from two and three,' she said, 'but we don't actually treat them that way.' ..."


KRQE Interviews NMSR re 1964 Socorro UFO...

On May 1st, KRQE-TV13 reporter Kim Vallez did a report on the Socorro 1964 UFO incident. From KRQE's segment summary: "Something strange happened in the desert near Socorro NM, on a spring night 42 years ago, and a State Police officer was there to report it. ... Experts who investigated the case have no doubt that he saw what he said he saw. But after years of harassment and ridicule, Zamora, now 73 and living in Socorro, vowed in 1994 never to speak of the incident again. ... Whatever happened on that Friday night in 1964 is considered one of the most credible alleged UFO incidents in history. Not only was the witness credible--a police officer--there was actual physical evidence: a half-burned bush, imprints in the area where the legs sat, shoe prints. 'I think the policeman was sincere when he thought he saw something strange.' said Dave Thomas of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. 'I don't think it came all the way from 'outer space.' The scientists in Thomas' group have a theory about what Zamora really saw on that fateful night. Their evidence for this new theory begins with a page from the log book at the White Sands Missile Range, the expansive test range whose northern border extends to the area of Zamoraís patrol. 'The Socorro Incident in 1964 might have been an American spacecraft that was being tested at the north end of White Sands Missile Range,' Thomas said. According to the log, that American spacecraft was an early prototype for a "surveyor," which evolved five years later to a lunar vehicle during the Apollo missions. ..."


Video segment:[Video]=ID&ID%5BVideo%5D=4041

NMSR's Socorro UFO Page:

Creationism called 'Paganism' by Vatican's astronomer...

The Scotsman reported on May 5th that "Believing that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism, the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno claimed yesterday. Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a "destructive myth" had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies. He described creationism, whose supporters want it taught in schools alongside evolution, as a 'kind of paganism' because it harked back to the days of 'nature gods' who were responsible for natural events. ..."


Evolution of the Eye - the Video...

Zoologist Dan-Eric Nilsson of the University of Lund in Sweden explains how the complex human eye could have evolved gradually from a primitive light-sensitive eye-spot. It's a splendid video!


Posted April 28th, 2006

A Tough Month for Creationists...

Ann Gibbons, writing in the April 22nd Los Angeles Times, says "It's been a tough month for creationists. On April 6, evolutionary biologists announced the discovery of a fossil of Tiktaalik roseae, a giant fish whose fins were evolving into limbs when it died 375 million years ago. This scaly creature of the sea was in transition to becoming a land animal, the discoverers wrote in Nature. A day later, molecular biologists reported in Science that they had traced the origin of a key stress hormone, found in humans and all vertebrates, back 450 million years to a primitive gene that arose before animals emerged from oceans onto land. Both teams of scientists stressed that their findings contradicted creationists... "


Brit Judge Puts Cipher into "Da Vinci Code" Ruling...

Jennifer Quinn of the Associated Press reported from London on April 27th that "The judge who presided at the 'Da Vinci Code' copyright infringement trial has put a code of his own into his ruling, and he said Wednesday he would 'probably' confirm it to the person who breaks it. Since Judge Peter Smith delivered his ruling April 7 in favor of Dan Brown, the Rye Beach, N.H., author of 'The Da Vinci Code,' lawyers in London and New York began noticing odd italicizations in the 71-page document. ..."


Already, Ben Hoyle of The Times (UK) has deciphered the message. He writes on April 28th that "At no point in my job interview for The Times four years ago did the Editor mention that I would need advanced codebreaking skills. But yesterday, like thousands of others around the world, I was frantically puzzling over the apparently random sequence of 42 letters mysteriously rendered in bold italics in the Da Vinci Code plagiarism case judgment. This morning The Times was able to exclusively reveal the solution, secured with considerable prompting from Mr Justice Peter Smith. Contrary to the many wild hypotheses appearing in internet chatrooms the answer had nothing to do with the cultish conspiracy theories at the centre of last month's High Court case. Rather, the solution to The Judge’s Code should read: 'Smithy Code Jackie Fisher Who Are You Dreadnought'. ..."


Hoyle is planning on getting the £1,000 reward offered by the Daily Mail, a competitor.

Trib on Rio Rancho...

In an April 27th Albuquerque Tribune editorial titled "Behold, science: Why realm of facts, not faith, belongs in the public classroom," Larry Spohn writes "The science teachers said, 'Let there be light,' and finally the Rio Rancho Board of Education agreed. Hallelujah! Under pressure from the teachers (and undoubtedly the community), the board voted earlier this month to eliminate its creationist-friendly policy in favor of the state standard. It simply acknowledges that 'students shall understand' that people might disagree when it comes to science and religion. That's better but still not quite right, as courageous board member Margaret Terry, a Catholic, pointed out, as the sole vote against any reference to religion in the science standard. Praise Terry! ..."


Black Holes Light Up the Galaxy...

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal writes on April 25th "Black holes are anything but black. ... So strong is their gravitational pull that nothing— not even light— can escape. As a result, you might expect them to be little more than blank spots in the night sky. New research has shown, once again, how wrong that notion is. Outside its 'event horizon' -- a black hole's gravitational point of no return— an intense drama plays out, as dust and gas are sucked in an accelerating spiral that makes the region among the hottest and most dramatic in the universe. ..."

Source: (subscription)

Posted April 21st, 2006

Is "Divine Strake" a Nuclear Simulation?

Andrew Lichterman at discusses "evidence that the 'Divine Strake' experiment which will detonate 700 tons of explosive in the Nevada desert is intended to simulate the effects of a low-yield nuclear blast on underground structures. ..."


Hat Tip, John Fleck.

Immunologists and the Dover Decision...

Three of my fellow Panda's Thumb contributors, Andrea Bottaro, Matt Inlay & Nick Matzke, have published an article in Nature Immunology 7, 433 - 435 (2006) titled "Immunology in the spotlight at the Dover 'Intelligent Design' trial."  They conclude "Immunology had an unexpected and decisive part in challenging the claims of 'Intelligent Design' proponents at the US trial on the teaching of evolution in public schools in Dover, Pennsylvania. ..."


The Rest of the Story:

Lyrid meteor shower Friday Night/Saturday AM...

Sky and Telescope reports on April 18th that "The annual Lyrid meteor shower should reach its peak activity late Friday night and early Saturday morning, April 21–22, 2006. The Moon, a thick waning crescent, doesn't rise till about an hour before morning twilight begins, so it will hardly interfere with the shower at all this year. Still, the Lyrids are generally weak. Even at their maximum only 10 to 20 "shooting stars" per hour may appear. ..."


Hat Tip, John Fleck.

Harvard Study: Mercury Dental Amalgams Safe...

The Harvard Crimson reported on April 21st that "A Harvard study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that mercury-containing tooth fillings—known as amalgams—do not have adverse affects on a child’s neuropsychological and kidney functions. The study, published Wednesday, was met with criticism as physicians at other institutions decried the 'outrageous human experiment on indigent and orphaned children,' according to a press release from the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT). ;What they did is flat out wrong. Harvard is high quality. This is a mistake that’s going to hurt them,' said IAOMT member Boyd E. Haley, a professor of bio-organic chemistry at the University of Kentucky and a leading critic of the study. The IAOMT promotes mercury-free dentistry. Haley alleges that the parents of the children participating in the study were not well-informed about the amount of mercury their children would be exposed to. But Harvard Medical School Professor of Neurology David C. Bellinger, lead author of the study, says, 'All I can say is based on the way amalgam was used in this study in the amounts it was given over the five years following, we did not see any increased health problems.' ..."


Creator of "Max Headroom" Fesses Up to creating "Alien Autopsy" Film ...

The Times (UK) reports on April 16th that "The creator of Max Headroom, a 1980s television cyber-presenter, has claimed he was one of the hoaxers behind the Roswell film, the grainy black and white footage supposedly showing a dead alien being dissected by American government scientists after a UFO crash. ... John Humphreys, a sculptor and consultant on Alien Autopsy who has also worked on special effects for Doctor Who, said it was he who made the models for the alien dissected in the original fake footage. ... Rather than being shot in 1947 near Roswell in the New Mexico desert as previously claimed, the film was actually made at a flat in Camden, north London, in 1995. ..."


Polygraphs: NM Still "Only US State that allows them..."

The BBC, in an article on Wonder Woman (whose author also invented the "Lie Detector"), notes that "polygraph evidence is not admissible in British courts. New Mexico is the only US state that does allow them. ..."


The New Mexico State Supreme Court was presented with an excellent opportunity to reverse this embarrassment in 2004. Sadly, they declined.


Another Week, Another Stunning Transitional Species...

The San Jose Mercury News reported on April 20th that "A fossil find in Argentina has revealed a two-legged creature that's the most primitive snake known, a discovery that promises to fire up the scientific debate about whether snakes evolved on land or in the sea. The snake's anatomy and the location of the fossil show it lived on land, researchers said, adding evidence to the argument that snakes evolved on land. ... t's the first time scientists have found a snake with a sacrum, a bony feature supporting the pelvis, Zaher said. That feature was lost as snakes evolved from lizards, he said, and since this is the only known snake that hasn't lost it, it must be the most primitive known. ..."


But, creationists won't be impressed. Answers in Genesis opined in an article published in April 1983 that "Those who claim snakes are simply the legless descendants of other reptiles, really don’t appreciate just how unique snakes are. No matter how carefully you removed the legs from a lizard, it would never move like a snake. ... No observed mutation can do anything like produce the special equipment in a snake, even if you started with a ‘soundly functional lizard’. Snakes have not evolved either slowly or rapidly from any other creatures we call reptiles. Not only is there no trace of transitional forms in the fossil record, but no one has ever seen a mutated lizard or snake which would give a clue as to how it could have evolved to become so legless, and yet so perfectly adapted to being a snake. In fact, snakes look so deliberately designed that scientists who say otherwise, haven’t really got a leg to stand on! ..."


Their take on the new find? From April 21st, 2006: "... Those who claim that snakes are just legless descendants of other reptiles really don’t understand their uniqueness. Snakes have a specially designed backbone, which is very different from other reptiles. For a lizard to turn into a snake over time, it would need special backbones. Snakes could not slither without these additions. ..."


Mentos + Diet Pepsi = KAPOW...

If Science Fairs didn't have rules about no water in displays, we might see more experiments like this one...


Posted April 14th, 2006

Rio Rancho Amends Science Policy 401...

On April 10th, the Rio Rancho School Board held a hearing on it’s controversial “Science Policy 401.” After hearing from about 30 of the more than 100 people packed into the board room, the board deleted the phrase from the original policy "When appropriate and consistent with the New Mexico Science Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards, discussions about issues that are of interest to both science and individual religious and philosophical beliefs will acknowledge that reasonable people may disagree about the meaning and interpretation of data." and replaced it with this one, taken directly from the New Mexico Science Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards: “Students shall understand that reasonable people may disagree about some issues that are of interest to both science and religion (e.g., the origin of life on earth, the cause of the big bang, the future of the earth).” This is a real improvement over the original language of Policy 401, of which the New Mexico Academy of Science wrote "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."

... While this victory is a significant battle, the war is far from over. Look for Intelligent Design pundits to continue spreading The Lie that New Mexico’s standards are “Intelligent-design friendly.” Sadly, this misconception is furthered by Elaine Briseño’s April 11th Albuquerque Journal's interview with board member Scharfglass: "Scharfglass said after the meeting that although the amended policy just restates exactly what state standards say, it is necessary to make sure the standards are being enforced in class. That standard is that students be allowed to discuss alternative ideas to evolutionary theory." I’m not sure if Scharfglass was misinformed, or if reporter Briseño just doesn’t know what’s in NM standards. Nowhere do New Mexico’s standards call for presentation of alternative ideas to evolutionary theory. ...

Continued at the Panda's Thumb:

See Also:

Plus: The Albuquerque Tribune editorialized on April 12th that "Intelligent design might be good religion, but it's not science, and the Rio Rancho Board of Education was right to vote against its outright promulgation in science classes there. The board voted Monday to amend a new, controversial science policy that allowed and, in effect, encouraged discussions of creationism in Rio Rancho schools as a valid, scientific alternative to evolution. ... So far, so good. But reports on the decision reveal a couple of causes for continued concern. First, creationists say they're taking the new policy to mean that students still must be allowed to argue for intelligent design in classes - and they intend to enforce that right. Second, some creationists continue to insist that the intelligent design movement is not a backdoor attempt to sneak religious education into schools via the science department. As to the second point, people should call the creationists' demurral what it is - a lie, for which they sorely need to repent. ..."


New Australopithecine Ancestor?

Nature reported on 13 April 2006 on "Australopithecus anamensis - newly discovered fossils from the Middle Awash study area that extend the known Au. anamensis range into northeastern Ethiopia. The new fossils are from chronometrically controlled stratigraphic sequences and date to about 4.1-4.2 million years ago. They include diagnostic craniodental remains, the largest hominid canine yet recovered, and the earliest Australopithecus femur. These new fossils are sampled from a woodland context. Temporal and anatomical intermediacy between Ar. ramidus and Au. afarensis suggest a relatively rapid shift from Ardipithecus to Australopithecus in this region of Africa, involving either replacement or accelerated phyletic evolution ..."


Speaking of Transitional Fossils...

Check out this marvelous view of the frigid wasteland that was once a warm, sunny home for the "fishapod" Tiktaalik. Oh, the power of Continental Drift!


Volcanic Eruption in New Mexico?  We're due...

Sue Vorenberg of the Albuquerque Trib writes on April 13th that "First, the ground all around Albuquerque would shake - not as badly as some of the big California earthquakes, but noticeable by New Mexico standards. Then the rotten-egg smell of sulfur would fill the air and add to the Duke City's smog problem. Finally, magma would make its way slowly but steadily out of the ground, forming rope-like lava flows radiating out of the landscape between Socorro and Albuquerque. This is not utter fantasy. It's the most likely scenario New Mexico scientists say they'd bet on as the state's next volcanic eruption. 'It wouldn't take a lot,' said Larry Crumpler, research curator of volcanology and space science at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. The event - the eruption of a known magma body hiding about 12 miles beneath the topsoil between Socorro and Albuquerque - could happen tomorrow or 5,000 years from now. But people should know New Mexico is no stranger to volcanoes. In fact, the state is home to every type of volcano known in the world, Crumpler said. 'If you look at the statistics, just the number of eruptions, there's an eruption every 3,000 to 5,000 years,' Crumpler said. 'Since the last one was 3,000 years ago, well.' ..."


Posted April 7th, 2006

Texas Crude: The Pianka Affair...

Forrest Mims writes popular electronics books. He almost got a job with Scientific American, but they disagreed by a factor of a million or so over the age of the Earth - it didn't work out. Mims, a creationist, has been screaming lately about a horrible speech he attended at the Texas Academy of Science, given by one Professor Eric Pianka of the University of Texas at Austin. Here is ID theorist William Dembski's take on Mims' story: "Eric Pianka: The Department of Homeland Security needs to interview you. I blogged yesterday about UT Austin professor Eric Pianka (aka Dr. Doom) and his advocacy of killing 90% of the world's human population with airborne Ebola. Could Pianka be charged with terrorism/conspiracy to commit a terrorist act? What happens if a student actually takes his suggestion to heart and kills a bunch of people? Why shouldn't we think that Dr. Doom himself would commit the act of human destruction he is advocating? How is what he is saying any different from some body at an airport saying that he plans to plant a bomb there? ..."


The controversy stems from the fact that several other people attended, but they didn't hear the same talk as Mims did. They were at the same event, but heard a quite different speech. While Pianka expressed concern of the possible effects of viral outbreaks in populated areas, he did not advocate acts bioterrorism, as has been charged.


Meeting Doctor Doom by Forrest M. Mims III

Texas Academy of Science statement on Pianka

Wingnuts in full, abject retreat on Pianka

The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise and Misrepresentation of Pianka.

The newspaper that originally reported Mims' shrill accusations, The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise, has mysteriously pulled almost all references to articles on Pianka from their website. A few vestiges remain, and more can be obtained via Internet Caches. Read “Harry Potter and the Seguin Gazette’s Cheshire Cat” by Dave Thomas,

New Fish with Legs - It's Tiktaastic!...

On April 6, 2006, The Natural History Museum, London reported that "The discovery of a fossilized crocodile-like creature gives us one of the missing links between fish and land-living animals. The Tiktaalik roseae fossil is a missing link between fish and land animals. The new species, Tiktaalik roseae, has features found in fish, such as fins and gills, and also features that are only found in land-living animals, such as a wrist, elbow and neck. The crocodile-like creature probably lived in shallow water but had limb-like lobe-fins that enabled it to carry itself up onto land. 'This is the fossil of the year and a most significant addition to our knowledge,' said Natural History Museum palaeontologist Dr. Andrew Milner. ... The missing link: Fossils of creatures with both fish and land-living features have been found before. But there has been a gap of 20 million years between the last fish specimen showing early land-living features and the earliest known tetrapod, (four-limbed animal). Dr. Milner explains, 'Tiktaalik sits between Devonian fish such as Panderichthys, which have just a few tetrapod-like features, and early tetrapods like Acanthostega that retain a few residual fishy characteristics.' ..."


Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates reacted immediately. The Discovery Institute's Robert Crowther declared on April 6 that "'This latest fossil find poses no threat to intelligent design.' So says Discovery Institute senior fellow and leading intelligent design theorist Dr. William Dembski, adding: 'Intelligent design does not so much challenge whether evolution occurred but how it occurred. In particular, it questions whether purposeless material processes--as opposed to intelligence--can create biological complexity and diversity.' ... These fish are not intermediates, explain Discovery Institute scientists I queried about the find. Tiktaalik roseae is one of a set of lobe-finned fishes that include very curious mosaics--these fishes have advanced characteristics of several different groups. They are not intermediates in the sense that they are half-fish/half-tetrapod. Rather, they have some tetrapod-like features. ... There's a problem with the Darwinist position that runs even deeper than this, however: If Darwinian evolution is an undisputed fact, as its chief defenders routinely claim, why is this fossil find being billed as such an crucial piece of evidence? ..."


Crowther has updated his post, deleting the amusing comment "If Darwinian evolution is an undisputed fact, as its chief defenders routinely claim, why is this fossil find being billed as such an crucial piece of evidence?" I suppose he realized that finding evidence supportive of a theory doesn't mean the theory is False.

Bad News for Hovind...

The Pensacola News Journal reports on April 7th that "It may have been built with heavenly intentions, but a judge has ruled that the creationism theme park known as Dinosaur Adventure Land still must obey earthly laws. Escambia County authorities this week locked up a museum building at the theme park on North Palafox Street in Pensacola after Circuit Judge Michael Allen ruled the owners were in contempt of court. Owners of the park, which shows how dinosaurs may have roamed the Earth just a few thousand years ago, did not obtain a building permit before constructing the building in 2002. They have argued in and out of court that it violates their 'deeply held' religious beliefs, and that the church-run facility does not have to obtain permits. After almost four years of litigation, the judge disagreed and said the county has the authority to close the building until the owners comply with regulations. ...Church leader Kent Hovind vowed to appeal the case. ..."


And even TABLOID REPORTERS are beginning to see through Uri Geller...

The Sun (UK) reports that "PSYCHIC Uri Geller was last night accused of putting a curse on sporting heroes — when he wills them to WIN. Sports fan John Atkinson made the charge after he studied the spoon-bender’s predictions and his 'positive energy urges.' John found Uri more often than not scuppered the chances of sportsmen and teams he was trying to help. ..."


Alabama Pi in the News...

No, the Alabama legislature did not pass a law making pi equal to its proper Biblical value of 3.0. NMSR's 1998 April Fool's Prank went wordwide, and is now regarded as one of the classic Internet pranks.

Mentions this last week include:

Today’s Editorial March 31: A day for hoaxes

Fools' paradise: Some of the greatest April pranks in history
"...Through the magic of the Internet, the piece flew around the globe, turning up in such exotic locals as a German chat room dedicated to singer Tori Amos. Thomas, who works for a company that makes test equipment for things like auto parts, tracked the flight on his computer. "It was," he said, "like being in the control room watching the virus spread in `24'...,"

Sepessy: A belated, but never old April Fools' story

And the Story that started it All:

Posted March 31st, 2006

Prayer Study: Does It Matter Which God Is Beseeched?

Malcolm Ritter of the Associated Press reported on March 31st "Does praying for a sick person’s recovery do any good? In the largest scientific test of its kind, heart surgery patients showed no benefit when strangers prayed for their recovery. And, surprisingly, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications. The researchers could only guess why. ... The researchers said they didn’t know why patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of complications than patients who only knew that such prayers were a possibility. They stressed that family and friends shouldn’t be discouraged from telling a patient about their plans to pray for a good recovery. ... William Harris, lead researcher on a prayer study done at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City in the late 1990s, said that he found several troubling things about this new study. Telling some people they were going to be prayed for was unusual and disconcerting, he said, and may have affected the way patients responded because they may have been more worried about their conditions, knowing they were prayer subjects. He also said it was significant that different religious groups — two Catholic and one with Lee’s Summit-based Unity — did the praying. They have quite different theologies, and it is not clear what effect that might have had, he said. ..."


Some of you may recognize the name "William Harris."  Seems he was one of the Intelligent Design Network folks running last year's Kansas Show Trial. The BBC reported on May 6, 2005 that "Schools were teaching that life evolved naturally and randomly, in conflict with Biblical teachings on the creation of life, said William Harris of the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network. 'Part of our overall goal is to remove the bias against religion that is currently in schools,' said Mr Harris, who works as a medical researcher. ..."


Summary: a well-known creationist explains why the Prayer Study went South, They were praying to the wrong God!

Aztec UFO-Fest...

Rhys Saunders of the Daily Times (Farmington, NM) writes on March 26th about the 9th Annual Aztec Symposium, held on Saturday, March 25th. "The event provided lectures, a star gaze and tours of the alleged 1948 UFO crash sight, located almost 12 miles outside Aztec in Hart Canyon. Scott Ramsey, one of the events' lecturers, has spent the past 19 years studying and researching the alleged Aztec crash, he said. Ramsey said that according to Frank Scully, author of 'Behind the Flying Saucers,' a disc 100 feet in diameter was recovered in 1948 outside Aztec. That disc was reportedly the largest craft found at that time by the United States government. ...Debby Balthaser, wife of speaker Dennis Balthaser, said she enjoys coming back to the symposium each year because area residents are accommodating and welcoming. 'They don't look down on you because you're a part of the UFO community,' she said. ..."


The Rest of the Story:

Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Book...

USA Today reported on the release of Bobby Henderson's new book, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Dan Vergano of USA TODAYwrites "But not everyone finds the FSM so amusing. 'It’s too bad that they’ll get attention for this sort of drivel when we have a robust scientific research program that the media doesn’t seem to want to write much about,' Discovery Institute spokesman Robert Crowther said in an e-mail interview. The Seattle-based institute is the leading think tank for intelligent-design advocates. ..."


I wrote about it at the Panda's Thumb. "I’m puzzled. It seems the main output of Discovery’s “robust scientific research program” has been books like Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box,” or Phillip Johnson’s “Darwin on Trial.” So, by publishing a book about His Noodly Appendage, isn’t Henderson performing research as robust as that of the Discovery Institute?"


Super (Man) Science...

The LA Times reports on March 25th "Could an overdose of gamma rays really transform someone into the Incredible Hulk? Was Superman defying Einstein's theory of relativity when he flew faster than the speed of light? While other UC Irvine science classes dissect sharks or explore plasma physics, Professor Michael Dennin's seminar analyzes comic book superpowers. In recent weeks, students in his Science of Superheroes course have investigated Batman's utility belt, pondered gravity on the planet Krypton and designed their own superpower concepts that would use existing or envisioned technology. ..."


RR Board to Reconsider Intelligent Design...

The Albuquerque Tribune reported on March 28th that "The controversial evolution education issue known as "intelligent design," which critics contend opens the door for religion in the classroom, is expected to be revisited by the Rio Rancho Board of Education next month. Board member Marty Scharfglass said the board promised science teachers it would revisit the science education policy it approved in August. The policy allows intelligent design to be discussed. The issue is expected to be discussed at the April 10 meeting, he said. The meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. in the district's boardroom, 500 Laser Road N.E., according to the district's Web site. ..."


Posted March 24th, 2006

Rio Rancho School Board may Reconsider Science Policy 401...

Gary Herron of the Rio Rancho Observer reports on March 20th that "Rio Rancho Public Schools' controversial Science Policy 401, which was approved by the school board in August, will come before the board again at its next meeting, slated for 6 p.m. on April 10. Superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland said after Thursday's board meeting that the board had promised to revisit the policy, which many say pushes the teaching of Creationism or Intelligent Design, in the spring. It is possible the board will overturn the policy at that meeting. ..."


NMSR Advisor Geissman elected a Jolly Good Fellow (of the AGU)...

UNM announced on March 15th that "University of New Mexico Earth and Planetary Sciences Professor John W. Geissman was one of 45 new Fellows elected recently to the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Fellows of AGU are members who have attained acknowledged eminence in the Earth and space sciences. Geissman, along with the other elected Fellows, will be recognized in Baltimore, Md. in May as part of the 2006 Joint Assembly. ..."


Hat tip to John Fleck

Creation/Evolution - WHO is for Censorship, Really?...

In the March 23rd Arkansas Times, Jason R. Wiles writes on the anti-evolution culture of Arkansas public schools. Writing of a disgruntled science teacher, Bob, Wiles says"... Teachers at his facility are forbidden to use the 'e-word' (evolution) with the kids. They are permitted to use the word 'adaptation' but only to refer to a current characteristic of an organism, not as a product of evolutionary change via natural selection. They cannot even use the term 'natural selection.' Bob feared that not being able to use evolutionary terms and ideas to answer his students’ questions would lead to reinforcement of their misconceptions. But Bob’s personal issue was more specific, and the prohibition more insidious. In his words, 'I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD ... but I am NOT to say that these rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old.' ..."


Creationists say they just want "all sides taught, it's only fair," but what they really want is complete censorship of science and biology, which they find personally threatening to their sectarian views.

Read the article. Then go teach a kid some science, before it's against the law.

Prayer Studies Looming...

Rob Stein of the Washington Post writes on March 25th that "Two new studies are about to report no benefit of having people pray for the sick, the only study underway is nearing completion, and the largest, best-designed project is being published in two weeks. Its eagerly awaited findings could sound the death knell for the field, breathe new life into such efforts, or create new debate. 'I will guarantee you that study will have a very interesting impact on a lot of people's thinking,' said Mitchell W. Krucoff of Duke University, who wrote an editorial that will accompany the closely guarded findings in the American Heart Journal. ...The federal government has spent $2.2 million in the past five years on studies of distant healing, which have also drawn support from private foundations. ... But these and other studies have been called deeply flawed. They were, for example, analyzed in the most favorable way possible, looking at so many outcomes that the positive findings could easily have been the result of chance, critics say. 'It's called the sharpshooter's fallacy,' said Richard Sloan, a behavioral researcher at Columbia University. 'The sharpshooter empties the gun into the side of a barn and then draws the bull's-eye. In science, you have to predict in advance what effect you may have.' Other studies have been even more contentious, such as a 2001 project involving fertility patients that became mired in accusations of fraud. 'I would like to see us stop wasting precious research dollars putting religious practices to the test of science,' Sloan said. 'It's a waste of money, and it trivializes the religious experience.' ..."


Yet Another "Missing" Link from Afar Valley...

ABC News reported on March 24th that "A hominid skull discovered in Ethiopia could fill the gap in the search for the origins of the human race, a scientist said on Friday. The cranium, found near the city of Gawis, 500 km (300 miles) southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, is estimated to be 200,000 to 500,000 years old. The skull appeared 'to be intermediate between the earlier Homo erectus and the later Homo sapiens,' Sileshi Semaw, an Ethiopian research scientist at the Stone Age Institute at Indiana University, told a news conference in Addis Ababa. ..."


Cold Fusion at 17: Still No Dead Grad Students, but Follow the Money...

Elaine Jarvik of the Deseret Morning News (Utah) reports on March 24th that "He was ballyhooed and then discredited and then largely forgotten. But cold fusion pioneer Dr. Martin Fleischmann still holds the secret to a cheap energy source for the world, says a California company that plans to produce prototypes of a cold fusion-powered home heater, with Fleischmann as 'senior scientific adviser.' The announcement came on the 17th anniversary of the day that Fleischmann, then a chemistry professor at the University of Utah, and his colleague B. Stanley Pons stunned the scientific world with news that they had discovered a room-temperature way to create nuclear fusion. ...But when other scientists around the world had trouble replicating Fleischmann's and Pons' work, the method was dismissed as a pipe dream. Eventually, though, 'when truth and justice are done,' says David Kubiak, the University of Utah will bask in the glory of its association with cold fusion. Kubiak is communications director of D2Fusion of Foster City, Calif., and Los Alamos, N.M., which will be hosting Fleischmann and is setting up a lab using his 'recipe.'..."


Who is the New Mexico connection (at the Los Alamos branch office)? D2Fusion states that "...Operations are focused on the engineering and development of practical solid-state fusion thermal energy modules. The teams are lead by Dr. Thomas Claytor, at the Los Alamos facility, (also of Los Alamos National Laboratory) and Dr. Thomas Passell, at the Foster City facility, (formerly of the Nuclear Power Division of the Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto). ..."


Posted March 17th, 2006

Rio Rancho Update...

New Rio Rancho Mayor Kevin Jackson's organization, NMFC, has supported Intelligent Design in the past! A new graphic helps show who the players in the Rio Rancho creationism saga are, and how they are linked together. Plus, The Trib mentions analyses of the effect of Jackson's election.


Dover, the Movie...

Step aside, Spencer Tracy. Move over, Fredric March. They're making a new movie about the Dover PA Intelligent Design trial!


Posted March 10th, 2006

Longtime NMSR member Florence Wengerd dies...

The Journal reported that "Florence Mather Wengerd age 89, a resident of Albuquerque since 1947, died of natural causes February 23, 2006. A Memorial Service and celebration of her life will be held on Sunday, March 12, 2006, 2 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, where Florence was the longest living member, Lomas and Girard NE, Albuquerque, NM. Pastor Lee Albertson, officiating. Florence has donated her body to UNM Medical School for research. Interment will take place at a later date in Maple Grove Cemetery, Granville, OH. ..."


Florence Wengerd spoke to NMSR on June 9th, 1999, on the topic "Echoes of the Scopes Trial." Florence's father, Professor Kirtley Mather, was one of several scientists prepared to testify at the 1925 Scopes evolution trial in Dayton, Tennessee.


South Carolina School Board "Just Says No" to Intelligent Design...

Back on Feb. 12th, Bill Robinson of The State (SC) wrote "The state’s Education Oversight Committee recommended Monday that theories other than evolution — such as 'intelligent design' — should be taught in high school biology classes. The 10-2 vote, after months of wrangling, handed a victory to state Sen. Mike Fair and his allies who have pushed education policymakers to include alternatives to evolution. ... Teachers, the EOC said, should instruct students to 'critically analyze' lessons presented about evolution. Most scientists and science educators say 'critically analyze' is surrogate language for instruction emphasizing 'intelligent design,' whose believers credit a larger intelligence — perhaps a divine hand — with influencing the diversity of life. Tenenbaum urged the EOC on Monday to reject the adopted recommendation crafted as a compromise by businessman Bob Staton of Lexington. '‘Critically analyze’ is not just wordsmithing,' Tenenbaum said. 'It carries with it a whole campaign against evolution.' ..."


On March 8th, however, The State reported that "The state Board of Education voted today to reject a challenge to how evolution is taught in South Carolina high schools. On an 11-6 vote, the state board upheld its previous evolution-only science curriculum for 10th grade biology. Last month, the state's Education Oversight Committee voted to add the phrase 'critically analyze' to the evolution guidelines. Educators say that change would open the door to other theories about the origin of man. The fear among educators is that the change would introduce religious themes to those discussion and undermine what has been regarded as among the nation's strongest science standards. ..."


Kevin Jackson elected Mayor of Rio Rancho...

Kevin Jackson was elected Mayor of Rio Rancho on March 7th, 2006 . The Albuquerque Tribune reported on March 10th that "The new mayor-elect of Rio Rancho says he'll have no problem separating his role as a public servant from the 'family values' advocacy group he founded and runs. Two local political analysts say it remains to be seen how Kevin Jackson will draw the line. 'I'm not a stranger to wearing different hats,' Jackson said Wednesday, the day after his victory over incumbent Jim Owen and City Councilor Michael Williams. ... Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, said he'll keep an eye on Jackson and his wife, Kathy Jackson, a Rio Rancho School Board member. Last year, the board made headlines when Kathy Jackson and two others voted to allow the discussion of alternative ideas - such as intelligent design - during the teaching of evolution. Kevin Jackson said he was never involved in that debate. During his campaign, Jackson said he wants to bring more high-tech jobs to the city. Thomas said it may be difficult to attract scientists who could fill those jobs if the city promotes intelligent design, a belief favored by many Christian groups who say Charles Darwin's theory of evolution can't explain the origins and complexities of life. 'It seems to be a weird position for Jackson to be in,' Thomas said. ..."


In 2002, the NMFC spent considerable funds getting copies of Michael Behe's "Darwin's Black Box" into the hands of science teachers across New Mexico.


Water Geysers on Saturn's Moon Enceladus...

National Geographic News reported on March 10th that "Once-wet Mars has long been the primary focus of the search for life on other planets. But Saturn's moon Enceladus could be an even more promising place to start the search for extraterrestrials. Startling new images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft indicate that Enceladus may contain pockets of liquid water below its icy crust. ... Launched in 1997, the Cassini orbiter has conducted numerous flybys of Saturn's frigid moons. When Cassini imaged Enceladus's south pole early last year, researchers noticed plumes of what appeared to be a steamlike substance spewing from the 300-mile-wide (480-kilometer-wide) moon's crust. At first Porco's team thought the billows might be water vapor rising from subsurface ice deposits. Then the scientists realized they were seeing something unprecedented: outer-space liquid-water geysers not unlike Yellowstone's Old Faithful. ..."


Thousands of Biologists Oppose Endangered Species Act Changes...

The Albuquerque Tribune/AP reported on March 10th that "As a Senate committee prepares to take up revisions to the Endangered Species Act, nearly 6,000 biologists from around the country have signed a letter urging senators to preserve scientific protections in the landmark law. The House passed an Endangered Species Act rewrite last year that horrified many scientists and environmentalists. One environmental lobbyist said the bill amounted to a 'death warrant for treasured American wildlife.' They are lobbying the Senate now, in hopes its Environment and Public Works Committee will take a more moderate stance. ..."


"Bubble Fusion" On the Ropes?

The Albuquerque Tribune/AP reported on March 10th that "Purdue University is investigating allegations a scientist thwarted his colleagues' efforts to test his claims of producing nuclear fusion in tabletop experiments, even going so far as to remove high-tech equipment from a shared lab. Several Purdue researchers said Rusi Taleyarkhan, a Purdue professor of nuclear engineering, has stymied their attempts to verify - or refute - aspects of his controversial 'bubble fusion' experiments since late 2003, when he joined Purdue's faculty. ... Seth Putterman, a professor of physics at the University of California at Los Angeles, who received a $350,000 grant from the Defense Department to try to reproduce Taleyarkhan's findings, said he has been unable to do so. He said Taleyarkhan's conclusions have caused people like himself to 'waste time' trying to reproduce his results. 'We're not disputing the line of research. We're disputing premature, incorrect claims of success,' he said. ..."


Posted March 3rd, 2006

Snakes Evolved from Lizards (to the Lizards' Eternal Regret) ...

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Feb. 16th that "The fossil bones of a giant snake that thrived in Australia some 30 million years ago have added a link to the story of reptile evolution, Australian scientists report. And with a touch of irony, it appears that the reptile's primitive tribe descended from early lizards, but its later descendants in the snake family ate lizards as a regular part of their diet. ..."


It just goes to show, kids today have no respect for their elders! (Unless they're tasty enough...)

Founder of "Creation Science" Movement Dies...

Baptist Press News reported on Feb. 27th that "Henry M. Morris, widely regarded as the founder of the modern creationist movement, died Feb. 25 at the age of 87. Morris’ 1961 book, 'The Genesis Flood,' subtitled, 'The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications,' was a cornerstone of the movement. ... In 1970, Morris founded the Institute for Creation Research, which continues to be a leading creationist force, now headed by his sons, John and Henry III. ..."


Is Global Warming Accelerating Evolution?

Discovery News reports on Feb. 22nd "Don't look now, but your backyard is evolving. It's no joke. There's a growing body of evidence that evolution is no longer something only seen either in this year's flu virus or Cretaceous tyrannosaur bones. It's happening everywhere, right now, and charging full-steam ahead. Research on toads, frogs, salamanders, fish, lizards, squirrels and plants are all showing evidence that some species are attempting to adapt to new conditions in a time frame of decades, not eons, say biologists. What's more, one of the biggest reasons for all this evolution right now may be that human-induced changes to climate and landscapes give species few other options. ..."


Are Viruses the Basis of Life on Earth?

The March 2006 issue of Discovery Magazine reports that "Now, with the recent discovery of a truly monstrous virus, scientists are again casting about for how best to characterize these spectral life-forms. The new virus, officially known as Mimivirus (because it mimics a bacterium), is a creature 'so bizarre,' as The London Telegraph described it, 'and unlike anything else seen by scientists . . . that . . . it could qualify for a new domain in the tree of life.' ... 'This thing shows that some viruses are organisms that have an ancestor that was much more complex than they are now,' says Didier Raoult, one of the leaders of the research team at the Mediterranean University in Marseille, France, that identified the virus. 'We have a lot of evidence with Mimivirus that the virus phylum is at least as old as the other branches of life and that viruses were involved very early on in the evolutionary emergence of life.' That represents a radical change in thinking about life's origins: Viruses, long thought to be biology's hitchhikers, turn out to have been biology's formative force. ... In the discussions of intelligent design, one hears a yearning for an old-fashioned creation story, in which some singular, inchoate entity stepped in to give rise to complex life-forms—humans in particular. Now the viruses appear to present a creation story of their own: a stirring, topsy-turvy, and decidedly unintelligent design wherein life arose more by reckless accident than original intent, through an accumulation of genetic accounting errors committed by hordes of mindless, microscopic replication machines. Our descent from apes is the least of it. With the discovery of Mimi, scientists are close to ascribing to viruses the last role that anyone would have conceived for them: that of life's prime mover. ..."


Massive Flood Affected Climate ... 8,200 years ago ...

NASA reported on Feb. 28th that "Scientists from NASA and Columbia University, New York, have used computer modeling to successfully reproduce an abrupt climate change that took place 8,200 years ago. At that time, the beginning of the current warm period, climate changes were caused by a massive flood of freshwater into the North Atlantic Ocean. This work is the first to consistently recreate the event by computer modeling, and the first time that the model results have been confirmed by comparison to the climate record, which includes such things as ice core and tree ring data. ... The group used an atmosphere-ocean coupled climate computer model known as "GISS Model E-R" to simulate the climate impact of a massive freshwater flood into the North Atlantic that happened about 8,200 years ago after the end of the last Ice Age. Retreating glaciers opened a route for two ancient meltwater lakes, known as Agassiz and Ojibway, to suddenly and catastrophically drain from the middle of the North American continent. ... At approximately the same time, climate records show that the Earth experienced its last abrupt climate shift. Scientists believe that the massive freshwater pulse interfered with the ocean's overturning circulation, which distributes heat around the globe. According to the record of what are known as "climate proxies", average air temperatures apparently fell as much as several degrees in some areas of the Northern Hemisphere. ..."


Soft-tissue Dinosaur Remains Not as Rare as Once Thought...

National Geographic reports on Feb. 22nd that "Soft-tissue dinosaur remains, first reported last year in a discovery that shocked the paleontological community, may not be all that rare, experts say. A 2005 paper in the journal Science described what appeared to be flexible blood vessels, cells, and collagen-like bone matrix from fossils of a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex. Mary Schweitzer, the North Carolina State University paleontologist who announced the finding, said her team has now repeated that feat with more than a dozen other dinosaur specimens. To make sense of the surprising discovery, scientists are beginning to rethink a long-standing model of how the fossilization process works. ..."


Posted February 24th, 2006

AAAS comes out Swinging against "Intelligent Design," "Critical Analysis of Evolution"...

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, issued this statement on February 16, 2006 : "Evolution is one of the most robust and widely accepted principles of modern science. It is the foundation for research in a wide array of scientific fields and, accordingly, a core element in science education. The AAAS Board of Directors is deeply concerned, therefore, about legislation and policies recently introduced in a number of states and localities that would undermine the teaching of evolution and deprive students of the education they need to be informed and productive citizens in an increasingly technological, global community. Although their language and strategy differ, all of these proposals, if passed, would weaken science education. The AAAS Board of Directors strongly opposes these attacks on the integrity of science and science education. They threaten not just the teaching of evolution, but students’ understanding of the biological, physical, and geological sciences. Some bills seek to discredit evolution by emphasizing so-called 'flaws' in the theory of evolution or 'disagreements' within the scientific community. Others insist that teachers have absolute freedom within their classrooms and cannot be disciplined for teaching non-scientific 'alternatives' to evolution. A number of bills require that students be taught to 'critically analyze' evolution or to understand 'the controversy.' But there is no significant controversy within the scientific community about the validity of the theory of evolution. The current controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution is not a scientific one. ..."


Hey, "Vision America" - Didn't you get the Discovery Institute's Memo???

Vision America, whose mission is to "inform, encourage and mobilize pastors and their congregations to be proactive in restoring Judeo-Christian values to the moral and civic framework in their communities, states, and our nation," is asking people to help get five "activist judges" impeached. One of the five is "Judge John E. Jones III, U.S. District of Pennsylvania, [who] Ruled that presenting schoolchildren with creationism alongside evolution violated the First Amendment. ..."

Um, fellows, did you miss the memo that said "Intelligent Design" is NOT creationism?


Cop pleads Guilty to aiding Psychic Scam Artist, and Lying to New Mexico Courts...

The The Law News Network reports on Feb. 17th that "...defendants, Jack M. Makler, 64, of Boynton Beach, Florida and Linda Marks, 57, of Delray Beach pled guilty to fraud and corruption charges in United States District Court in Miami, Florida. During the plea hearing, Marks, a self-proclaimed psychic and fortune teller, agreed that she was responsible for bilking over two (2) million dollars from numerous elderly and otherwise vulnerable victims from 1994 through 2002. Makler, in turn, admitted that he used his official position to improperly keep Marks out of jail and from violating probation. Makler also admitted that he lied to state criminal courts in New Mexico and Key West, Florida, to help Marks and her husband, Jimmy Marks, avoid severe criminal penalties. ...At sentencing , Makler faces up to five (5) years’ imprisonment and Marks faces up to fifteen (15) years’ imprisonment. ..."


Hinton on Gammill...

NMSR has been arguing with Intelligent Design creationist Paul Gammill for a decade. Albuquerque blogger Mark Justice Hinton jumped into the fray last year, after another of Gammill's letters was published in the Albuquerque Journal. In response to Gammill's letter last September, Hinton wrote on September 7th "Because we haven’t explained it, we can’t ever? Thank god that perspective didn’t take hold before the Enlightenment (though the same people tried their darndest to hang onto the Dark Ages). Genetic code is a language? So, is the author crediting god with all language, too? Or, as the creators of language, can we also create life? NO exceptions or no known exceptions? ID proponents seem very quick to embrace endless ignorance. Gammill seems to confuse the way he views the world with the way the world is. Common mistake among the arrogant. ..."

Nice to see other folks are getting it!


Glucosamine/chondroitin for Arthritis? "Ineffective," says new NIH Study...

In his "What's New" column for Feb. 24th, Bob Park writes "Last week, saw palmetto, used by 2.5 million American men to treat prostate problems, was found to be ineffective. This week, the New England Journal of Medicine published the eagerly-awaited results of a trial of glucosamine/chondroitin, used by about 5.2 million Americans for arthritis pain at a cost of $30 to $50 a month. In 2004 alone, sales were $730M. The NIH sponsored study cost taxpayers $12.5M. Glucosamine/chondroitin, like saw palmetto, was found to be ineffective. Both are marketed under the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA), which allows natural supplements to be sold without proof of safety or efficacy. After Stephen Strauss became director, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at NIH began in-depth studies of the most popular supplements. It takes time, and it's expensive, but let's look at the score: echinacea doesn't ward off colds or flu, St. Johns Wort doesn't relieve depression, ginko biloba doesn't improve memory, ephedra aids athletic performance but kills people, and is the only supplement to be banned. ..."



A new Column on The Lie: "New Mexico's Science Standards embrace the Intelligent Design Movement's 'Teach the Controversy' Approach." Which reporters have bought into the Discovery Institute's lies about New Mexico?  Names are named!

Posted February 17th, 2006

A Win in Ohio...

Richard B. Hoppe (of the Panda's Thumb) reports this week that "Ohio is no longer on the Disco Institute’s list of favorite states for pilgrimages. Late this afternoon, by an 11-4 vote, the Ohio State Board of Education stripped out the intelligent-design creationist “critical analysis of evolution” benchmark, indicator, and lesson plan from the 10th Grade Biology curriculum. ..."

Source: (text of amendments, MP3 of debate)

Nobel Laureate: “Intelligent Design” is An Attack on All of Science...

Herbert Kroemer, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2000, was quite moved when he read physicist Marshall Berman’s essay “Intelligent Design: The New Creationism Threatens All of Science and Society” on the Back Page of the American Physical Society’s October 2005 issue of APS News.

He was so moved, he decided to “get engaged” with the issue, and sent a Letter to the Editor of the local Santa Barbara newspaper. This letter was printed, not as a simple Letter to the Editor, but rather as a Sunday guest commentary, in January 2006.

How did the ID crowd react? "DaveScot," the sycophant left running William Dembski's blog for the most part (and not yet a Nobel winner himself, as far as I know) described it this way: "If there’s a Nobel Prize for alarmist nincompoopery physicist Herbert Kroemer deserves it. Over on Panda’s Thumb they’re trumpeting this article with its extraordinarily hyperbolic opening claim by Kroemer: 'The Theory of Intelligent Design, and other attacks on the science of biological evolution, are not merely attacks on the concept of evolution, but attacks on science itself — all of science.' ..."


In Kansas, Teachers Stand Up to Creationist-Leaning Board of Education...

The Lawrence, KS Journal-World reports on Feb. 14th that "Kansas science teachers have struck a defiant stance against the science standards adopted by the State Board of Education. The Kansas Association of Teachers of Science believe the science standards violate the separation of religion and government by promoting the teaching in public school science classes of intelligent design, an idea that science shows the existence of a creator. 'By redefining science in the Kansas Science Education Standards, the KSBE is promoting intelligent design tenets that purport supernatural explanations as valid scientific theories,' the association said Monday. ..."


Humphreys presents "It's a Young World" talk at Sandia National Labs...

On Monday, February 13th, 2006, "creation physicist" Russel Humphreys gave a talk at Sandia National Labs. We've updated the "C-Files" page on Humphreys, which now includes a report from a disgruntled Sandian who attended the Feb. 13th talk, my comments on how Humphreys is STILL making the egregious mistakes that I corrected publicly around a decade ago, and resources regarding Humphreys newer claims involving helium in zircons and radiocarbon in diamonds.


Posted February 10th, 2006

"Free Electricity" On Tour Again...

Emily Heffter of the Seattle Times reports on Feb. 9th that "New Jersey businessman Dennis Lee says he can make your car run on pickle juice, Listerine, Coke — pretty much any liquid. He has a machine, he says, that can supply electricity to your home for free using magnets. His nontoxic Insect-a-shield bug repellent is drinkable, he claims. Attorneys general in at least nine states say Lee's claims are fraudulent. ... In their investigation in 2001, state attorneys determined that Lee's products — most notably the magnetic machine he says creates free electricity — can't possibly exist. 'It violates one of the basic laws of physics,' said Assistant Attorney General Jack Zurlini Jr. 'Bottom line was he was selling snake oil.' ... Attorneys general in Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, Tennessee, Maine and Kentucky have gone to court to keep Dennis Lee from selling his products in their states. ..."


Dennis Lee in New Mexico:

Randi Undergoes Bypass Surgery...

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) announced on February 9th that "James Randi underwent bypass surgery last Thursday. He is currently in stable condition. He is receiving excellent care, but will need quiet time to recover. We will release more information as it becomes available, and we ask everyone to please respect the family's wishes for privacy at this time. UPDATE: Thank you for the flood of good wishes flowing in for Randi’s speedy recovery. Randi is hanging in there, and while his recovery is very slow, it is proceeding well. We’re expecting a complete comeback, but it may take several months before he’s back to his usual self. In the meantime, look for some special guest commentators in the Swift commentary, and business as usual for the JREF. For those who feel a need to help, please consider donating blood at your local Red Cross or Community Blood Center. Cards may be sent to Randi in care of JREF, 201 SE 12 Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316."


Darwin was Right - AGAIN...

USA Today reported on Feb. 8th that "Critics of evolution cite scientific debates to undercut Darwin's credibility. That strategy fails when research clears up some of the issues. Results from two separate research projects announced this week make that point. They deal with Darwin's controversial suggestion that new species can arise within an ancestral population even when there is no way to separate the diverging groups geographically. There's plenty of evidence that new species arise when segments of a single population become geographically separated, as Darwin also theorized. His other suggestion has lacked such evidence. It has remained what Axel Meyer and his colleagues at the University of Konstanz in Germany call 'one of the most controversial concepts in evolutionary biology.' They present in the journal Nature what they consider "a convincing case" that Darwin was right...."


NASA PR Rep George Deutsch asked NASA Scientists to always refer to the Big Bang as 'Just a Theory' - then gets CANNED when caught lying about his Education...

John Fleck's blog notes on Feb. 5th "From Andrew Revkin’s story in yesterday’s Times: 'The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.” '..."


And on Feb. 7th, John observed that "George Deutsch, the 24-year-old J-school political appointee working in NASA public affairs whose 15 minutes of fame included trying to explain the Big Bang “theory” to the space agency, never graduated from Texas A&M, as his resume had claimed, according to Andrew Revkin. ..."


Tiny T-Rex Ancestor Found in China...

The AP/Trib reported on Feb. 9th that "Scientists say they've found the earliest known tyrannosaur, shedding light on the lineage that produced the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex. Digging in the badlands of northwestern China that appeared in the movie 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,' researchers found two skeletons of a creature that lived about 160 million years ago. That's more than 90 million years before T. rex came along. A two-legged meat-eater, the beast was far smaller than T. rex, measuring about 10 feet from its snout to the tip of its tail and standing about 3 feet tall at the hip. ..."


Quick Links ...

Discover Magazine has an online summary of the Dover decision, with highlights of "Judge E. Jones's clear-cut conclusions and ruling."

The Intelligent Designer Speaks: "excerpts from the first recorded interview with the Intelligent Designer." (Video)

ID, the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) - could this be a Parody?


Events this weekend include: 

Saturday, Feb. 11th, 2PM, Wyndham Hotel by the ABQ Airport, The URA Solution to the State of the Union -- Union
Keynote Speakers: Mikey Weinstein, Mary Oishi and Pedro Irigonegaray

Darwin Day 2006 - New Mexicans for Science & Reason (NMSR), along with the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math (CESE) and the New Mexico Academy of Science (NMAS) will hear Pedro Irigonegaray, Kansas attorney, on "Darwin Day 2006" The meeting is free, open to the public, and will be held at 2:00 PM on SUNDAY, February 12th, at the Anthropology Lecture Hall, Room 163. Pedro Irigonegaray single-handedly exposed the 2005 Kansas Kangaroo Court (an anti-evolution show trial) as the sham it was. Hear him explain how.

2nd Annual New Mexico Tech Darwin Day, Monday, Feb. 13, 2-5 pm , Workman Center 101, with Dr. Rebecca Reiss: Introductory comments and Henning's line of Death: Micro vs Macro Evolution, Dr. David Johnson: The Year in Review: Challenges to Evolution, Dr. Scott Shors: Mutation: Mostly Bad, Sometimes Good; Always the Raw Material for Evolution, Dr. Thomas Kieft, Biology, Evolutionary Implications of the Small Subunit RNA - Derived Tree-of-Life, and World-renowned primatologist D. Mann.
Information: Dr. Rebecca Reiss <>

Posted February 4th, 2006

Why "Critical Analysis of Evolution" Isn't Kosher...

Kansas physicist Lawrence Krauss discusses Ohio's ongoing battles with the new Intelligent Design buzzword, "Critical Analysis of Evolution." Krauss writes on Jan. 30th that "A well-organized effort by these groups resulted in a phrase added to the biology standards directing that students learn 'how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.' Although this phrase seems innocuous, the fact that it appears associated only with evolutionary theory and not with other scientific theories, all of which scientists 'continue to investigate and critically analyze,' could lead to an impression that evolutionary theory is somehow suspect. These fears were confirmed when a year later the state board’s Curriculum Committee passed a lesson plan titled, 'A Critical Analysis of Evolution,' which largely repeated discredited intelligent-design rhetoric and which was roundly condemned by the scientific community. ..."


Intelligent Design belittles God, says Vatican director...

Catholic Online reported on Jan. 30th that "Intelligent Design reduces and belittles God’s power and might, according to the director of the Vatican Observatory. Science is and should be seen as 'completely neutral' on the issue of the theistic or atheistic implications of scientific results, says Father George V. Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory, while noting that 'science and religion are totally separate pursuits.' .."


Mud+2 Mosquitoes = Humans? Why Governors Should Know Of What They Speak ...

Over on Science Blogs, John Lynch of Stranger Fruit notes on Jan. 29th that "South Carolina is currently undergoing a dalliance with ID. WIS10, a TV station in Columbia, ran an interview with the SC Governor, Mark Sanford. Here is a choice portion wherein Sanford demonstrates that science classes were wasted on him: '... that there are real 'chinks' in the armor of evolution being the only way we came about. The idea of their being a, you know, a little mud hole and two mosquitoes get together and the next thing you know you have a human being is completely at odds with, you know, one of the laws of thermodynamics which is the law of, of.. in essence, destruction. Whether you think about your bedroom and how messy it gets over time or you think about the decay in the building itself over time. Things don't naturally order themselves towards progression. Uuummm.. in the natural order of things. So, it's in fact, it's against fairly basic laws of physics... and so I would not have a problem in teaching both. Uh, you saying this is one theory and this is another theory.' ..."


The Wedge: Who Were the Whistleblowers?

The Seattle Weekly carries this Feb. 1st expose of the deep, dark days attending the formation of the now-infamous "Intelligent Design" Think Tank, the Discovery Institute. Names are named. It's riveting reading! And, who says that ID people don't have a sense of irony? They DO call Discovery a "Think Tank," right?


Posted January 27th, 2006

The “Ostrich Dinosaur Body Plan” has Evolved … Twice!...

On January 25th, the National Geographic reported that "After languishing for decades in the bowels of a New York museum, a dinosaur- era crocodile relative is seeing the light—and shedding secrets. New studies of the forgotten fossil reveal that the species walked on two feet and looked much like a so-called ostrich dinosaur, though the two are barely related, paleontologists report. The specimen, Effigia okeeffeae, languished at the American Museum of Natural History for almost 60 years since its discovery at the Ghost Ranch quarry in New Mexico, near the digs of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, after whom the creature is named. ..."


Panda's Thumb Blog Entry:

Study tightens human-chimp connection...

Science Daily reports on Jan. 23rd that "A Georgia Tech genetic study suggests humans and chimps may be more closely related to each other than chimps are to gorillas or orangutans. The researchers also found humans evolved at a slower rate than apes. Biologist Soojin Yi and colleagues found the rate of human and chimp molecular evolution -- changes occurring over time at the genetic level -- is much slower than that of gorillas and orangutans, with the evolution of humans being the slowest of all. ...'For the first time, we've shown that the difference in the rate of molecular evolution between humans and chimpanzees is very small, but significant, suggesting that the evolution of human-specific life history traits is very recent,' said Yi. The research appears in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ..."


NM's Keller Speaks in South Carolina...

As mentioned last week, IDnet-NM's own Rebecca Keller spoke up for Intelligent Design at hearings in South Carolina on Jan. 23rd. The hearings were instigated by Sen. Mike Fair, whom Agape says is a creationist: "It was for that purpose that Fair, a creationist, introduced a bill in the South Carolina legislature last summer requiring state schools to expose students to the "full ranger of scientific views that exist" on biological evolution. Nevertheless, the conservative lawmaker has found many proponents of Darwinian evolution uncomfortable with and resistant to the introduction of competing theories. ..."


Agape also reported that "Fair believes what students learn in public school science classes should not undermine what they are taught at home or at church. 'Many of us -- most of us, I hope -- come from homes where children are taught by their parents that there's a reason behind it all,' Fair says. 'The biblical worldview, the one that I embrace, is that our Creator God spoke things into existence, and that same creator God demonstrated His love for me by sending His only son, Jesus, to die on the cross. And what a wonderful message that is.' ..."


But don't stop there! The Charleston SC Post and Courier reported on Jan. 24th that "state Rep. Robert Walker left no doubt about his position on the adoption of new state biology teaching standards on the subject of evolution. 'Back when the Constitution was established, the Bible was our textbook,' the Landrum Republican said. 'Somehow the Bible has become a point where it's no longer any good, and that concerns me - it tears my heart apart.' ..."


Oh, and the ID folks are still saying ID is science, not religion. Yeah, right.

Here's a review of Keller's Home-School Course in Biology: ( "We stumbled on this curriculum at a homeschool convention and e-mailed Gena, begging to review it! ... Most importantly, the materials utilize an Intelligent Design perspective so there are no evolutionary assumptions to wade through. There are three subjects available: chemistry, biology, and physics. Each subject has two levels, although the Level II materials are not released yet. ... Biology also includes 10 chapters. Beginning with Living Creatures and carrying on through cells, classification, and photosynthesis, this course is packed with information. There is no reference to evolution or creation. The text really sticks to what has been discovered and proven true scientifically. I highly appreciate the fact that there is no conjecture or supposition of fact. Real science is just what it claims to be - real science written for real kids. And parents too, I might add. I learned a thing or two in the early lessons. ..."


Posted January 20th, 2006

Whales with Legs?

Neat site, with lots of digital photographs of pelvic bones of several different species of whales, dolphins and porpoise.


Paleocene Dinosaurs?

John Fleck writes in the Jan. 13th Albuquerque Journal "...there it is, on a shelf in the collections room at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science— the gigantic leg bone of a dinosaur. In rock that some scientists think is Paleocene. It is, museum paleontologist Spencer Lucas acknowledges, a bit of a puzzle. ... In a talk Wednesday night in Albuquerque at the monthly meeting of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, Lucas said he thinks the most likely explanation is that some of the dinosaurs they're finding died long before, and their fossils later washed into rocks being formed in the Paleocene as a new river was remaking the local landscape. ..."

Source: (Subscription)

Dave Thomas gets own "Face" Card, but it's the Eight of Clubs...

I don't know whether I should be flattered or insulted. See for yourself!


No ID "Philosophy" Course in El Tejon...

The Wqashington Post reports on Jan. 17 that "A rural school district Tuesday canceled an elective philosophy course on 'intelligent design.' A group of parents had sued the El Tejon [CA] school system last week, accusing it of violating the constitutional separation of church and state with 'Philosophy of Design,' a high school course taught by a minister's wife that advanced the notion that life is so complex it must have been created by some kind of higher intelligence. In a settlement, the district agreed to halt the course at Frazier Mountain High next week and said it would never again offer a 'course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science or intelligent design.' ... Sharon Lemburg, a social studies teacher and soccer coach who taught 'Philosophy of Design,' defended the course in a letter to the weekly Mountain Enterprise. 'I believe this is the class that the Lord wanted me to teach,' she wrote. ..."


Vatican: "Intelligent Design" is not science...

ABC News reported on Jan. 18th that "The Vatican newspaper has published an article saying 'intelligent design' is not science and that teaching it alongside evolutionary theory in school classrooms only creates confusion. The article in Tuesday's editions of L'Osservatore Romano was the latest in a series of interventions by Vatican officials including the pope on the issue that has dominated headlines in the United States. The author, Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, laid out the scientific rationale for Darwin's theory of evolution, saying that in the scientific world, biological evolution 'represents the interpretative key of the history of life on Earth.' He lamented that certain American 'creationists' had brought the debate back to the 'dogmatic' 1800s, and said their arguments weren't science but ideology. ..."


NM's Keller "advising" South Carolina on Origins Standards...

The State (SC) reported on Jan. 20th that "A pair of scientists with experience in challenging the teaching of evolution will serve as advisers during next week’s review of South Carolina’s curriculum guidelines for teaching the origins of life. The S.C. Education Oversight Committee received commitments Thursday from Rebecca W. Keller, a former chemistry professor at the University of New Mexico, and Richard M. von Sternberg, a Smithsonian Institute researcher, to offer their views on biology lesson guidelines that emphasize the theory of evolution. Keller, who helped write her state’s public school science standards in 2003, and Sternberg will participate at the invitation of state Sen. Mike Fair. Fair has called on educators to be more flexible in teaching about life’s origins. Fair, R-Greenville, said Thursday he will pay the advisers’ expenses from his election campaign account. Fair initially shielded the scientists’ identities. Thursday, he declined to explain how he identified Keller and Sternberg as specialists in the field. ..."


And the Charlotte Observer noted on Jan. 20th that "A scientist who helped revise education standards for New Mexico will talk to the oversight group reviewing the way evolution is taught in S.C. schools. On Thursday, the S.C. Education Oversight Commission announced the names of two panelists for an EOC subcommittee meeting next week. One of them, Rebecca Keller, president of an educational science product company and a former chemistry research professor in Albuquerque, N.M., helped revise standards in her state three years ago. The other panelist named was Richard von Sternberg ... Keller said she was contacted about being a panelist by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based that tank that supports research developing intelligent design, the idea that an unspecified intelligent force is involved in the creation of complex life forms. Keller said that the changes made in New Mexico included revisions of wording like 'students will know' to 'students will critically analyze' or 'understand.' ... "


Do NM's standards really "challenge the teaching of evolution?" Sheesh! See for the sordid details.

More about Keller on Red State Rabble,

Media Starting to "Get It" re ID...

Scientists have long been aware of the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) and its "Bait and Switch" tactic. One the one hand, they portray themselves as humble people, who simply think that a "Designer" might have had some (any) effect on the Universe. On the other hand, IDM proponents portray anyone who opposes the doctrine of separate creation of species as Godless atheists. After the Dover decision, many in the media are finally getting it too. Larry Dale Keelin, columnist for the Lexington Herald-Reader (KY), writes on Jan. 15th "'What is wrong with teaching 'intelligent design' in our schools?' Gov. Ernie Fletcher asked in his State of the Commonwealth address Monday night. Nothing much, if you say it's possible an 'intelligent designer' was sufficiently brilliant, sufficiently powerful and sufficiently prescient to push the button and set in motion an evolutionary process that millions of years later brought us to where we are today. However, that's not the kind of 'intelligent design' Fletcher wants schools to teach Kentucky's youth. He wants 'intelligent design' offered as a fundamentalist alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, a theory that has withstood the tests of time and science for almost 150 years. Taught in this fashion, ID becomes an assault on science itself. Indeed, ID backers' intent is to change the rules that define real science to make them conform to fundamentalists' beliefs. ..."



Posted January 13th, 2006

Discovery Flip-Flops on "Intelligent Design" Philosophy Course...

On January 9th, Rob Crowther of the Discovery Institute declared, in a posting titled "Darwinists Want To Ban Intelligent Design From Not Just Science Classrooms, But All Classrooms", that "... Frazier Mountain High School outside of Bakersfield, CA has decided to offer an elective philosophy course about intelligent design. ... Darwinists have long argued that intelligent design should only be taught in social studies, history, or philosophy courses. But, now that some schools are doing exactly that they apparently think that the theory is too dangerous to be taugh in any classes. This is censorship, pure and simple. ..."


Then, in a Jan. 10th posting called "Dogmatic Darwinists Strike Again: Americans United for the Separation of Students and Science," Discovery's Casey Luskin proclaimed "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State today sued a school district in El Tejon, California, because they have a philosophy course entitled 'Philosophy of design.' ... This is a philosophy class where it's implicit that this material isn't being endorsed by the district as science. What objection could one possibly have to having students learn about material some people consider religious in a philosophy course? The answer is simple: Darwinists aren't interested in keeping non-evolutionary views just out of the science classroom, they want non-evolutionary views out of students minds completely. If anyone ever doubted the full measure of Darwinist dogmatism, this lawsuit should dispell those doubts. ..."


Finally, in a January 11th posting by Robert Crowther, "Intelligent Design Group Urges California High School to Change Course or Remove Intelligent Design," the Discovery Institute states "A leading intelligent design group today sent a letter to the El Tejon School District in California requesting that the district either change the course materials or change the name of the its 'Philosophy of design' elective philosophy class. Earlier this week the district’s Frazier Mountain High School was sued by Americans United for Separation of Church and State for offering a philosophy course that purportedly teaches about the theory of intelligent design. ..."


Ohio Battles On...

Richard Hoppe reported on Jan. 10th, on the Panda's Thumb, that "Late this afternoon (Jan 10) the Ohio State Board of Education, by a 8-9 vote, defeated a motion to delete the offending [anti-evolution] 'Critical Analysis' lesson plan from the model curriculum. Two members were absent. ..."


TEOTCAWKI - The End Of The Cambrian As We Know It ...

Professor Steve Steve, the resident panda of the Panda's Thumb blog, writes there on Jan. 9th on exciting new chordate fossils from the Ediacaran period, which preceded the Cambrian epoch. The professor says that "The main impact of this find is that the 'Cambrian Explosion' is dead."


Why is this relevant to the "Intelligent Design" controversy?  Let's backtrack to Jay Mathews' piece in the March 23, 2005 Washington Post, in which he writes "The intelligent-design folks say theirs is not a religious doctrine. They may be lying, and are just softening up the teaching of evolution for an eventual pro-Genesis assault. But they passed one of my tests. They answered Gould's favorite question: If you are real scientists, then what evidence would disprove your hypothesis? [Discovery Institute's associate director John] West indicated that any discovery of precursors of the animal body plans that appeared in the Cambrian period 500 million years ago would cast doubt on the thesis that those plans, in defiance of Darwin, evolved without a universal common ancestor. ..."


Will Discovery throw in the towel?  Not a chance! Expect to see the goalposts rolling soon...

Posted January 6th, 2006

More Dover Fallout...

After the Devastating Dover Decision, folks who formerly backed "ID" are finding the quickest exits. And now, the folks at World Net Daily are upset with radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, complaining on Christmas Eve that "On his national radio program yesterday, talk-show host Rush Limbaugh called efforts by intelligent design proponents 'disingenuous,' saying they should 'call it what it is' – belief 'in the biblical version of creation,' ..."


It’s (Really, Really) Over in Dover...

The final two nails in the coffin of “Intelligent Design” have been set up, and hammered in.

The new Dover board has scrapped the ID policy that started the whole flap, and the complete electoral defeat of pro- ID board members was finalized.


Calvert places Pedis in Oris regarding "Theistic Evolution"...

The Lawrence (KS) Journal-World reports on Jan. 4th that "John Calvert, director of the Intelligent Design Network, said Jones was misinformed and his ruling was absurd. Among the points Calvert took issue with was the conclusion that evolution does not conflict with or deny the existence of a divine creator. 'Evolution demolishes any rational basis for theistic belief,' Calvert said. ..."

So, you see, anyone who dares to think that God might not have decided to individually "poof" each species into existence must be an atheist! It's a Small God they worship over at Creationism Central...


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