New Mexicans for Science and Reason




Posted December 28th, 2007

Flying Spaghetti Monster Saves Florida?...

The Daily Kos reports on December 26th that "Efforts were afoot recently on the Polk County School Board (in the Tampa, FL area) to begin teaching the "concept" of intelligent design in science classes as an alternative to evolution, at a time when new state standards mentioning evolution by name for the first time are under consideration. It appeared that this bonehead move had the support of a majority of the school board, but that was before the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster arrived and shamed the school board into backing down. Jump down to read more about this somewhat merry holiday tale. ..."


Huckabee Resurrects Bumblebee Urban Legend...

The Guardian (UK) reports on December 6th that "Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas who mixes folksy charm with bedrock Christian conservative views, likens his rise to the aeronautics of the bumblebee. 'It's scientifically impossible for the bumblebee to fly,' he told a crowd in the small town of Newton. 'But the bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, flies anyway.' ..."


The original "Science says bumblebee flight is impossible" story is pretty hard to track down, but this Boeing scientist says it was due to one M. Sainte-Lague, a lab assistant to famous entomologist August Magnan, whose book starting this urban legend appeared in 1934:

John McMasters, Boeing, ~1999 Wrote:
A long time ago [1989] I wrote an article for the journal American Scientist entitled: 'The Flight of the Bumblebee and Related Myths of Entomological Engineering' (Am. Sci., Vol. 77, pp. 164-8). In this I gave what still appears to be a correct account of the 'Didn’t the aerodynamicist prove that the bumblebee can’t fly ? [sarcastic ha ha]' story. I too had tried to find the name of 'The aerodynamicist' who did this to us. After a long search I was told by a very reputable source that he thought that individual (who was badly misrepresented subsequently by the 'press') was the Swiss gas dynamicist Jacob Ackeret - a famous name in supersonic aerodynamics. It was about the right vintage, so I wrote that in my article without naming Ackeret explicitly. Follwoing publication, however, I got mail. Boy did I get mail - including half a dozen xerox copies of portions of the text of the book Le Vol Des Insects (Hermann and Cle, Paris, 1934) by the famous entomologist August Magnan. On page 8 of the introduction, one finds:

'Tout d'abord pouss'e par ce qui fait en aviation, j'ai applique' aux insectes les lois de la resistance del'air, et je suis arrive' avec M. SAINTE-LAGUE a cette conclusion que leur vol es impossible.'

Thus the culprit is finally named: Sainte-Lague, Magnan’s lab assistant who was apparently some sort of engineer. Steve Vogel has correctly added some of the rest of the story and there is more to come thanks to the miracles of high-speed photography and advances in computational physics. As an aside, anyone who hasn’t read Steve’s wonderful books should. They are classics - all of them. Share and enjoy.
John McMasters Technical fellow The Boeing company Seattle, Washington

There you have it - a one-decade-old summation of a two-decade-old correction of a seven-decade-old myth. Kinda reminds me of the Creationists!


NOVA's Judgment Day DVD is on sale at PBS....

To paraphrase Dr. Laura, "Do the Right Thing!" Log in and order a copy today!


New "Design of Life" book shows Dembski's Designs on Harvard Video ...

In November, ID stalwart William Dembski tried to wheedle his way out of being caught using a Harvard/XVIVO animation of the cell, without permission, in his talks. Along comes Tara of the Endogenous Retrovirus Blog (ERV) with news that Dembski's new ID book, "Design of Life," ALSO was written to make illegal use of the Harvard video. While the book was altered at the last minute to use Discovery Institute images from "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" in place of the Harvard cell images, ERV, Peter Irons, and Afarensis teamed up to show that Dembski HAD planned to use the Harvard material originally. The Smoking Gun: the footnote in "Design of Life" which is referenced in the callout for the "Unlocking" image STILL REFERS TO THE ORIGINAL HARVARD ANIMATION!

Can you say, "OOPS?"


Battle of the Opinion Pieces in West Side Journal...

On December 16, Media consultant Mark Mathis had an opinion piece in the West Side edition of the Albuquerque Journal titled "No, We Can't Even Discuss Design." This extended infomercial for the Mathis/Ben Stein movie "EXPELLED" declared that "Either you believe that life exists because of strictly material causes (Neo-Darwinism) or you believe the great complexity and diversity of life on earth is the work of a designer (Intelligent Design). There is no middle ground. Atheism, therefore (a religious position), is being taught in Rio Rancho and most schools around the nation." ...

Source: (subscription)

The following week (Dec. 23rd), several CESE/NMSR representatives responded, writing "Mathis uses the emotionally charged label of 'atheist' as a fear tactic, demonizing not only scientists, but anyone who accepts their findings. This is highly insulting to many religious people, including over 11,000 Christian clergy members who have joined the Clergy Letter Project to support evolution as a 'foundational scientific truth.' ... On Mathis' movie Web site, Intelligent Design proponents claim to be victims of a non-existent atheist science conspiracy. Moreover, they repeatedly claim that they want scientists and students to be free to "follow the evidence where it leads." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Intelligent Design proponents, like the Creationists they evolved from, want to deny any evidence that supports evolution. They deny that the recent discoveries of fossil fish with amphibian features or whales with clear remnants (i.e., legs) of their land-based ancestors have anything to say about evolution. Intelligent Design proponents even deny the evidence that shows humans and apes are related— evidence acquired by the same DNA techniques used to settle criminal or paternity cases!..."

Source: (subscription)

Posted December 21st, 2007

Will New Transitional Whale Fossil Topple Creationists?

Of course not - actual data and evidence has never bothered them before. But, as Carl Zimmer reports on Dec. 19th that "...I was pretty excited to read the newest paper from [Hans] Thewissen and his colleagues, published in tomorrow's issue of Nature. They've identified what they believe is the closest fossil relative of whales. It's a raccoon-sized beast named Indohyus that lived 48 million years ago in Kashmir. Analyzing the bones of Indohyus, the scientists discovered that it shares some--but not all--of the traits previously considered unique to cetaceans from Pakicetus to today's whales and dolphins. Even more intriguing is the evidence suggesting that Indohyus was fairly aquatic. The evidence comes from isotopes in the fossils, as well as from the structure of the bones. Living mammals that spend a lot of time underwater tend to have heavy bones that they use to keep them from floating up to the surface of the water. So does Indohyus. Its teeth appear adapted for eating vegetation. It might have eaten underwater, like muskrats do today, or on land, as hippos do. Its adaptations to water may have helped it find refuge from predators on land. If Thewissen's right, then a key step in the origin of whales was the transition from eating plants to eating meat. (Pakicetus and other early whales show signs of having been meat-eaters.) But that transition came after the ancestors of whales had already started to take the plunge. ..."


Discovery Institute Needs Cash to fight Dogmatic Darwinists...

At the Disinformation organ of the Discovery Institute, Evolution News & Views, Robert Crowther onDec. 19th writes "...As a regular Evolution News & Views visitor, you have been continually informed of the ways in which leading Darwinists have unleashed an unprecedented wave of persecution, propaganda, and paranoia in an effort to strangle an idea that they insist is already dead.... One of the myths promoted by the our critics is that we are somehow lavishly funded. Unlike Darwinists, however, we receive no tax dollars to support our research and education efforts on intelligent design. As a result, our budget is dwarfed many times over by our opponents. Just one small biology department at a mid-size college has an annual budget several times larger than the CSC's. Think about how many such departments there are, not to mention the huge biological science establishment at major research universities - most of which are dominated by very dogmatic, intolerant Darwinists. That's why we need your help. ..."

Could it be that one small biology department at a mid-size college does more science in one year than has been delivered by the Discovery Institute since its inception? Sounds reasonable to me!


To Heck with Darwinists, Answers in Genesis Wants Your $$$ to Fight Satan Hisself...

Meanwhile, Answers in Genesis is pleading for more money too. Rather than blaming "Darwinists," however, they go right to the Source: Satan himself. In the Year End Message, AiG (led by Ken Ham) says "As you know, Satan's opposition increases in proportion to our effectiveness for Christ—and, praise the Lord, we have had a very effective year in 2007.And we've been attacked from all sides: You'll remember when TV host Bill Maher staged a “covert raid” on the Creation Museum with the sole intent of mocking and degrading the authority of Scripture....Nothing could ever make me, or the dedicated staff here at AiG, abandon our quest to restore true Christian thinking to America (and the world!). But we're human, just like everybody else, and some days we feel the discouragement of being a lone voice in the wilderness. Those are the times when your steadfast partnership would be even more precious to us. As the year draws to a close, I'm asking you to pray diligently about how large a gift you can give to support AiG's year-end ministry and start 2008 strong. We need to raise $400,000 by December 31 to finish the year on-budget—armed to stand as effective witnesses for Christ against Satan's attacks while 2007 closes and a new year begins...."


ICR has Plan for Making Moolah Too...

But Wait -- there's more! Texas Citizens for Science reports on Dec. 20th that "...Texas Citizens for Science Investigation Reveals the Monetary Reasons of the Institute for Creation Research to Win Certification from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Texas Citizens for Science has written a Press Release that describes the major motivation for the rapid, incompetent, and--until now--stealthy process of the ICR site evaluation and certification approval by two committees of the THECB [Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board]. ICR is on-track to make millions of dollars by charging tuition from students from the U.S. and many foreign countries for its new on-line distance education Graduate School Creationism program. Upon completion of the on-line course of study and full payment of fees to the ICR, each student will be awarded a legal, authentic, and Texas-certified Masters Degree in Science Education. This pseudoscientific but money-making travesty depends on winning certification from the THECB, which until now has been progressing smoothly and quietly. ..."


Dover 2nd Anniversary, Gilbert and Sullivan Mocked (Mocked, I Say!)...

On Dec. 19th, Amadan posted "I Am the Very Model of a C-Design-Proponentsist" in honor of the 2nd Anniversary of the Dover Decision on ID::

"[Note: Malicious allegations have been made that this work somehow plagiarises something by W.S. Gilbert. Nothing could be further from the truth and I emphatically state that I have nothing to apologise for. And I'm really sorry...]

I am the very model of a c-design-proponentsist
The diametric opposite of all that is materialist
My engineering cert allows me call myself a scientist -
We won't discuss those classes in Biology I might have missed


Posted December 14th, 2007

Is Greenland Ice Melt Due In Part to Magma Hotspot?

MSNBC/LiveScience reports on Dec. 13, 2007 that " Global warming may not be the only thing melting Greenland. Scientists have found at least one natural magma hotspot under the Arctic island that could be pitching in. In recent years, Greenland’s ice has been melting more and flowing faster into the sea — a record amount of ice melted from the frozen mass this summer, according to recently released data — and Earth’s rising temperatures are suspected to be the main culprit. But clues to a new natural contribution to the melt arose when scientists discovered a thin spot in the Earth’s crust under the northeast corner of the Greenland Ice Sheet where heat from Earth’s insides could seep through, scientists will report here this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. 'The behavior of the great ice sheets is an important barometer of global climate change,' said lead scientist Ralph von Frese of Ohio State University. 'However, to effectively separate and quantify human impacts on climate change, we must understand the natural impacts too.'..."

Source: http://

Evolution: Is It Inevitable Change, Stasis, or Random Noise?

In a paper titled "The relative importance of directional change, random walks, and stasis in the evolution of fossil lineages," (November 14, 2007 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)), Gene Hunt of the Department of Paleobiology/Smithsonian Institution writes that ... "The nature of evolutionary changes recorded by the fossil record has long been controversial, with particular disagreement concerning the relative frequency of gradual change versus stasis within lineages. Here, I present a large-scale, statistical survey of evolutionary mode in fossil lineages. Over 250 sequences of evolving traits were fit by using maximum likelihood to three evolutionary models: directional change, random walk, and stasis. Evolution in these traits was rarely directional; in only 5% of fossil sequences was directional evolution the most strongly supported of the three modes of change. The remaining 95% of sequences were divided nearly equally between random walks and stasis.... ..."

Source: http://

But, Have Humans Stopped Evolving? No...

In a pre-published PNAS paper titled "Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution," (John Hawks, Eric T. Wang, Gregory Cochran, Henry C. Harpending, and Robert K. Moyzis), the authors argue that "Genomic surveys in humans identify a large amount of recent positive selection. Using the 3.9-million HapMap SNP dataset, we found that selection has accelerated greatly during the last 40,000 years. We tested the null hypothesis that the observed age distribution of recent positively selected linkage blocks is consistent with a constant rate of adaptive substitution during human evolution. ... Larger populations generate more new selected mutations, and we show the consistency of the observed data with the historical pattern of human population growth. We consider human demographic growth to be linked with past changes in human cultures and ecologies. Both processes have contributed to the extraordinarily rapid recent genetic evolution of our species. ... It is sometimes claimed that the pace of human evolution should have slowed as cultural adaptation supplanted genetic adaptation. The high empirical number of recent adaptive variants would seem sufficient to refute this claim. ..."

Author Cochran, of Albuquerque, has given several talks at NMSR on populations and evolution. We're hoping he'll speak about this topic also.

Source: http://

Texas Tempest Heating Up...

The NCSE reports on Dec. 14th on the continuing controversy stirred up by the forced dismissal of science education coordinator Christina Castillo Comer: "Over two weeks after it was first reported that Christine Comer was forced to resign from her post at the Texas Education Agency, apparently because she forwarded a brief e-mail announcing a lecture on "intelligent design" by Barbara Forrest, the state's newspapers continue to provide a steady stream of news and commentary. And groups with a stake in the integrity of science education in Texas continue to voice their concern. As the Austin American-Statesman (December 14, 2007) observed in its latest story, "The controversy over Comer’s departure put the agency’s scientific credibility at risk at a time when Texas is trying to attract star researchers and scientists for a growing biomedical and biotech industry, and just before the State Board of Education begins developing new science standards next month."..." ...

Among the recent developments: editorials stating grave concern over Comer's dismissal by the Austin American-Statesman, a statement by Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner Robert Scott ("Asked, 'Why shouldn't the agency advocate the science of evolution? Texas students are required to study it,' he replied, 'you can be in favor of a science without bashing people's faith, too. I don't know all the facts, but I think that may be the real issue here.'"), and statements of support for Comer from the Society for the Study of Evolution, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, and hordes of biologists from across Texas.

Source: http://

Speaking of Texas, does the ICR want an "MS in Creation Science Education"?

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is apparently seeking certification from the state of Texas to grant a Master of Science degree in science education from the new "Henry M. Morris Center for Christian Leadership", http://

From the meeting agenda for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Committee on Academic Excellence and Research (AER), for December 12, 2007 we find this: "INSTITUTE FOR CREATION RESEARCH, DALLAS RECOMMENDATION: Pending Certification Advisory Council recommendation Background Information: The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is a private, not-for-profit corporation, registered in the states of California and Texas for the purposes of research, writing, and education in both the standard curriculum of each scientific discipline and the Institute’s supplemental framework of scientific creationism and biblical authority in all disciplines. The ICR Graduate School program provides graduate-level training in science education through an online environment, with minors in the natural sciences that are particularly relevant to the study of origins. An on-site evaluation was conducted at ICR on November 8, 2007. The Board’s Certification Advisory Council will review the evaluation team’s report, and ICR’s response to the evaluation on December 14, 2007. The Commissioner will forward their recommendation to the Board with his endorsement or with his substitute recommendation. ..."

Source: http://

Posted December 7th, 2007

Rio Rancho Board Nixes "Science" Policy 401...

The Rio Rancho Observer reports on Dec. 6th that "Science Policy 401, which attracted some statewide and national attention for its permissiveness in teaching Creation and Intelligent Design in science and biology classes, along with evolution, was put to rest by the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education Monday evening. It is not expected to be resurrected, barring a shakeup of the board’s makeup. With a jam-packed boardroom, about to exceed fire marshal regulations until Superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland urged some attendees to sit in the hallways outside the room, 14 people spoke about the controversial policy during the public comment session. Final score: 11 for, three against rescinding the policy. The board had the final say, 3-2. ..." ..."


NMSR's Rio Rancho Updates Page:

Panda's Thumb Blog, "Game Over in Rio Rancho, NM: Science 1, Wedge 0" (by Marshall Berman, Kim Johnson & Dave Thomas):

Vatican Astronomer: Creationism is Superstition & Paganism...

Catholic World News reports on Dec. 6th that "A Jesuit astronomer from the Vatican Observatory has said that scientific creationism is a form of superstition. Speaking in Glasgow this week, Brother Guy Consolmagno said that scientists should protect against the tendency of religion to slide into superstition. In turn, he said, science needs religion 'in order to have a conscience.' In the case of creationism, he said, believers have constructed a theory that is not supported by scientific facts. 'Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality,' Brother Consolmagno said-- 'to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism.' ..."


Exquisitely Fossilized Hadrosaur Amazes...

Evan Ratliff of reports on Dec. 3rd that "Scientists on Monday announced the discovery of what appears to be the world's most intact dinosaur mummy: a 67-million-year-old plant-eater that contains fossilized bones and skin tissue, and possibly muscle and organs. Preserved by a natural fluke of time and chemistry, the four-ton mummified hadrosaur, a duck-billed herbivore common to North America, could reshape the understanding of dinosaurs and their habitat, its finders say. 'There is no doubt about it that this dinosaur is a very, very significant find,'' said Tyler Lyson, a graduate student in geology at Yale University who discovered the dinosaur in North Dakota. 'To say we are excited would be an understatement,'' said Phil Manning, a paleontologist at England's University of Manchester who is leading the examination. ..."


Posted November 30th, 2007

Is Space Alien Tourism Campaign a Monster?

Marks Evans reports for AP in the Albuquerque Journal that "New Mexico bills itself as The Land of Enchantment. But for weeks now, a contentious debate has raged among tourism officials here over a new state-financed advertising campaign aimed at attracting vacationers ... The ad makes no reference to New Mexico's most famous connection to aliens. In 1947, the U.S. military said a weather balloon crashed near Roswell in the desert, but legends persist that it was a UFO, and a small tourism industry has grown up in Roswell about the tale, complete with an annual festival and museums. At a recent meeting of the state's tourism commission, M&C Saatchi representatives were urged to "soften up" the aliens in the ad. ... Aliens are fine, he said, but do they need to be creatures 'that look like they're going to suck your brains out?''..."


Speaking of Aliens, How 'Bout that Tournament of Roses Parade Float?

Jim Belshaw discusses the largely negative reaction to cute Roswellian aliens adorning New Mexico's official Tournament of Roses Parade float entry in his Nov. 25th Albuquerque Journal column, observing that " Here are some float themes I found in past Tournament of Roses Parades.
In 2004, the La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association gave us three giant singing saguaro cactuses. They called it Cactus Practice.
In 2006, the City of Burbank won a trophy for Dumbo flying behind a line of circus elephants.
In 2004, CalPoly University had a giant octopus wrapped around a ship with giant seahorses on the stern.
In the same year, Farmers Insurance had an animated 75-foot long dragon flying over a castle. The theme was ... home insurance. Seriously.
Then there's the giant parrot riding a giant banana with the animated giant lobster representing the City of Alhambra.
The City of West Covina had three giant canaries in tuxes singing opera.
New Mexico will have space aliens.
I'm guessing that most people, maybe even all of them, will laugh and applaud when the space aliens of Roswell roll past them on New Year's Day. I'll bet everyone has a good time, having a good time being the point of parades as I understand them. I'll bet not one person thinks the state of New Mexico puts a lot of solemn stock in space aliens, other than to say, "Roswell has had a grand time with this space alien thing. So drop by and check it out, and while you're in New Mexico, you'll also find a splendid place with splendid people, none of whom has undergone embarrassing medical probes by space aliens.''


Has Climate Change Shaped the Human Genome?

In a Nov. 25th post at Inkstain, John Fleck notes that "Cleaning off my desk this evening, I found an interesting paper I’d printed and set aside to read weeks ago by Alison Smith in Holocene about the relationship between climate change and human evolution. Smith uses data from the human genome project on the timing of major bits of human evolution to argue that pressures from abrupt climate change during the last 10,000 years can be linked in time to major steps in human evolution: 'For example, 5000 to 6000 years ago, changes occurred in the human genome, including among others the development in some populations of lactose tolerance, the development of malarial resistance and an increase in brain size. These changes occurred in regionally distributed populations responding to some strong positive selection pressure. I suggest that the source of the selection pressure may have been the abrupt climate change documented as occurring at the close of the mid-Holocene hypsithermal climatic optimum), 5000–6000 years ago.' ..."


Science Director EXPELLED in Texas...

The New York Times/AP reports on Nov. 29th that " The state’s director of science curriculum said she resigned this month under pressure from officials who said she had given the appearance of criticizing the teaching of intelligent design. The Texas Education Agency put the director, Chris Comer, on 30 days’ paid administrative leave in late October, resulting in what Ms. Comer called a forced resignation. The move came shortly after she forwarded an e-mail message announcing a presentation by Barbara Forrest, an author of 'Creationism’s Trojan Horse.'' The book argues that creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design theory taught in public schools. Ms. Comer sent the message to several people and a few online communities. Ms. Comer, who held her position for nine years, said she believed evolution politics were behind her ousting. 'None of the other reasons they gave are, in and of themselves, firing offenses,'' she said. Education agency officials declined to comment Wednesday on the matter. But they explained their recommendation to fire Ms. Comer in documents obtained by The Austin American-Statesman through the Texas Public Information Act. 'Ms. Comer’s e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that T.E.A. endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral,' the officials said. " ...

So Texas wants to be "neutral" about teaching pseudoscience in the schools? This will get uglier before it gets prettier...



The Blogosphere heats up in reaction:

From the NCSE story: "Barbara Forrest herself was aghast at the news, telling NCSE, 'In my talk, I simply told the truth -- about the history of the 'intelligent design' movement, about the complete rejection of its claims by the scientific community, and about the Kitzmiller trial and my involvement in it. Maybe the TEA can't afford to take a position on what constitutes good science education -- maybe it must remain neutral on whether or not to lie to students about evolution -- but if so, that's just sad.' A professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of NCSE's board of directors, Forrest is the coauthor (with Paul R. Gross) of Creationism's Trojan Horse."

Posted November 23rd, 2007

sex, lies and a math mistake...

Last week's mention of how the Discovery Institute's rapid response to the PBS/NOVA show on the Dover ID trial was full of simple arithmetic errors and absolute mistruths has made it to the Panda's Thumb blog, where comments may be left. It's titled "sex, lies and a math mistake." A snippet: "First, the sex. I'll admit right up front that this post has nothing to do with sex, except for the general nature of what the ID movement is trying to do to public science education in this country. Before discussing lies, let's take care of the math mistake. ..."


Doc Who Helped Start Stem Cell 'Culture War' May End It...

Gina Kolata of the NY Times reports on Nov. 22nd that "If the stem cell wars are indeed nearly over, no one will savor the peace more than James A. Thomson. Dr. Thomson’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin was one of two that in 1998 plucked stem cells from human embryos for the first time, destroying the embryos in the process and touching off a divisive national debate. And on Tuesday, his laboratory was one of two that reported a new way to turn ordinary human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without ever using a human embryo. ..."" "


Biggest. Arthropod. Ever.

Various news outlets, including the Canadian Broadcast Company, reported on Nov. 20th that "A giant fossilized claw discovered in Germany belonged to an ancient sea scorpion that was much bigger than the average man, an international team of geologists and archaeologists reported Tuesday. The 46-centimetre-long claw was discovered by report co-author Markus Poschmann, from Germany, in a quarry near Pruem, a city about 200 kilometres east of Frankfurt. ... In a report in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters, the team said the claw indicates that sea scorpion Jaekelopterus rhenania was almost 2.5 metres long, making it the largest arthropod — an animal with a segmented body, jointed limbs and a hard exoskeleton — ever found. In the report, the authors said the scorpion exceeds previous size records for arthropods by almost half a metre. The fossil, found in a 390-million-year-old rock, suggests that spiders, insects, crabs and similar creatures were much larger in the past than previously thought ..."


Red-Handed or Red-Faced? Dembski Caught Plagiarizing Harvard's Work...

ERV (Endogenous Retrovirus) has the scoop this week. It seems that the splendid video William Dembski and other ID stalwarts have been presenting at talks all over the country was, in fact, lifted sans credit from a Harvard/XVIVO video on "Inner life of a cell". As ERV notes, "Harvard/XVIVOs narration, all of the science, is whisked away and replaced with a 'surrealistic lilliputian realm'-- 'robots', 'manufacturing', 'circuitry', 'nano moters', 'UPS labels'. Maybe they think it is 'okay' because they turned all of Harvard's science into 'MAGIC!' ..."

ERV has links to the original video, plus one of Dembski mis-using and abusing same. Plagiarism? YOU DECIDE!


Posted November 17th, 2007

It's a Shower! Leonids Peak Saturday Night/Sunday Morning...

It should be a fine, no-moon opportunity to see a good meteor shower. If you're in the Mountain Time Zone, the Leonids should be good between midnight Saturday and the wee hours of Sunday the 18th, peaking at 3 AM MST.


NOVA/PBS SHow on Dover ID Trial CENSORED in Tennessee...

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports on Nov. 16th that "Although Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, the recent documentary on Kitzmiller v. Dover, aired on PBS stations around the country, residents of Memphis, Tennessee, were not able to watch it on the regular, analogue, channel of WKNO, the local PBS affiliate. A locally produced documentary about World War II was aired instead. The Memphis Commercial Appeal (November 15, 2007) quoted a spokesperson for the station as explaining, "We had plans to do our local programs to honor veterans this week during Veterans Day. We thought Tuesday night was a good spot for local programs of this nature, and we were concerned about the controversial nature of the ... program as were 15 percent of the top 50 public television stations in the country." Although Judgment Day was aired on WKNO's digital broadcasts, the station's failure to air it on the regular channel elicited complaints; the spokesperson for the station would not disclose how many." ...


Discovery Institute Repeats Lie, but Can't Count...

The official ID “Think” Tank, the Discovery Institute, has published its own guide to counter the effective PBS production on the Dover ID Trial of 2005. The guide is called “The Theory of Intelligent Design: A briefing packet for educators, to help teachers understand the debate between Darwinian evolution and intelligent design,” and was written by the Institute’s John West and Casey Luskin. They have some really poor math skills, especially with numbers larger than Three: On Page 12 of 24, they write "Five states (Kansas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Minnesota) have already adopted science standards that require learning about some of the scientific controversies relating to evolution." But on page 13 of 24, they claim "Four states (Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina) have science standards that require learning about some of the scientific controversies relating to evolution." Oh yeah, one other problem. They are LYING about New Mexico, and the other states to boot. ...


Maybe the Discovery Institute will Finally Find Big Foot...

It seems the Discovery Institute’s newest Senior Fellow is radio talk show host Michael Medved. Here is the Nov. 15th announcement from William Dembski:

"Michael Medved, nationally syndicated talk radio host and bestselling author, has joined the Discovery Institute in the role of senior fellow. The position cements a longstanding friendship and recognizes a commonality of values and projects across a spectrum of issues. ..."
Why is this FANTASTIC news for the cryptozoological community? It’s because Medved is Big on Big Foot. I kid you not. Follow this link to Panda's Thumb, and Listen to the Show...


Posted November 9th, 2007

Ball Lightning - IN THE LAB...

National Geographic reported back on Jan.22nd that "Brazilian scientists may have solved a shocking scientific mystery by creating ball lightning in the lab. Physicist Antonio Pavão and doctoral student Gerson Paiva of the Federal University of Pernambuco have created orbs of electricity about the size of golf balls that mimic natural ball lightning. The fluffy-looking spheres spin, throw off sparks, and vibrate. They also move erratically about the lab, rolling around on the floor, bouncing off objects, and burning whatever they touch (see enlarged photo for stills from laboratory video). People have reported seeing ball lightning in nature for hundreds of years, but there is no scientific consensus as to what causes the phenomenon. ..."


Hope for the Honeybees...

MIT's Science Tracker reports that "Time flies by and next thing you know, so are a bunch of healthy honeybees. The Christian Science Monitor’s brings an encouraging word today on the colony collapse disorder that nearly panicked some farmers and many bee keepers last year. While its precise cause remains to be determined, one thing is clear. This year’s impact was far lower thanks in part at least, it says here, to import of foreign stocks and good weather. An underlying theme is the persistence of risks inherent in relying so heavily on one species to pollinate crops. .."


Flying Lemurs, not Tree Shrews, are Primates' Closest Kin...

Texas A&M University (via reports on Nov. 1st that "Researchers at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, in collaboration with scientists representing institutions around the world, have discovered the closest living relative to primates. They did so after completing a multispecies genomic comparison within the superordinal group Euarchonta, which includes primates, dermoptera (colugos) and scandentia (tree shrews). Their findings are published in the Nov. 2 edition of the journal Science. “Determination of the closest living relative of primates has important ramifications for anthropology and genomics,” said Dr. William Murphy, a professor of veterinary integrative biosciences and team leader of the study.“In order to resolve the ancestral relationships among primates and their closest relatives, we had to compare alignments in recently sequenced genomes of multiple species, looking for rare genomic changes which would suggest evolutionary branching patterns between species. This gives us a clearer, more accurate look at how primates evolved and may help in placing fossil primates and their relatives on the evolutionary family tree.” As conclusions of the study have indicated that colugos (flying lemurs), rather than tree shrews, are genetically more closely related to primates, further sequencing of the colugo genome is warranted, Murphy said, in order to develop a better understanding of the evolutionary changes leading to primates, as well as to more accurately reconstruct the ancestral primate genome. "...


Posted November 2nd, 2007

Richardson on Roswell UFO: Feds haven't "Come Clean"...

Fresh Intelligence reports on Oct. 31st that "New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, for one, doesn't seem to think longshot presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is all that crazy for claiming to have seen a UFO. When asked about the incident during last night's Democratic debate, Richardson declared that the government hadn't 'come clean' about Roswell, the alleged alien hangout in his home state. (He had less to say about human illegal aliens in New Mexico, presumably a more sizable group). " ...


The Seattle Post Intelligencer got in the act too, noting that "The UFO-alien theme lingered even after the debate. A number of observers noted that Clinton's face was unnaturally smooth and immobile. Some suggested Botox, but the Web site Wonkette gallantly suggested alien possession. So there we have it, our knowledge of the candidates and the issues greatly sharpened. Or, as one blog had it, we have a party that doesn't believe in evolution and another that does believe in UFOs. "


The Courthouse 'Ghost' was a Bug...

The Associated Press (and numerous subscribers) reported this week that "Jeepers, it was just one of those creepers. An investigator specializing in all things bizarre has debugged the mystery of the Santa Fe Courthouse Ghost — a specter captured on a blurry surveillance videotape. "Whooooooooooooo....," Benjamin Radford said in his finest ghostly Halloween howl. "In the end, it was in fact a bug or inspect of some sort that was on the lens of the surveillance camera," said Radford, an Albuquerque-based professional scientific paranormal investigator and managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. ... Radford drove to Santa Fe to watch the original video, ruling out a couple of theories. "If it was a reflection, what would be reflecting and why was the sun in the wrong place?" he said. "And why would someone conduct a prank on courthouse surveillance with deputies with guns watching. That didn't make sense." Radford narrowed it down to drifting seeds from cottonwood trees or an insect. ... Radford then visited an Albuquerque nursery for some creepy-crawlies, shelling out $9 for 1,750 ladybugs. "So basically, I then put the bugs on the camera casing (the next day) to see if by any chance they would duplicate the ghost and eventually, sure enough, we got the ghost," he said. ") ...


Discovery Institute: Designer's Identity is a "Theological" Question...

On Oct. 31st, The Discovery Institute's premier lackey, Casey Luskin, posted this about identifying the "Designer" responsible for "Intelligent Design': "In other words, using present knowledge, identifying the designer can’t be done by science. It is a strictly theological question ..."...

As Dr. James McGrath, assistant professor of religion at Butler University, rightly observed, "In his response to my post, Casey Luskin calls the question of the designer's identity a 'strictly theological question.' Don't miss the significance of that: theological. The designer is God, theos being the Greek word for God. Earlier in the piece he claims that the identity of the designer could be anyone (even the fictional character of Yoda from Star Wars - now how would that be a serious option? - or Buddha - showing his ignorance of Buddhism). But his slip shows the truth. The designer is God, because that is the only sense in which it is possible for the designer's identity to be a theological question. ..."


Hat Tip: Dr. James McGrath/Butler University,

Posted October 26th, 2007

St. Bernards Study Pooh-Poohs Creationism... reports on Oct. 24th that "The St Bernard breed of dogs has disproved the theory of creationism, a UK-based team of researchers has said. Biologists from the University of Manchester say that changes to the skull shape of St Bernards over the last 120 years "can only be explained" via evolution and natural selection. The research team analysed arrived at their findings by examining 47 St Bernard skulls donated to the National History Museum in Berne by Swiss breeders. ..."


Intelligent design is not creationism, but What IS It?

The Daily Gerald (Illinois) has an Oct. 22nd column titled "Intelligent design is not creationism" by Tom Rand. The editorial is interesting mainly for what it does NOT say about the Theory of Intelligent Design : "Intelligent design is modest in what it attributes to the designer, avoiding moral character, purposes or what a designer is thinking. ... Intelligent design doesn't depend on any biblical-type account of creation, attempt to identify the intelligent cause responsible for design, or describe the sequence of events by which the intelligence acted. ... Intelligent design has no religious commitments, makes no claims about the origin of the universe, isn't committed to biblical geology, can accommodate any degree of evolutionary change, doesn't prejudge how humans arose and doesn't specify how a designing intelligence brought life into being. ..."

Oh yeah, with a Theory that robust, ID will have AIDS/HIV cured in no time. Oops, forgot they don't think HIV causes AIDS.


Discovery Institute Fellow Reynolds to J. K. Rowling: You Don't know Albus about Dumbledore...

John Mark Reynolds, a Fellow of the pro-Intelligent Design Discovery Institute, writes on Oct. 23rd that "Recently, J.K. Rowling announced to the world that one of her characters, the heroic mentor of Harry Potter, Dumbledore was gay. Nonsense. There is no evidence of it in the books and the books (at this point) are all that matter. I have always thought the books deeply Christian not because Rowling told me so (which she recently confirmed), but because the text is full of Christian images and ideas. She had a chance to give Dumbledore a boyfriend, but she muffed it. I refuse to denigrate friendship by reading every close one as sexual . . . and she gave us nothing else. No offense to an excellent author, but Dumbledore no longer belongs only to Rowling. ..."


O'Reilly, Stein make Big OOPS on TV...

They just didn't get the Discovery Institute memo! When Ben Stein, the star of the upcoming horror flick "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," appeared on the Bill O'Reilly show on Oct. 22nd, O'Reilly got things stared with a bang by equating Intelligent Design with "that is, a deity created life ..." OOPS! Stein blurts out that "We're not trying to shut anyone up. Bill Maher can say anything he wants. All these Darwinist people, all these atheists can say anything they want. ..." And O'Reilly clearly says ID IS Creationism, and Stein agrees: "O'REILLY: Okay, do you think thought that people who believe in creationism are being persecuted in America? STEIN: There's no doubt about it. We have lots and lots of evidence of it in the movie. ..."



Red-Headed Neaderthals?

The BBC reports on Oct. 25th that "Some Neanderthals were probably redheads, a DNA study has shown. Writing in Science journal, a team of researchers extracted DNA from remains of two Neanderthals and retrieved part of an important gene called MC1R. In modern people, a change - or mutation - in this gene causes red hair, but, until now, no one knew what hair colour our extinct relatives had. By analysing a version of the gene in Neanderthals, scientists found that they also have sported fiery locks. 'We found a variant of MC1R in Neanderthals which is not present in modern humans, but which causes an effect on the hair similar to that seen in modern redheads,' said lead author Carles Lalueza-Fox, assistant professor in genetics at the University of Barcelona. ..."


Posted October 19th, 2007

Vitter earmark withdrawn...

The National Center for Science Education reports on Oct. 18th that "Speaking on the Senate floor on October 17, 2007, Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) withdrew a controversial $100,000 earmark that he previously added to the appropriations bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The earmark was to the Louisiana Family Forum, a religious right group with a long history of promoting creationism and attacking evolution education in the state, including backing a 'strengths and weaknesses' policy in Ouachita Parish. ... Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, applauding the removal of the earmark in a press release dated October 18, 2007, commented, 'If Sen. Vitter's aim was to improve science education in Louisiana, I have to wonder why he did not direct these funds to a scientific group or a museum.' He added, 'Boosting science education is an odd task for a religious group.' 'Senator Vitter's defense of the earmark is obviously disingenuous, given the Louisiana Family Forum's record of fighting tooth and nail against evolution education,' commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. 'But I'm glad to see that, with the removal of his earmark, public funds are not going to be misused to miseducate the children of Louisiana about the science of evolution.' ..."


How to spot a hoax...

Hannah Wiest of the Casper (WY) writes on Oct. 15th that "The managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine that critically investigates claims of paranormal activity, has a haunted front door. Ever since he moved in five months ago, Benjamin Radford has heard a loud knock around 7 a.m. every day. But, when he opens the door to check it out, there is nothing there. It is not the paperboy. It is not an animal. It must be a ghost, right? Wrong. Radford's door -- painted white inside, dark red outside -- faces east in sunny New Mexico. Every morning when the sun rises around 7, the door heats up, expands and makes a knocking sound. But, Radford says, his mysterious door is just the sort of thing that can be mistaken for a ghost when it actually has a natural cause. Call him a Halloween spoilsport -- a poo-pooer of all things that go bump in the night. ... 'We like to put labels on things we can't explain and use them as a vehicle to think about such things,; said David Thomas, a physicist and mathematician and member of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. We want to believe in ghosts to validate thoughts about the afterlife or dead loved ones, Thomas said. We also just like a good spook and a good mystery now and then. Did you hear that tapping? ...


Supernatural Thriving on Television... NY Times asks 'Why?'

Alessandra Stanley of the NY Times writes on Oct. 14th "There must be a rational explanation for all the supernatural phenomena on television. There must. Because it is weird, and even a little freaky, that so many shows this season prey on the paranormal. Vampires have day jobs as detectives, store clerks reap souls for the Devil, reporters time-travel to get their stories straight, cheerleaders walk through fire and people of all kinds talk to dead people, sometimes quite chattily. Even reality television is getting swept up in the surreal: On Oct. 24 NBC will unveil “Phenomenon,” an “American Idol”-ish competition for illusionists and mentalists, with Uri Geller and Criss Angel as judges.


Posted October 12th, 2007

Los Alamos: Science and Intelligent Design to be discussed Tuesday...

PvM of The Panda's Thumb Blog writes on October 11, 2007 that The Los Alamos Monitor announces a presentation starting at 7PM in the Fuller Lodge, Los Alamos.


The presentation will address intelligent design and the scientific method and has been sponsored by the New Mexico Academy of Science and the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education. Efforts exist to make the scientific method evolve into something different, specifically in regards to the theory of evolution. During a presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Fuller Lodge, Francis Slakey of Georgetown University will work to spread awareness about these efforts. The presentation is free to the public and the New Mexico Academy of Science and the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education are sponsoring the lecture.

Slakey, in his presentation, will address Intelligent Design and its effect on the scientific method. Alan Hurd, director of the Lujan Neutron Scattering Center at Los Alamos National Laboratory, explained the scientific method involves creating a hypothesis and testing it. If something cannot be verified, then it is not covered by the scientific method, he said. Intelligent Design was created to circumvent the scientific method in order to resolve questions about humans’ origins. If evolution is happening, Intelligent Design suggests that it is being guided by a supernatural intelligence.

In a press release, Slakey states, “Science is rarely a talent of kings and governments. When King Solomon built his temple, he declared that pi equals three. Three thousand years later, the Kansas Board of Education eliminated all reference to the Big Bang from the state’s curriculum. And over the past five years more than 20 states have developed legislation that would dilute the teaching of science and promote intelligent design in public schools. This talk will examine the rise of the Intelligent Design movement and describe the response of a coalition of science societies.”

Hurd recommended that parents who have children enrolled in school should attend the presentation because Intelligent Design could affect the curriculum that students are taught. Additionally, he said people who on principle are concerned about “not so scientific” explanations of the universe attend the lecture. After the talk, coffee and cookies will be served and participants can meet with Slakey. Slakey will also bring his lecture to LANL at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Lujan Center.

Slakey holds an endowed position at Georgetown University where he is the Upjohn Lecturer in physics and biology and the co-director of the Program on Science in the Public Interest. He is also the Associate Director of Public Affairs for the American Physical Society (APS), the leading membership organization of physicists from national laboratories, universities and industry. He oversees all legislative affairs for the APS, specializing in the areas of defense and nuclear policy. Slakey’s technical publications have received more than 400 citations. He has also written widely on science policy issues, publishing more than 50 articles for the popular press including The New York Times, Washington Post and Scientific American. He has served in advisory positions for a diverse set of organizations including the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Geographic and the Creative Coalition Society - the political advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. He is a Fellow of the APS, a MacArthur Scholar and a Lemelson Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution. Slakey became the 28th American to summit Mt. Everest in an unguided expedition that was the subject of the movie “Beyond the Summit,” narrated by Sharon Stone. After a climb in the jungles of Indonesia, he completed his ascents of the highest mountain on every continent. In recognition, he carried the Olympic torch from the steps of the U.S. Capitol as part of the 2002 Olympic Games.


Posted October 5th, 2007

Council of Europe: Just Say NO to Creationism in School...

Reuters reports on Oct. 4th that "Europe's main human rights body voted on Thursday to urge schools across the continent to firmly oppose the teaching of creationist and "intelligent design" views in their science classes. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly approved a resolution saying attacks on the theory of evolution were rooted "in forms of religious extremism" and amounted to a dangerous assault on science and human rights. The text said European schools should 'resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion.' It said the 'intelligent design' view defended by some United States conservatives was an updated version of creationism. ... The resolution, which passed 48 votes to 25 with 3 abstentions, is not binding on the Council's 47 member states but reflects widespread opposition among politicians to teaching creationism in science class. ..."


Hacking at the Roots of Creationism...

Ian Hacking has a thoughtful piece on the evolution of anti-evolution in the October 8th issue of The Nation. He writes "The arguments that Darwin painstakingly presented in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859) were revolutionary in their day. They continue to astonish and perplex; never take them for granted. Unfortunately, anti-Darwinism keeps playing minor variations on the same negative themes and adds nothing to our understanding of life. Many scientists who are upset by the ongoing lobbying insist that it is bad science or pseudo-science. Living With Darwin, Philip Kitcher's brief and cogent manifesto, very rightly disagrees. Anti-Darwinism is, he says, dead science, recapitulating old stuff long abandoned. I prefer to call it degenerating. ... Anti-Darwinists love to repeat news of difficulties. They say, "We told you so; it is just a bunch of guesswork." Hence defenders of the faith, like Kitcher, do not like to dwell on present problems, for fear of giving succor to the foe. I wonder if they should not instead celebrate the difficulties, making plain that evolutionary theory is a living, growing, vital organism, while anti-Darwinism is lifeless, if not, in Kitcher's word, dead. In my opinion the arrogant religion-baiters--yes, Richard Dawkins comes to mind, but others are worse--do a disservice to their cause by making evolutionary theory seem so cut and dried (viz. dead), when it is a blooming, buzzing, confusing delight, finding out more about the world every day. With anti-Darwinians fabricating a "controversy," it helps to see what a real scientific controversy is like, with each competing conjecture piling on new research methods, new explanations, new questions, new failures and new successes. ..."



Clinton: Shield Science from Politics...

The New York Times reports on Oct. 5th that "In a stinging critique of Bush administration science policy, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York said yesterday that if she were elected president she would require agency directors to show they were protecting science research from “political pressure” and that she would lift federal limits on stem cell research. ... In the telephone interview after the speech, Mrs. Clinton also tacitly criticized opponents of evolution. Some of the 2008 Republican presidential candidates have said flatly that they do not believe in evolution, while other Republican contenders have said they support teaching evolution, intelligent design and creationist ideas. 'I believe in evolution, and I am shocked at some of the things that people in public life have been saying,' Mrs. Clinton said in the interview. 'I believe that our founders had faith in reason and they also had faith in God, and one of our gifts from God is the ability to reason. I am grateful that I have the ability to look at dinosaur bones and draw my own conclusions,' she added, saying, too, that antibiotic-resistant bacteria is evidence that 'evolution is going on as we speak.' ..."


Craig Venter: "I am creating artificial life"...

The Guardian (UK) reports on Oct. 6th (it's later over there) that "Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth. The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming. Mr Venter told the Guardian he thought this landmark would be 'a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before.' ..."


Posted September 28th, 2007

Acupuncture Works, but Doesn't Depend on Woo-woo 'Medians'...

Reuters UK reports on Sept. 24th that "Acupuncture provided twice as many patients relief from lower back pain as did conventional drug and exercise therapy, which German researchers said on Monday might point to a 'superplacebo' effect. In a study of 1,162 adults with chronic lower back pain, 48 percent of those in a group who underwent between 10 and 15 treatments with traditional Chinese "verum" acupuncture reported at least one-third less pain and an improvement in functional ability, with lasting benefits. That compared to 27 percent of those reporting relief in the group undergoing drug and exercise therapy. ... A third group of patients underwent so-called sham acupuncture, where needles are inserted randomly and less deeply around the painful area while avoiding the medians. Of these, 44 percent reported relief from their back pain -- more patients than conventional therapy and only slightly fewer than traditional acupuncture. ..."


Meteor Strike Responsible for Ice Age Extinction?

ScienceDaily reports on Sept. 25th that "At the end of the Pleistocene era, woolly mammoths roamed North America along with a cast of fantastic creatures – giant sloths, saber-toothed cats, camels, lions, tapirs and the incredible teratorn, a condor with a 16-foot wingspan. About 12,900 years ago, these megafauna disappeared from the fossil record, as did evidence of human remains. The cause of the mass extinction and the human migration is a mystery. Now a team of scientists, including Brown University planetary geologist Peter Schultz, provides evidence that an asteroid impact likely caused the sudden climate changes that killed off the mammoths and other majestic beasts of prehistory. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the international team lays out its theory that the mass extinctions in North America were caused by one or more extraterrestrial objects – comets or meteorites – that exploded over the Earth or slammed into it, triggering catastrophic climate change. The scientists believe that evidence for these extraterrestrial impacts is hidden in a dark layer of dirt sometimes called a black mat. Found in more than 50 sites around North America, this puzzling slice of geological history is a mere three centimeters deep and filled with carbon, which lends the layer its dark color. This black mat has been found in archaeological digs in Canada and California, Arizona and South Carolina – even in a research site in Belgium. The formation of this layer dates back 12,900 years and coincides with the abrupt cooling of the Younger Dryas period, sometimes called the 'Big Freeze.' ..."


"Expelled" Deceptions Detailed in the NY Times...

Cornelia Dean of the New York Times reports on Sept. 276th that "A few months ago, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins received an e-mail message from a producer at Rampant Films inviting him to be interviewed for a documentary called 'Crossroads.' The film, with Ben Stein, the actor, economist and freelance columnist, as its host, is described on Rampant’s Web site as an examination of the intersection of science and religion. Dr. Dawkins was an obvious choice. An eminent scientist who teaches at Oxford University in England, he is also an outspoken atheist who has repeatedly likened religious faith to a mental defect. But now, Dr. Dawkins and other scientists who agreed to be interviewed say they are surprised — and in some cases, angered — to find themselves not in 'Crossroads' but in a film with a new name and one that makes the case for intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. The film, 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,' also has a different producer, Premise Media. ... If he had known the film’s premise, Dr. Dawkins said in an e-mail message, he would never have appeared in it. 'At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front,' he said. Eugenie C. Scott, a physical anthropologist who heads the National Center for Science Education, said she agreed to be filmed after receiving what she described as a deceptive invitation. The growing furor over the movie, visible in blogs, on Web sites and in conversations among scientists, is the latest episode in the long-running conflict between science and advocates of intelligent design, who assert that the theory of evolution has obvious scientific flaws and that students should learn that intelligent design, a creationist idea, is an alternative approach. There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are 'not within the scope or abilities of science.' ..."


One of the movie's producers is New Mexico's own Mark Mathis:

Creationists Claim Fractals in the Name of God...

Answers in Genesis has a 2007 article on fractals titled "Hidden Beauty Revealed in Mathematics."  A snippet: "Believe it or not, numbers like 1, 2, 3, etc., contain a “secret code”—a hidden beauty embedded within them. Numbers have existed from the beginning of creation, yet researchers have only recently discovered the hidden shapes that the Lord placed within them. Such beauty defies a secular explanation but confirms biblical creation. ... God alone can take credit for mathematical truths, such as fractals. Such transcendent truths are a reflection of God’s thoughts. ... Evolution cannot account for fractals. These shapes have existed since creation and cannot have evolved, since numbers cannot change—the number 7 will never be anything but 7. But fractals are perfectly consistent with biblical creation. The Christian understands that there are transcendent truths because the Bible states many of them. (...Such as laws of morality) ..."


Looks like the creo's are changing their tune. Just a few years ago, it was all about "Nothing ordered can ever come from a random process." But, amazingly ordered fractals can emerge from a random process. NMSR's "Digital Doodles" article "Order from Chaos: The Sierpinksi Gasket" explains how.


Tom Cruise Digs In Before Xenu's Return?

The Evening Standard (UK) reports on 28th September that "Hollywood star Tom Cruise is planning to build a bunker at his Colorado home to protect his family in the event of an intergalactic alien attack, according to new reports. The Mission Impossible actor, who is a dedicated follower of Scientology, is reportedly fearful that deposed galactic ruler 'Xenu' is plotting an evil revenge attack on Earth. ... A spokesperson for the actor has denied the reports, saying: 'This is completely untrue. He is not building on his property at all. ..."


Posted September 21st, 2007

Shades of the Andromeda Strain: Big Meteorite Spooks Peruvians...

The Los Angeles Times reports on Sept. 21st that "When she heard the explosion, Isabel Junquilla said she was sure war had broken out. ' ... Townsfolk in this desolate, high-plains hamlet not far from Lake Titicaca and the Bolivian border received the shock of their lives — a meteorite that struck with a thunderous bang just before noon Saturday, leaving a deep crater, an acrid smell and terrified villagers and livestock. ... The incident took on a magical-realism feel out of a Gabriel García Márquez tale as residents reported strange illnesses and revolting odors, while repeating rumors of a military attack, radiation or a celestial rain of gold. Authorities took soil and water samples from near the crater for analysis. After days of doubt, they confirmed Thursday that the object was indeed a meteorite — not volcanic pumice, space junk or some other earthly or extraterrestrial phenomenon. 'We're now convinced this was a meteor,' said Ronald Woodman, director of the Peruvian Geophysical Institute, which sent a team to the site, more than 600 miles southeast of Lima, the capital. 'This kind of phenomenon can be dangerous, if it falls on a town, or on a house or person. Fortunately, this wasn't the case.' ... Experts from Peru's nuclear-energy institute estimated the meteorite probably was no more than 1 meter in diameter when it smashed into Earth at an extremely high speed. That may have been all that remained of a much larger object that burned up while streaking through the atmosphere, experts said. ... The pungent odor, experts say, could have been caused when the crashing object fused with such elements as sulphur found in the earth. 'Now that various experts from Japan and other countries have assured us there is nothing bad, we have decided this belongs to us,' said Benito Mosaja Pari, 56, who called himself the village lieutenant governor. 'We're going to dig it out. The scientists tell us this was part of a world that fell apart. It has some value. And now it's ours.' ..."


Velociraptors had Feathers...

Ker Than of reports on Sept. 20th that "Tiny bumps on the fossilized arm bone of a Velociraptor specimen show that the carnivorous dinosaur—made infamous in the movie "Jurassic Park"—had feathers. The finding, detailed in the Sept. 21 issue of the journal Science, confirms what scientists have long suspected about the creature as fossils of some of its close relatives bear imprints of feathers. The researchers believe the bumps on the arm bone are remnants of quill knobs, places where the quills of secondary feathers—important for flight in many modern birds—were anchored to the bone. 'Finding quill knobs on Velociraptor means that it definitely had feathers,' said study team member Alan Turner, a paleontology graduate student at the American Museum of Natural History and at Columbia University in New York. 'This is something we'd long suspected, but no one had been able to prove.' ..."


Creationists Make Nice, Settle Suit..

The Cincinatti Post reports on Sept. 21st that "Two leading creationism advocates, including Boone County's Answers in Genesis, have decided to settle their differences like Christians. Rather than fight in court, last month the board of Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International met in Hawaii and reached a tentative agreement to settle the lawsuit they're parties to. 'We feel very, very satisfied about it,' CMI Managing Director Carl Wieland said. 'We were pleased to end it this way, and glad to have had the chance to have face-to-face communication.' The two organizations hope to have a final, written agreement by mid-October, Wieland said. ..."


"Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" Movie has a New Mexican Connection...

The new ID movie "Expelled" has a New Mexico connection. In a Sept. 19th article from the Baylor Lariat on new interviews there for the movie "Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed" starring Ben Stein, one Rampant Films co-producer Mark Mathis, is mentioned: "Troubled by the Baylor administration's removal of an intelligent design Web site from a Baylor server, a producer from the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is planning a Thursday trip to campus in hopes of meeting with President John Lilley. Distinguished professor Dr. Robert Marks' personal research Web site on evolutionary informatics was taken down from a Baylor server last month, and producers of Expelled want to speak to Lilley about it. 'We are disturbed with what happened with Dr. Marks,' executive producer Walt Ruloff said. 'He was working on some really vital research.' Even though he was not granted an official meeting with Lilley, associate producer Mark Mathis has decided to bring a film crew on campus anyway. ..."


Pharyngula's PZ Myers has discussed how Mathis interviewed him for "Expelled" under false pretenses:

Here's a Trib article on the "Da Vinci Code" ties Albuquerque's Mark Mathis to a role in the film "Astronaut Farmer" (it's in the comments, all the way to the end):

At the web site of Rampant Fims, one can click on "Inside Rampant", then on "Mark Mathis", and read that Rampant's (and Expelled's) Mark Mathis is the SAME person that starred in "Astronaut Farmer" as an ABC news reporter.

On August 9th, 2005, before KAGM 106.3 FM dumped Larry Ahrens and its Talk format, Intelligent Design was the subject of the KAGM Anderson/Mathis morning show. Here's Dianne Anderson (now morning anchor at KRQE TV13) from that program: "I believe there's no way we could have been created without a *highly* intelligent God up there creating this universe." On the same show, Mark Mathis said "I don't understand why intelligent design can't be taught in schools alongside of evolution."

Related Links:

Posted September 14th, 2007

Could Facial Features Reveal Genetic Disorders?

The Daily Mail (UK) reports on Sept. 10th that "It is a branch of science that has long since fallen out of favour. But now the once-popular idea that you can read a person's character from their face could be making a medical comeback. In Victorian times, the science of phrenology - in which the bumps on the head were 'read' to predict personalities - was taken seriously. The technique was discredited in the 20th century, but now a computer system has been developed which will allow doctors to diagnose genetic disorders by looking at a child's face. It analyses the shape of the eyes, nose, mouth and ears to pinpoint the genetic condition a child might be suffering from. Its creator, Professor Peter Hammond, of Great Ormond Street Hospital, believes it could eventually lead to quicker diagnosis of hundreds of genetic disorders. ... Professor Hammond believes the programme could speed up diagnosis, saving both parents and children from the trauma of test after test. In all, there are around 700 genetic disorders that leave their mark on the face. Examples include Williams and Smith-Magenis syndromes. ..."


No Potions Lessons - but, Owner of Hogwarts Castle to Start Creationism Classes?

The Times Online (UK) reports on Sept. 9th that "His home has already doubled as Hogwarts school of witchcraft in the Harry Potter films. Now the Duke of Northumberland, owner of Alnwick Castle, is to open a school of his own after signing up as a sponsor of the government’s city academy programme. ... The proposed academy in the Hirst district of Ashington, while open to pupils regardless of faith, will have a strong Christian ethos. Nicholson said she hoped it would 'bring honour to God and to the whole community'. ... The strongly Christian tinge to some city academies in the northeast has already proved controversial. The Emmanuel Schools foundation, started by Sir Peter Vardy, the car sales tycoon, has been accused at its academy in Gateshead of teaching pupils creationism - a religious-based theory of how the world came into being - on an equal footing with Darwinism. Vardy denies this. ..."


Litigious Larry Caldwell Loses...

The Roseville (CA) Press-Tribune reports on Sept. 13th that "A proponent of controversial supplemental science materials in public schools has lost his legal battle against the Roseville Joint Union High School District. U.S. District Court Judge Frank Damrell Jr. last week granted the district's motion for summary judgment against the plaintiff, Granite Bay resident Larry Caldwell, who sought to introduce material into the district's science curriculum offering alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution. ... in his ruling, Damrell stressed that, 'Despite numerous arguments by both parties regarding the content of plaintiff Larry Caldwell's proposals, this case is not about how biology, including discussions of evolutionary theory, can or should be taught in public schools. Rather, this case is about whether Larry Caldwell was denied access to speak in various fora or participate in certain processes because of his actual or perceived religious beliefs.' ..."


Permian Prints Get Protection... (but, no Human Prints from before the Dinosaurs...)

Rene Romo of the Albuquerque Journal reports on Sept. 13th that "What experts call a world-class repository of pre-dinosaur era fossil tracks near here will get more protection as the result of a federal decision on nearby mining. A Bureau of Land Management decision not to renew a mining permit has closed a rock quarry on the southern edge of the Robledo Mountains. 'Our sort of new focus is on trackways protection and trying to reclaim this mine site so the trackways are preserved,' said Tim Sanders, assistant manager for the BLM's Las Cruces district. Most of the fossils rest undisturbed under thousands of acres in the Robledos area, but fossils within 50 acres of the rock quarry have been damaged over the years. Jerry MacDonald of Las Cruces, an amateur paleontologist who discovered the Paleozoic-era trackways in 1987, welcomed news of the closure. 'They finally did it,' MacDonald said. 'What it does is it gets rid of the mixed message that was, by intent or not, being sent by the BLM— the fact that you could have the world's most important Paleozoic track sites and then have a working quarry breaking up trackway material for people's walls and floors. It just didn't make sense.' The BLM allowed the six-month permit held by Raul Villa to expire Aug. 24, Sanders said. ..."

Source: (subscription)

Not everyone is happy, including Raul Villa. In addition, the folks behind '' have been fuming about legislation to protect the trackways for years, dismissing the tracks as unimportant and insignificant: "The trackways were not from big dinosaurs. they are typically hard to see, tiny tracks. Do these micro tracks justify a national monument?"


See also

But perhaps the most interesting backstory about these tracks come from creationists, who have falsely been claiming that paleontologist and track expert Jerry MacDonald actually found a human footprint in New Mexico's Permian strata. Here's an example, from the folks at 'AncientHebrew.Org': "The Zapata Track, Robledos Mountains, New Mexico, 248 to 290 million years ago. The Discovery: In 1987 paleontologist Jerry MacDonald discovered a number of fossilized tracks from many different species of animals and birds in a Permian strata. Among the tracks were prints of a human foot. ..."


The website "Scientific Evidence for Creation" (  has a web page with glossy photographs of creationist Don Patton with the "Zapata Track":

However, track expert Glen Kuban has risen to defend MacDonald's honor on his 'Zapata Track' page: "On the website, next to an image of Don Patton with the track in question, the accompanying paragraph states that among the tracks found in New Mexico by Jerry MacDonald were problematic ones among which 'we' (presumably Patton and associates) found 'even more obvious problematica.' This gives the false impressions that MacDonald had found and described similar human-like tracks. I have worked with MacDonald, and can testify that this is entirely untrue. His track assessments are also clear from his own writings (MacDonald, 1994). The Permian problematica he described consisted not of human tracks, but various large amphibian and mammal-like reptile tracks. ... The Zapata track has not been demonstrated to be a real footprint, nor has any evidence been provided that the rock came from a Permian rock formation. Without more substantial evidence regarding its origin, the print is a curiosity at best, not reliable anti-evolutionary evidence. ..."


And, while the folks at certainly don't like evolutionists, they are sputtering mad about many other "False Doctrines," including Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and more.


Posted September 7th, 2007

Nepal Airlines: Aircraft Maintenance by Animal Sacrifice...

Reuters reports on Sept. 5th that "Officials at Nepal's state-run airline have sacrificed two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft, the carrier said Tuesday. Nepal Airlines, which has two Boeing aircraft, has had to suspend some services in recent weeks due the problem. The goats were sacrificed in front of the troublesome aircraft Sunday at Nepal's only international airport in Kathmandu in accordance with Hindu traditions, an official said. 'The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights,' said Raju K.C., a senior airline official, without explaining what the problem had been. ..."


Remind me not to fly Nepal Airlines.

Earth's Chicxulub and Moon's Tycho Craters... Cousins?

ScienceMode reports on Sept. 5th that "The impactor believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs and other life forms on Earth some 65 million years ago has been traced back to a breakup event in the main asteroid belt. A joint U.S.-Czech team from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and Charles University in Prague suggests that the parent object of asteroid (298) Baptistina disrupted when it was hit by another large asteroid, creating numerous large fragments that would later create the Chicxulub crater on the Yucatan Peninsula as well as the prominent Tycho crater found on the Moon. ..."


Debunkers Beware - Even Describing Myths Reinforces Them...

The Washington Post reports on Sept. 4th that "The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either 'true' or 'false.' Among those identified as false were statements such as 'The side effects are worse than the flu' and 'Only older people need flu vaccine.' When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual. Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC. The psychological insights yielded by the research, which has been confirmed in a number of peer-reviewed laboratory experiments, have broad implications for public policy. The conventional response to myths and urban legends is to counter bad information with accurate information. But the new psychological studies show that denials and clarifications, for all their intuitive appeal, can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths. ..."


Kids: Smarter than your Average Chimp...

Will Dunham of Australia's reports on Sept. 7th that "In another case of researchers reporting the bleeding obvious, European scientists have found that children are smarter than chimpanzees. A unique study comparing the abilities of human toddlers to chimpanzees and orang-utans found that two-year-old children have social learning skills superior to the apes, the researchers said. In one social learning test, a researcher showed the children and apes how to pop open a plastic tube to get food or a toy contained inside. The children observed and imitated the solution. Chimpanzees and orang-utans, however, tried to smash open the tube or yank out the contents with their teeth. ..."


Bee Still, My Heart - New Clues to Colony Collapse...

Scientific American reports on Sept. 7th that "The mystery illness that has bedeviled U.S. beekeepers since 2006 may stem from a bee virus that apparently spread to the U.S. from Australia three years ago, according to a new study that marks the first big break in the puzzling case of the disappearing bees. Researchers performed a sophisticated genetic comparison of healthy and diseased U.S. colonies that revealed the presence of Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), an obscure but lethal bee bug, in almost all beekeeping operations affected by 'colony collapse disorder' (CCD), but in only a single healthy one they examined. ..."


Posted August 31st, 2007

Return of the Peppered Moth - Still Evolving...

The Independent (UK) reports on Aug. 25th that "For more than a century it has been cited as the quintessential example of Darwinism in action. It was the story of the peppered moth and how its two forms had struggled for supremacy in the polluted woodlands of industrial Britain. ... Critics suggested that the key experiments on the peppered moth in the 1950s were flawed. Some went as far as to suggest the research was fraudulent, with the implication that the school textbooks were feeding children a lie. Creationists smelt blood. The story of the peppered moth became a story of how Darwinism itself was flawed - with its best known example being based on fiddled data. ... Now a Cambridge professor has repeated the key predation experiments with the peppered moth, only this time he has taken into account the criticisms and apparent flaws in the original research conducted 50 years ago. Michael Majerus, a professor of genetics at Cambridge University, has spent the past seven years collecting data from a series of experiments he has carried out in his own rambling back garden. ... n a seminal description of his results to a scientific conference this week in Sweden, Professor Majerus gave a resounding vote of confidence in the peppered month story. He found unequivocal evidence that birds were indeed responsible for the lower numbers of the black carbonaria forms of the moth. It was a complete vindication of the peppered month story, he told the meeting. ... Professor Majerus compiled enough visual sightings of birds eating peppered moths in his garden over the seven years to show that the black form was significantly more likely to be eaten than the peppered. A statistical analysis of the results revealed a clear example of Darwinian natural selection in action. 'The peppered moth story is easy to understand, because it involves things that we are familiar with: vision and predation and birds and moths and pollution and camouflage and lunch and death,' he said. 'That is why the anti-evolution lobby attacks the peppered moth story. They are frightened that too many people will be able to understand.' ..."


Guilty Husband? - Give Her a 7,000-Carat Diamond...

The BBC reports on Aug. 28th that "A small South African mining company has claimed to have discovered the world's biggest-ever diamond. A shareholder in the unnamed mine told the BBC the stone had been unearthed at their operation in the north-west province on Monday afternoon. He said the giant gem was about 7,000 carats - which would be twice the size of the Cullinan Diamond, centre-piece of the British crown jewels. But industry experts are sceptical about the unconfirmed claim. ..."


Speaking of Diamonds, a Gift: New Insights on Primordial Earth...

THe BBC also reported on Aug. 23rd that "Tiny diamonds found in Australia suggest the early Earth was not a hellish world for as long as previously supposed, the journal Nature reports. The miniature gems, from Jack Hills in the west of the country, are encased in zircon crystals that have been dated up to 4.25 billion years ago. Scientists say their analysis of the diamonds suggests the planet had cooled sufficiently by then to form a crust. This shell may even have been moving and exchanging material with the deep. In other words, the diamonds could be the earliest evidence for plate tectonics, the theory used today to explain how the continents drift across the surface of the globe and rocks are recycled into the interior. ..."


NMFC Not Off the Hook...

Even though the ex-chair of the New Mexico Family Council (NMFC), Kevin Jackson, was fired by the organization, and later had to resign as Mayor of Rio Rancho because of numerous troubled financial dealings, NMFC is not in the clear. The Albuquerque Tribune reports on Aug. 24th that "The Albuquerque nonprofit abstinence program under investigation for its handling of federal grant money during the tenure of former executive director Kevin Jackson faces an uncertain future. Best Choice, which urges teenagers to abstain from sex until marriage, is waiting on word from four federal entities, Executive Director Tony Oliva says. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is considering whether to award the program a new grant for the next five years. The Democratically controlled Congress is considering whether to cut or increase funding for the abstinence education program. It is almost certain to insist on strong oversight. Meanwhile, the Health and Human Services inspector general and the FBI are investigating the financial practices of Jackson, Oliva's predecessor and the former mayor of Rio Rancho. ..."


More dirt on Kevin Jackson:

The Spider That Ate Texas...

The Star-Telegram (TX) reports on Aug. 29th that "If you hate creepy-crawlies, you might want to avoid Lake Tawakoni State Park where a 200-yard stretch along a nature trail has been blanketed by a sprawling spider web that has engulfed seven large trees, dozens of bushes and even the weedy ground. But if you hate mosquitoes, you might just love this bizarre web. 'At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland,' said park superintendent Donna Garde. 'Now it's filled with so many mosquitoes that it's turned a little brown. There are times you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs.' There have been heated Internet discussions among experts that the webs were constructed by social cobweb spiders, which work together, or perhaps a mass dispersal where the arachnids spin webs to spread out from one other. Either way, it's generating a lot of bug buzz. ..."


Creepy Video!

More Fun:

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho - a Creationist? I'm Shocked, SHOCKED, I say...

My Aug. 30th blog on The Panda's Thumb has the nitty-gritty details and links. It turns out that Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has been up to more than just allegedly soliciting men in adjacent bathroom stalls. Courtesy of Jim Fisher’s January 9, 2006 article in the Lewiston Morning Tribune: "Then there’s U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, who as a House member 16 years ago co-sponsored a constitutional amendment, the 'Community Life Amendment,' to authorize teaching 'the creation of the earth as accepted in Judeo-Christian tradition.' ..."


Posted August 17th, 2007

NASA Flubs on "Hottest Year"...

The Star (Toronto, CA) reports on Aug. 14th that "In the United States, the calendar year 1998 ranked as the hottest of them all – until someone checked the math. After a Toronto skeptic tipped NASA this month to one flaw in its climate calculations, the U.S. agency ordered a full data review. Days later, it put out a revised list of all-time hottest years. The Dust Bowl year of 1934 now ranks as hottest ever in the U.S. – not 1998. More significantly, the agency reduced the mean U.S. "temperature anomalies" for the years 2000 to 2006 by 0.15 degrees Celsius. ..."


Apply Talc to Relieve Earthquake Stress...

Nature reports on Aug. 15th that "Talc, the balm that stops chafing for babies' bottoms, seems also to soften the rubbing along some faults within the Earth. Researchers drilling deep into the San Andreas fault in California report in today's Nature1 the presence of talc inside a relatively sedate section of the famous fault. This seems to explain why this region of the fault typically creeps slowly to relieve stress, rather than experiencing the abrupt slips that cause large earthquakes. ..."


Have German Physicists gone FTL?

The Telegraph (UK) reported on Aug. 16th that "A pair of German physicists claim to have broken the speed of light - an achievement that would undermine our entire understanding of space and time. According to Einstein's special theory of relativity, it would require an infinite amount of energy to propel an object at more than 186,000 miles per second. However, Dr Gunter Nimtz and Dr Alfons Stahlhofen, of the University of Koblenz, say they may have breached a key tenet of that theory. The pair say they have conducted an experiment in which microwave photons - energetic packets of light - travelled 'instantaneously' between a pair of prisms that had been moved up to 3ft apart. ..."


Scottish Physicists:  "Wingardium Leviosa"???

The Telegraph (UK) reports on Aug. 8th that "Levitation has been elevated from being pure science fiction to science fact, according to a study reported today by physicists. In earlier work the same team of theoretical physicists showed that invisibility cloaks are feasible. Now, in another report that sounds like it comes out of the pages of a Harry Potter book, the University of St Andrews team has created an 'incredible levitation effects’ by engineering the force of nature which normally causes objects to stick together. Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, have worked out a way of reversing this pheneomenon, known as the Casimir force, so that it repels instead of attracts. Their discovery could ultimately lead to frictionless micro-machines with moving parts that levitate But they say that, in principle at least, the same effect could be used to levitate bigger objects too, even a person. ..."


Explore Evolution: The Skeptic's Companion...

The Discovery Institute's "Usual Suspects" have churned out yet another boilerplate assault on evolution. They hope to have this book in public schools by the end of the year. Check out the "Explore Evolution" website...


And then check out Wesley Elsberry's critique of EE, a work in progress:

Source: (click on "Annotations" to go to the list of individual critiques.)

Explore Evolution: Is It Hopelessly Obsolete?

While the authors of Explore Evolution go around saying things like "An experience-based analysis of the causal powers of various explanatory hypotheses suggests purposive or intelligent design as a causally adequate--and perhaps the most causally adequate--explanation for the origin of the complex specified information ..." (Stephen Meyer), real scientists are using evolution and evolutionary-inspired methods to develop radical new enzymes with complex specified functions. Nature reports on June 19th that "Methods have been developed for modifying and improving existing enzymes through screening, selection and directed evolution. However, the design and evolution of truly novel enzymes has relied on extensive knowledge of the mechanism of the reaction. Here we show that genuinely new enzymatic activities can be created de novo without the need for prior mechanistic information by selection from a naive protein library of very high diversity, with product formation as the sole selection criterion. ... We now describe the isolation of novel RNA ligases from a library that is based on a zinc finger scaffold, followed by in vitro directed evolution to further optimize these enzymes. The resulting ligases exhibit multiple turnover with rate enhancements of more than two-million-fold. ..."


Church calls for "Imprecatory Prayer" against Church-State Separation Group...

Christian Newswire reports on Aug. 14th that Pastor Wiley Drake is calling for prayer to bring God's Wrath down upon Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which has been calling for investigations into the church's illegal forays into blatant political activism. Drake demands "In light of the recent attack from the enemies of God I ask the children of God to go into action with Imprecatory Prayer. Especially against Americans United for Separation of Church and State. ... Now that all efforts have been exhausted, we must begin our Imprecatory Prayer, at the key points of the parliamentary role in the earth where we live. ... Let us join Paul and declare anathema upon anyone 'who loves not the Lord Jesus.' I Cor 16:22 ...."


Americans United has issued a press release in response, saying "Americans United for Separation of Church and State today denounced the tactics of a political pastor in California who has urged followers to pray for the demise of staff members of the religious liberty watchdog group. Yesterday, Americans United asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., for a potential violation of federal tax law barring electioneering by non-profit groups. Dr. Wiley S. Drake, pastor of the church, issued a press release on church letterhead endorsing Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and subsequently offered the endorsement on a church-affiliated radio show. Instead of responding to Americans United’s concern of illegal activity, Drake issued yesterday afternoon a plea to his supporters to join in 'imprecatory prayers' (curses) every morning for Americans United and its staff. ..."


Posted August 10th, 2007

It's the "iLimb"...

National Geographic reported on July 19th that "A new hope has arrived for amputees that would make Luke Skywalker feel right at home: a highly advanced bionic hand controlled by a patient's mind and muscles. The newly released iLimb is the first prosthetic hand to have fully functional motorized digits that move and bend independently, its makers say. Electrodes taped to the skin transmit signals to tiny motors that power the fingers. ..."


Rumor has it that some amputee users of the new iLimb have complained that it only works for three hours at a time, that the "intuitive" controls are not, and that users have to pay $99 per day for temporary replacement limbs while their iLimbs are being repaired. ;-)

"King Kong" wants Torch Gig at Olympics...

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on Aug. 1st that "One of the world's hairiest men, who nicknames himself 'King Kong', has launched a campaign to carry the Olympic Torch during the relay ahead of next year's Beijing Games, according to the official Xinhua news agency. 'The Olympics belong to everyone - the common people and those with abnormalities included,' the report quoted Yu Zhenhuan as saying from his home in China's north-eastern province of Liaoning. 'First I am a celebrity, inside and outside of China. Secondly, I think my experience in coping with a disfigurement ties in with the notion of the Olympic spirit,' he added. Hair covers 96 per cent of Yu's body. He may be surpassed only by a pair of Mexican brothers: Victor 'Larry' and Gabriel 'Danny' Ramos Gomez, listed in the book of Guinness World Records as having 98 per cent hair cover. ..."


Hat Tip: Belshaw

Texas Board of Education Chair on Intelligent Design and the "Big Tent"...

The Texas Freedom Network has posted text and audio of Don McLeroy, recently-appointed chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, speaking in 2005 at Grace Bible Church in Bryan, Texas on an "Intelligent Design Theory Primer." Unlike most Intelligent Design proponents, McLeroy was remarkably candid to the church audience, saying "Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of intelligent design."


See Also:

GREAT Perseids this Sunday...

NASA announced on July 11th "Circle this date: Sunday, August 12th. Next to the circle write 'all night' and 'Meteors!' Attach the above to your refrigerator in plain view so you won't miss the 2007 Perseid meteor shower. 'It's going to be a great show,' says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center. 'The Moon is new on August 12th--which means no moonlight, dark skies and plenty of meteors.' How many? Cooke estimates one or two Perseids per minute at the shower's peak. ... The show begins between 9:00 and 10:00 pm on Sunday, August 12th, when Perseus rises in the northeast. This is the time to look for Perseid Earthgrazers--meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping the surface of a pond. 'Earthgrazers are long, slow and colorful; they are among the most beautiful of meteors,' says Cooke. He cautions that an hour of watching may net only a few of these--'at most'--but seeing even one makes the long night worthwhile. As the night unfolds, Perseus climbs higher and the meteor rate will increase many-fold. 'By 2 am on Monday morning, August 13th, dozens of Perseids may be flitting across the sky every hour.' The crescendo comes before dawn when rates could exceed a meteor a minute. ..."


ICR a-Moving to Dallas...

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR, in Santee, CA) announced in the August issue of "Acts and Facts" that "... in order to expand ICR’s efforts in research, education, and dissemination, we recognize the need to recruit and train the next generation of creation scientists who will develop the mission for generations to come. To accomplish that vital objective, and to fulfill the international ministry opportunities the Lord has opened for us, the board of directors authorized the relocation of ICR to the new Dallas campus, with most of the operations to be in place by the end of this year. The wisdom of the board to remove the burden of the rising costs of living and working in southern California will allow ICR to reallocate funds—your gifts to us—for projects that will expand the mission and message of biblical creation science as our founder set forth in 1970 when ICR was born. The Museum of Creation and Earth History will remain in Santee for the foreseeable future. Some researchers will also stay while laboratory and support personnel are relocated. All new science and professional staff will be recruited and located at the new Dallas campus. ..."


Are We Back to Square One on Hominid Evolution?...

To hear some of the news reports - for example, the Australian Broadcasting Company headlining their story "Fossil find casts doubt on origins of man" - you would think so. But the new findings are not nearly as revolutionary as some journalists (and yes, some scientists too) would have us think.

See Mike Dunford's blog at The Questionable Authority:

and John Hawks Paleoanthropology blog:

Posted August 3rd, 2007

Dutch TV Censors Attenborough's "Life of Mammals"..

Dutch News reported on July 30th that "Religious TV station EO on Monday defended its editing of wildlife documentaries to remove references to evolution. Director Henk Hagoort told Trouw that editing was normal in bought-in programmes. 'That also happens in drama series if, for example, there is a lot of swearing'. On Saturday it emerged that the BBC documentary Life of Mammals by David Attenborough had been edited, and one entire programme scrapped because of its focus on evolution. The EO is an evangelical broadcaster which takes the creation of the world in seven days as one of its standpoints. 'If people do not accept our position on creationism they do not have to watch,' Hagoort said. ..."


Genetic Engineering produces Schizophrenic Mice...

The Times (UK) reported on July 29th that "Scientists have created the world’s first schizophrenic mice in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the illness. It is believed to be the first time an animal has been genetically engineered to have a mental illness. Until now they have been bred only for research into physical conditions such as heart disease. It will allow researchers to study the disease and develop treatments using a limitless supply of laboratory animals. Animal rights campaigners have condemned the research, saying that it is morally repugnant to create an animal doomed to mental suffering. The mice were created by modifying their DNA to mimic a mutant gene first found in a Scottish family with a high incidence of schizophrenia, which affects about one in every 100 people. The mice’s brains were found to have features similar to those of humans with schizophrenia, such as depression and hyperactivity. ..."


Electric Fields for Treating Cancer?

Physics Today reports in its August news that "Electric fields have potential as a cancer treatment. Low-intensity alternating fields can hinder or destroy dividing cells and slow the growth of brain tumors in cancer patients. Healthy cells have regulating mechanisms that generally limit how rapidly they can divide. Skin cells, for example, normally divide about once every 30 days, but they can divide faster in response to a wound that needs healing. Cancer, however, is characterized by cell division that has gone out of control. In cancer cells, the mechanisms that regulate division break down, and the cells spend less time in the quiescent state and more time dividing. ... Yoram Palti, of the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, and his colleagues have demonstrated another way [besides chemotherapy] to disrupt cell division: alternating electric fields with intensities of just 1–2 V/cm. The fields they use, with frequencies in the hundreds of kilohertz, were previously thought to do nothing significant to living cells other than heating them. But Palti and colleagues have conducted a small clinical trial showing that the fields have an effect in slowing the growth of tumors. ..."


Fraud-plagued Stem Cell Study has Silver Lining...

The International Herald Tribune reports on Aug. 2nd that "The world of stem cell research was set reeling two years ago when its most successful practitioner, the Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang, was found to have fabricated much of his work. His claim to have derived the first embryonic stem cells from the adult cells of a patient was discredited after parts of his research were found to have been faked. A team of Boston scientists has now re-examined stocks of Hwang's purported embryonic stem cells and arrived at a surprising conclusion: Hwang did achieve a scientific first, though it was quite different from the one he claimed. Hwang's cells were the product of parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, meaning that they were derived from an unfertilized egg, a team led by Kitai Kim and George Daley of Childrens Hospital Boston reports in an article published Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Embryonic stem cells derived this way could not develop normally, so they would be free of ethical objections. The cells could perhaps help treat women capable of supplying eggs, should effective treatments ever be developed. ..."


Creationists Developing Theories of Flood Geology...

And what theories they are! There is a complete set of abstracts from the "Proceedings of the First Conference on Creation Geology,", held July 26-28, 2007 at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. A snippet of the exciting new research presented at this meeting: Lee A. Spencer of Southern Adventist University writes "A Biblically consistent explanation for the succession of geologic periods is that as the Flood waters rose, they encountered different habitats that were elevation dependant. ... The Flood model based on elevationally restricted habitats is often entitled 'the pr inciple of biome succession' or 'ecological zonation' (Clark, 1946). Dinosaurs then, because they are restricted to the Mesozoic, would have lived at the middle elevations, lower than mammals, higher than the synapsid reptiles. As the Flood waters rose, they would have destroyed the dinosaurs before reaching the elevations where the Cenozoic mammals were living. ..."

Well, I'm glad they got that part figured out!


Posted July 27th, 2007

UNM Professor Tim Moy Drowns Trying to Save Son...

The Albuquerque Tribune reported on July 23rd that "A University of New Mexico history professor drowned in Hawaii while trying to save his 12-year-old son, authorities said. Timothy Moy, 44, was pulled from the waters off Kailua Beach but died Sunday at a local hospital. His son was in serious condition Monday. Moy had been at UNM since 1993 and specialized in the history of science and technology, University spokeswoman Karen Wentworth said. He had been recognized this year as a Presidential Teaching Fellow and was a graduate student adviser, she said. ... "


On the 24th, the Trib reported that "The subject might have been Galileo Galilei, the atomic bomb or evolution versus creationism. Timothy Moy spent his career immersed in the scientific controversies of the day - whether that day was today or 400 years ago. His talent, colleagues and former students said, was his ability to weave the strands of time together. 'He could reach back and grab all these facts and figures and anecdotes and use them to tell a story,' said Kim Johnson, a physicist and friend. 'In his quiet way, he was very passionate.' ... Plans for a memorial service have not been finalized. 'Tim is remembered as a remarkable professor,' UNM President David Schmidly said. 'Now we can also remember him for his selfless courage in saving his son.' Since coming to UNM in 1993, Moy had been active in organizations promoting science education and scientific literacy. ... During the late 1990s, Moy helped lead a successful push to restore evolution to school curriculums in New Mexico. He'd continued fighting efforts to add creationism to that curriculum, said Dave Thomas, president of the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education, of which Moy was a past president. Moy also appeared on Thomas' radio show several times, chronicling sagas like Galileo and the church or the formation of the theory of evolution. ... Moy's work ranged as widely as his thinking. Besides the coalition, Moy was active with New Mexicans for Science and Reason and was a member of the Advance Concepts Group at Sandia National Laboratories, which focuses on emerging national security threats. One of Moy's classes last semester focused on the story behind the first atomic bomb, built in Los Alamos. 'He was really interesting to listen to,' said Stephanie Chu, a UNM senior who took the class. 'Some history professors aren't entirely interesting all the time, but with him it was like listening to a story.' Johnson said Moy had spent the last few months talking to people on both sides of the evolution/creationism debate. Moy wanted to know what was motivating the creationism movement, Johnson said. 'He could talk to anybody,' Johnson said. 'I was really looking forward to seeing what he'd found out, but I guess now I won't know.' ..."


More coverage:

John Fleck's Inkstain, "A Very Sad Day,"

Tribune Editorial, "Mourn Moy,"

The Honolulu Advertiser, "Friends mourn man who drowned in Hawaii,"

The "Tripoli 6" are FREE...

ABC News reports on July 24th that "Tears and jubilation greeted six medics freed by Libya on Tuesday after nearly a decade languishing in jail over widely rejected accusations they deliberately infected children with HIV, ending a nightmare that drove at least one to attempt suicide. Behind the dramatic release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were secretive negotiations involving the French president's wife. But questions remain about what concessions were made to Moammar Gadhafi's regime... "


The significance? Last year on the Panda's Thumb, Nick Matzke noted that "Well, out here in the real world (outside of Libya and creationist circles), the way you tell where an HIV strain actually came from, and when, is by doing a standard molecular phylogeny. ... The co-discoverer of HIV, Luc Montagnier, and other scientists, have already told the Libyan court that the Tripoli Six couldn’t possibly be responsible, since the HIV infections occurred both before 1998 and after the Six were arrested ..."


Pope Benedict: "There is much scientific proof in favor of evolution..."

MSNBC reported on July 25th that "Pope Benedict XVI said the debate raging in some countries — particularly the United States and his native Germany — between creationism and evolution was an 'absurdity,' saying that evolution can coexist with faith. The pontiff, speaking as he was concluding his holiday in northern Italy, also said that while there is much scientific proof to support evolution, the theory could not exclude a role by God. 'They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other,' the pope said. 'This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.' ..."


Farewell, Bat Boy -- We Hardly Knew Ye... (for Speculative Fiction, not San Fran) reports on July 22nd that "Bob Greenberger, an editor with Weekly World News, reports on his blog that he and the rest of the staff were called into a meeting about noon on Friday where they were 'told the Board of Directors has chosen to close Weekly World News. The reasons given make no sense. We're stunned and shell-shocked. We're to stay on through August 3, finishing the reprint issues and then we're done. A glorious, funny, odd publication, born in 1979, will go out with a whimper and all I can think is that something's going on that they're not telling us because it just doesn't make sense.' ..."


Ex-Rio Rancho mayor Kevin Jackson's Legacy...

In a column published in the Albuquerque Tribune on July 26th, I write that "Now that he has resigned, it's a good time to ponder the legacy of Rio Rancho's ex-mayor, Kevin Jackson, whose brief tenure has been disgraceful. I don't pretend to be able to explain the mechanics of his mind-numbing meltdown, complete with accusations of misuse of public funds and his unwillingness to begin coming clean about his use of public money. In light of recent events, I would like to encourage a re-examination of two of the man's prized issues: creationism and abstinence-only education. ... Jackson and his wife formed the New Mexico Family Council years ago. It has identified itself as 'one of 40 Family Policy councils throughout the country which work closely with (James Dobson's) Focus on the Family.' Back when Jackson ran the council, the organization's newsletter claimed responsibility for sending science teachers several dozen copies of the Intelligent Design tome 'Darwin's Black Box,' by Michael Behe. This was cited as a classic example of the Intelligent Design 'Wedge' strategy in the book 'Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design' by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross. Forrest went on to become the key witness proving the connections of creationism to its successor, Intelligent Design, in Judge John Jones' historic 2005 decision in a Dover, Pa., federal court case. ..."


Requisite Blog: "Yet Another Creationist Meltdown,"

Focus on the Family's Dobson: Harry Potter is Not for Christians...

Speaking of James Dobson and Focus on the Family, guess who really doesn't like anything to do with Harry Potter? The Christian Post reported on July 23rd that "In response to media speculation, Focus on the Family (FOTF) posted a statement on its website this weekend titled “Dr. Dobson: 'What I Think About Harry Potter.'” In the statement, the conservative pro-family ministry explained that FOTF founder Dr. James Dobson has never endorsed books or films from the megahit fantasy series, and that many papers mistakenly reported that he had given them an OK for Christian families. The posting directly confronts the Washington Post, which published an article about what Christians think of the craze, and how the reporter had incorrectly assumed that Dobson favored the boy wizard. ... The reason the ministry leader is against the material is obvious given the presence of magical characters (witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, poltergeists and so on) in the Harry Potter stories. ... Dobson’s sentiments echo those of other conservative leaders including Dr. Ted Baehr, founder of, and Linda Harvey, president of Mission America. ..."


Posted July 20th, 2007

Why Doesn't Evolution Get Rid of Ugly People?...

In a June 27th Newsweek blog, Sharon Begley asks "Why isn’t everyone beautiful, smart and healthy? Or, in a less-polite formulation, why haven’t ugly, stupid, unhealthy people been bred out of the population—ugly people because no one will have them as mates, meaning they don’t get the chance to pass their ugliness to the next generation; stupid people because they’re outgunned in the race to financial success (that is, acquiring resources needed to survive and reproduce); unhealthy people because they die before they get a chance to reproduce?"

The answer? " In a groundbreaking study, biologists at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have figured out why, at least in one species: genes that are good for males are bad for females and, perhaps, vice versa. The scientists studied red deer, 3,559 of them from eight generations, living on Scotland’s Isle of Rum. They carefully noted each animal’s fitness, who mated with whom, how many offspring survived, which offspring mated and with what results. Bottom line: 'male red deer with relatively high fitness fathered, on average, daughters with relatively low fitness,' Edinburgh’s Katharina Foerster and her colleagues conclude in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Nature. ... The reverse also holds. Males that were relatively less successful in their reproductive success and fitness had daughters that were extra successful. The reason is that any particular gene-based trait may have very different effects on males than in females. Extrapolating to humans (and oversimplifying, sorry) you might imagine that a particular shape of the nose or turn of the chin would look drop-dead hunky on a male, but horsey on a woman; dad got to mate because his looks attracted a female, but the result of their togetherness produced daughters whose pulchritude was less than obvious. Traits that evolutionary psychologists tell us make women unfit for mating (having the 'wrong' shape) remain abundant in the human race because the DNA for the traits, when inherited by sons, confers a selective advantage; when those sons have daughters, presto—more females with less-than-hourglass shapes. Or as the Edinburgh biologists put it, 'optimal genotypes differ between male and female red deer, because a genotype that produces a male phenotype with relatively high fitness will, on average, produce a phenotype with lower fitness when expressed in a female.' ..."


Fallout from Trinity Test...

Ker Than of reports on July 16th that "The world’s first atomic bomb test might have exposed unaware civilians in New Mexico to thousands of times the recommended level of public radiation exposure, according to reconstructed data in a new study. The research, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that ingestion of radioactive materials—primarily from irradiated rainwater and goat’s milk—might have been a substantial contributor to public radiation exposure that was largely not accounted for. The findings come on the 62nd anniversary of the world’s first atomic explosion and were presented at the recent annual meeting of the Health Physics Society. ..."


Triassic Extinction Event NOT Responsible for Allowing Emergence of Dinosaurs?

John Fleck writes in the July 20th Albuquerque Journal that "Paleontologists working at Ghost Ranch are rewriting the history of the dinosaur. It seems dinosaurs were not the fast-rising evolutionary power brokers that some scientists have thought, according to new fossils found in the red rock country of northern New Mexico. Discoveries, made last year and described today in the journal Science, suggest a gradual rise by the creatures that came to dominate their world for more than 150 million years. Some scientists have argued that dinosaurs came on with a bang during the period of Earth history called the Triassic, sweeping into power in what amounted to a geologic instant. But the new fossils, found at Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, upend that story. As dinosaurs were beginning their rise to power, other dinosaurlike creatures lived with them side by side for 15 million to 20 million years, the newfound fossils suggest. Among them were the bones of a newly discovered dinosaurlike creature scientists named Dromomeron romeri. 'They're coexisting with true dinosaurs,' said Randall Irmis, the Berkeley graduate student who led the study. The dinosaurs and Dromomeron were closely related but from different branches of the evolutionary tree— like the difference between chimpanzees and humans, explained Sterling Nesbitt, one of the paper's co-authors. ..."

Source: (subscription)

Big Bird in NM? Radford vs. Pterosaurs, on TV...

No, not the big yellow fellow from Sesame Street. On the July 19th edition of KRQE News 13, reporter Annie McCormick presented the case of Dave Zander's mysterious story from southern New Mexico: "Myths and legends about creatures from the Chupacabra to the Jersey Devil to Bigfoot are everywhere, but in southern New Mexico and parts of Texas people say they've seen birds so big they seem prehistoric. One man claims the rugged landscape near Las Cruces hides a mystery that's haunted him for years. Dave Zander has lived near the Doña Ana Mountains for more than 30 years spending almost all his spare time hiking, exploring and fossil hunting in the range between the Robledo and Organ mountains. He saw something that he's unable to explain and many people find hard to believe. He recalls the day nine years ago when he spotted something extraordinary: two creatures perched on a mountain less than a mile away. 'These creatures were so huge they looked like the size of small planes,' Dave Zander said. 'All of the sudden one of them jumped off dropped off the top of the mountain, came down the front of the mountain and all the sudden these huge wings just spread out. I would say the wings were at least a 20-foot wingspan.' ... You can find thunderbird images atop many totem poles and also carved into the lava rocks of the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque. Similar images are found in petroglyphs all over North America. According to legend, the thunderbird is said to have a wingspan the length of two canoes with the ability to deafen people with the sound of its flapping wings. ... However a word of caution comes from folks like Ben Radford, managing editor of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, which applies scientific reason and evidence to extraordinary claims. 'There is a desire to link modern sightings with these Native American stories but the problem is they're not necessarily the same thing,' Radford said. Radford said believes the eyewitnesses saw something: 'Ultimately a lot of these sightings, whether it's these monsters, these creatures, Chupacabras, what have you, these come down to eyewitness testimony,' Radford said. 'They're stories, there's nothing wrong with stories, but they're just not good evidence.' Radford has debunked numerous stories about the Loch Ness monster, crop circles and Bigfoot. He said he relies on evidence. 'You don't have bones, teeth,' he continued. 'You don't have any hard evidence, so you look to these stories, you look to these myths. We know from many scientific experiments people are notoriously unreliable about estimating things.' And in this case, Radford said he thinks Zander and the other witnesses in Texas overestimated the birds' size. ..."


Watch Annie McCormick's report! Scroll down the page to "Related Links: 7/19/07 10 p.m.: Big bird; big mystery", and click on the video camera icon!

Posted July 13th, 2007

Threats by religious group spark probe at CU-Boulder...

The Colorado Daily (Boulder) reports on July 12th that "Last weekend more than a dozen envelopes bearing the image of skull and crossbones and containing letters threatening the lives of CU-Boulder evolutionary biology professors were slipped under the doors of CU-Boulder buildings. According to a reprint of the letter posted online, the threat reads: 'every true Christian should be ready and willing to take up arms to kill the enemies of Christian society.' 'EBIO (evolutionary biology) professors are terrorists against America and intellectual and spiritual child abusers of their young and impressionable students - the EBIO department not only blasphemes God, who is invisible, but it blasphemes His Only Begotten Son and our Messiah, Jesus Christ, which is more unforgivable - for all these reason all God-fearing and Truth-loving persons must say, They must go!' CU officials won't name a suspect, but numerous sources close to the case say the letters - as well as a barrage of threatening e-mails - were signed “Michael Korn.” ..."


The Discovery Institute's take? "I suspect that if these guys are ever caught, they won't turn out be creationists, or even very religious people." (Robert Crowther)


A Watery Extrasolar World?

It was reported on July 11th that "Astronomers on Wednesday announced they had spotted the first planet beyond the solar system that has water, the precious ingredient for life. The watery world, though, is far beyond the reach of our puny chemically-powered rockets - and in any case is quite uninhabitable. It is made of gas rather than rock and its atmosphere reaches temperatures hot enough to melt steel, which means the water exists only as superheated steam. The find, named HD189733b, is about 15 percent bigger than our Jupiter and orbits a star in the constellation of Vulpecula the Fox, according to a paper released by Nature, the weekly British science journal. It was spotted by a team led by Giovanna Tinetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) and University College London. ..."


Posted July 6th, 2007

REALLY new advances ... RNA Vindicated?

The Economist reports on June 14th that "It is beginning to dawn on biologists that they may have got it wrong. Not completely wrong, but wrong enough to be embarrassing. For half a century their subject had been built around the relation between two sorts of chemical. Proteins, in the form of enzymes, hormones and so on, made things happen. DNA, in the form of genes, contained the instructions for making proteins. Other molecules were involved, of course. Sugars and fats were abundant (too abundant, in some people). And various vitamins and minerals made an appearance, as well. Oh, and there was also a curious chemical called RNA, which looked a bit like DNA but wasn't. It obediently carried genetic information from DNA in the nucleus to the places in the cell where proteins are made, rounded up the amino-acid units out of which those proteins are constructed, and was found in the protein factories themselves. All that was worked out decades ago. Since then, RNA has been more or less neglected as a humble carrier of messages and fetcher of building materials. This account of the cell was so satisfying to biologists that few bothered to look beyond it. But they are looking now. For, suddenly, cells seem to be full of RNA doing who-knows-what. ... perceptions about what a gene is need to change. Genes were once thought of almost exclusively as repositories of information about how to build proteins. Now, they need to be seen for what they really are: RNA factories. Genes for proteins may even be in the minority. In a human, the number of different microRNAs, one of the commonest of the newly discovered sorts of RNA, may be as high as 37,000 according to Isidore Rigoutsos, IBM's genome-miner in chief. That compares with the 21,000 or so protein-encoding genes that people have. ..."


Hat Tip: Raw Scores

Detailed Tour of Supposeum...

The Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies has a detailed photo-tour of the new museum. It's by Dr. Stephen C. Meyers, not your typical evengelist - he even admonished arch-creationist Kent Hovind once by reminding him that "Galileo said: 'The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.'"


Speaking of Faith, how about The Darwin Papers?

The "Speaking of Faith" program with Krista Tippett is public radio's conversation about religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas. The show has a splendid compendium of Charles Darwin's private notebooks and hand sketches, explained by a scholar who knows it well, David Kohn.


Posted June 29th, 2007

"Euro" - Riding the "Creo" Roller-Coaster...

Reuters reported on June 25th that "Europe's main human rights body on Monday cancelled a scheduled vote on banning creationist and intelligent design views from school science classes, saying the proposed resolution was one-sided. The resolution, which the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly was due to vote on Tuesday, said attacks on the theory of evolution were rooted 'in forms of religious extremism' and amounted to a dangerous attack on scientific knowledge. ..."


But it wasn't quite the same story in the United Kingdom, where the Register reported on June 25th that "The government has announced that it will publish guidance for schools on how creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching, and has reiterated that it sees no place for either on the science curriculum. It has also defined 'Intelligent Design', the idea that life is too complex to have arisen without the guiding hand of a greater intelligence, as a religion, along with 'creationism'. ..."


And Creo Split Widens...

Kevin Eigelbach of the Cincinnati Post reported on June 28th that "Last week, The Post reported on a lawsuit an Australian creationist group is pursuing against its American cousin, the Boone County-based Answers in Genesis. ... It's all detailed in a 40-page report by Clarrie Briese, a former chief state magistrate in Australia, and a member of CMI. ... According to Briese, in a letter to the Answers board, then-Answers COO Brandon Vallorani wrote, '[Answers in Genesis chief] Ken [Ham]'s track record with staff has been To Put It Mildly less than desirable. He is perceived to be harsh and unforgiving .... There is an unhealthy fear of Ken. ... When Ham sees a threat to his dominant position in the worldwide creationism movement, he retaliates, Briese wrote, and that's what he proceeded to do to CMI. ... Briese found evidence of other, dirtier retaliation as well. I'll write more about that next week. ..."


Wild Cousins of Domestic Cats Identified...

The New York Times reports on June 28th that "Some 10,000 years ago, somewhere in the Near East, an audacious wild cat crept into one of the crude villages of early human settlers, the first to domesticate wheat and barley. There she felt safe from her many predators in the region, such as hyenas and larger cats, and the rodents that infested the settlers’ homes and granaries were sufficient prey for her. Seeing she was earning her keep, the settlers tolerated her, and their children greeted her kittens with delight. At least five females, of the wildcat subspecies known as Felis silvestris lybica, accomplished this delicate transition from forest to village, scientists have concluded, based on new DNA research. And from these five matriarchs, all the world’s 600 million housecats are descended. ... The wildcat DNA closest to that of modern house cats came from 15 individuals collected in the remote deserts of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the researchers say. ..."


Untimely Passing of Barry Beyerstein...

Barry Karr of the Committee for Scientific Inquiry (CSI) announced on June 27th that "We all lost a true hero yesterday. I am stunned and saddened and I have been searching the internet for an hour this morning looking for news because I just can't believe it. Barry Beyerstein died. Barry Beyerstein. I don't have enough words to tell you what this loss will mean to the skeptical and rationalist world. Barry was a tireless defender of science. ... He was one of our first people on a number of topics we deal with. Graphology, Psychic Powers, Why People Believe, Near Death Experiences, Critical Thinking, Alternative Medicine, Neuropathology of Spiritual Possession, Brain States, Dowsing, The Sins of Big Pharma, and the list goes on and on. The thing is, he didn't have to do any of this. He was a volunteer, but he worked just as hard for this organization as he did for his full-time faculty job at Simon Fraser University. But he had talents, wisdom and knowledge and he saw the need and he used those talents. And we are far better for that. ... "


Juries Getting it Wrong......

Northwestern University announced on June 28th that "Juries across the country make decisions every day on the fate of defendants, ideally leading to prison sentences that fit the crime for the guilty and release for the innocent. Yet a new Northwestern University study shows that juries in criminal cases many times are getting it wrong. In a set of 271 cases from four areas, juries gave wrong verdicts in at least one out of eight cases, according to 'Estimating the Accuracy of Jury Verdicts,' a paper by a Northwestern University statistician that is being published in the July issue of Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. ..."


More Ghost Busting...

Following up on last week's report of a strange object appearing in a Santa Fe courthouse parking lot, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported on June 22nd that "A paranormal investigator definitively proved Thursday that an image captured on a courthouse surveillance camera was a bug, not a ghost. Benjamin Radford, managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, drove back to Santa Fe from his home in Corrales on Thursday after spending part of Wednesday conducting experiments at the state district courthouse. On Thursday, Radford placed ladybugs on the camera that captured the image a week ago at almost the exact same time of the morning and created an almost identical image. The sun hit the camera directly just before 7:30 a.m., and caused one of the smaller ladybugs to glow just like the image discovered a week ago. Deputy John Lucero said it looked exactly like the image capture a week ago. 'He figured it out,' Lucero said. 'I’m convinced it was a bug.' Radford said he thinks the culprit was actually a small spider. 'I love solving a case,' he said. 'It’s like a Zen thing.' ..."


More informationi from CSI, and a link to the Video:

A Wiki for Everyone - Even the Tin Foil Hat Club...

Yes, it's tinWiki.orG, sponsored by, the "biggest of the Internet's conspiracy-related forums." The site says "Welcome to the TinWiki, the first full-feature Wiki dedicated exclusively to all the topics that inspires the authors to consider 'Tin foil hats'. Topics such as conspiracy theories, UFO cover ups, extraterrestrial programs, New World Order, Illuminati, secret government programs, top secret bases, and nearly any other 'alternative topic' that would cause paranoid fear of the government reprisals, wire taps, and email monitoring are the focus of this collaborative Wiki. Sponsored by as a unique way to organize and condense over two million posts on these "alternative" topics, the TinWiki is free and open for all contributors. Anyone can create new Tin-inspired articles or add to the existing articles. ..."


Posted June 22nd, 2007

Council of Europe: ID is 'Pathetically Inadequate' for Science Classes...

After calls for creationism in schools have been increasing in Europe due to efforts of creationists like Harun Yahya, the Council of Europe on June 8th announced it is introducing the following resolution for adoption: "The dangers of creationism in education: The theory of evolution is being attacked by religious fundamentalists who call for creationist theories to be taught in European schools alongside or even in place of it. From a scientific view point there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of the Universe and of life on Earth. Creationism in any of its forms, such as 'intelligent design', is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes. The Assembly calls on education authorities in member States to promote scientific knowledge and the teaching of evolution and to oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline. ..."


O Canada May Be Catching On, Too...

In the June 19th issue of The Hamilton Spectator, Antony Black writes "When once asked what he could infer about the Creator from the nature of the creation, the great evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane replied, 'He must have been inordinately fond of beetles.' What he was getting at, of course, was the sheer arbitrariness which attends creationist explanations of the origins of life on Earth. For such a bewildering variety of speciation as is found on this planet -- much of it given over disproportionately to the likes of the lowly beetle -- seems to suggest that special creation is, well, somehow unreasonable. In truth, the unreasonableness of creationism (now repackaged in a new guise as 'intelligent design') goes well beyond the resonance of Haldane's wry response. This is because the weight of the evidence in favour of evolution is now so great that, in the words of Richard Dawkins, 'opposition to the fact of evolution is laughable to all who are acquainted with even a fraction of the published data.' Aye, but there lies the problem. For, among the lay public, those who are acquainted with even a fraction of the evidence represent a remarkably small subset of the total population. Let us then review what that evidence is: ..."


Hat Tip: Red State Rabble,

'Focus On The Family' Reveals YEC Agenda...

If you were wondering whether James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" organization was supportive of Young-Earth Creationism (YEC), wonder no more! The May 22nd edition of Focus on the Family's "Citizen Link" reports that "Far-Left DefCon America has launched a campaign against a northern Kentucky museum dedicated to a biblical presentation of science and world history. The Creation Museum, a project of Answers in Genesis, will open its 76,000-square-foot facility May 28. ... Ham said it's preposterous to claim the museum has no basis in science. 'We are opening up a major facility to tell the world that the Bible is true and we use good research in biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology and so on – to help people understand you can trust God's word. And they don't like it,' he said. ..."


Ghosts in the City Different?

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on June 15th that "A surveillance camera at the First Judicial District courthouse downtown captured a strange image Friday morning that left sheriff’s deputies, lawyers, clerks and judges scratching their heads as to what it might have been. Some thought it was the ghost of a man killed at the courthouse more than 20 years ago after bringing a rifle to the building and taking several people hostage. ..."

Source:, (video!)

The story quickly went National, and was picked up by ABC News and numerous other news organizations.


That's when paranormal investigator and recent NMSR speaker Benjamin Radford decided to check out the courthouse camera in person. You can see KRQE TV13's report on what Ben found in a video posted by KRQE on June 22nd, titled "Ghost buster: SF orb not so paranormal."


Posted June 15th, 2007

Gallup Poll: Majority of Republicans Doubt Theory of Evolution..

The Gallup Poll announced on June 11th that "The majority of Republicans in the United States do not believe the theory of evolution is true and do not believe that humans evolved over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. This suggests that when three Republican presidential candidates at a May debate stated they did not believe in evolution, they were generally in sync with the bulk of the rank-and-file Republicans whose nomination they are seeking to obtain. Independents and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe in the theory of evolution. But even among non-Republicans there appears to be a significant minority who doubt that evolution adequately explains where humans came from. ..."


Dr. Strangelove, Come Back! All is Forgiven... (San Francisco and Bay area) reports on June 8th that "A Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting. Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called 'Gay Bomb.' ..."


'Mr. Wizard' (Don Herbert) dead at 89...

Yahoo/AP reports on June 12th that "Don Herbert, who as television's 'Mr. Wizard' introduced generations of young viewers to the joys of science, died Tuesday. He was 89. Herbert, who had bone cancer, died at his suburban Bell Canyon home, said his son-in-law, Tom Nikosey. 'He really taught kids how to use the thinking skills of a scientist,' said former colleague Steve Jacobs. He worked with Herbert on a 1980s show that echoed the original 1950s 'Watch Mr. Wizard' series, which became a fond baby boomer memory. ..."


See Mr. Wizard's appearance on the very first David Letterman show! (Hat tip Jean Brocklebank)

Are Natural History Museums an Endangered Species?...

Mike Boehm of the Los Angeles Times writes on June 12th that "The great American natural history museum could be headed for the vulnerable species list, alongside the polar bear and the redwood tree. A national survey last year showed nature museums' annual bottom lines sinking chronically into the red by $300,000 on average, while art museums outperformed them by nearly half a million dollars. Some of the leading institutions have winnowed their staffs since the decade began. Science leaders worry that financial pressures and demands to boost attendance could prompt natural history museums to self-lobotomize, cutting away brain matter -- the pure scientific research that's largely hidden from the public -- to save the exhibits and educational programs that are the institutions' visible cash generators. ..."


"Big Bird" in the Cretaceous?  Meet 'Gigantoraptor'...

The Independent (UK) reports on June 13th that "A 3000 lb 'big bird' dinosaur called Gigantoraptor has got scientists into a flap. The remains of the gigantic, surprisingly bird-like dinosaur - the biggest toothless dinosaur ever found - have been uncovered in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia, China, and challenge current understanding about the origins of birds. ... The animal - which lived in the Late Cretaceous- about 85 million years ago - has surprised palaeontologists as most theories suggest that carnivorous dinosaurs got smaller as they got more bird-like. ... The big bird-like dinosaur would have stood, at the shoulder, twice the height of a man, with feathers at least on its arm and tail, and probably grew much faster than the likes of T rex. But, despite its great size, many features of its anatomy were more bird-like, rather than less, as would have been expected, said Dr Xu. ..."


Rio Rancho Mayor Jackson: "Twisting, slowly, slowly in the wind." ...

It's just getting worse for embattled Rio Rancho mayor Kevin Jackson, whose involvement with supporting "Intelligent Design" crusades has long been tracked at NMSR. Speaking of religious hypocrisy in general, The Trib's Larry Spohn writes on June 14th "And now, up in Rio Rancho, where there seem to be more churches per capita than in Rome, we have Mayor Kevin Jackson, a founding father of the New Mexico Family Values Council - Best Choice. City officials are investigating Jackson's use of a city-issued credit card while mayor at the same time State Police are looking into accusations of check fraud during the time Jackson worked for the Family Council - the save-traditional-marriage, abstinence-only-sex-education, heterosexuals-rule group he once headed. ... Facing a federal investigation into how it has spent its federal abstinence-only sex education grant - never mind, of course, that the research shows it doesn't work - the council last month exercised its survival instinct and fired its founding papa, Jackson. ... Given all that, it's still absolutely astonishing how hypocritical America's religious and family-values leaders can be. ..."


Dave Thomas has another cartoon on the matter, to be published in the Rio Rancho Observer, Sunday, June 17th. This one's in color! See "Toons by Dave Thomas" for more.

When You Need a Rock Band, Who Do You Call?  Scientists, of Course... reports on June 13th "In an effort to fulfill his promise of a concert on every continent for his 'Live Earth' event on July 7 to 8, Al Gore approached the British Antarctic Survey in February to explore the possibility of flying a band in to its Rothera Research Station in Antarctica. No, he was told, July is mid-winter in Antarctica, and no planes or boats can get in or out. But all was not lost. BAS officials told Gore that a band was already in place on the South Pole. BAS press representative Linda Capper told blogger Tim Slagle, 'We have a house band — five of our science team. They are very good indie rock-folk fusion. The remaining 17 will be the audience on location.' They’ve never played in front of an audience. To make matters worse, the band, named after a Greenlandic word for “summit,” will be playing outside on the ice, where temperatures could be as low as minus ten degrees Celsius. ..."


Posted June 8th, 2007

Troubles for Rio Rancho Mayor Jackson...

The Albuquerque Tribune reports on June 8th that "More than two weeks after Rio Rancho city officials revoked their mayor's city credit card, many of the charges he made are still a mystery. ... Rio Rancho officials and police, State Police and the state Auditor's Office are investigating charges made by Jackson on his city-issued card. Jackson also was fired three weeks ago as director of the New Mexico Family Council-Best Choice. The nonprofit group is being investigated amid accusations federal grant money for its programs was misspent. Jackson has been unavailable for comment. ..."


In 2002, Jackson's group, NMFC, sent hundreds of copies of Michael Behe's "Intelligent Design" (ID) book "Darwin's Black Box" to science teachers in New Mexico, on UNM letterhead:

And in 2005, Jackson's wife Kathy sat on the Rio Rancho School Board as it approved since-amended "Science Policy 401," widely denounced as pro-ID in its original form.

Dave Thomas has a cartoon on the matter, to be published in the Rio Rancho Observer, Sunday, June 10th. See "Toons by Dave Thomas" for more.

More on the CreationSCHism...

The Australian reports on June 04 that "An unholy war has erupted between a star of the US evangelical movement and his Australian flock, with claims of bullying and unbiblical behaviour. ... A week after former Queensland science teacher Ken Ham opened the world's first Creation Museum - a $33 million facility in Petersburg, Kentucky - he is being sued by the Australian evangelical organisation he helped to set up and which served as a springboard for his leap into the US evangelical movement two decades ago. ... The Brisbane-based Creation Ministries International has filed a lawsuit in Queensland's Supreme Court against Mr Ham and his Kentucky-based Answers in Genesis ministry seeking damages and accusing him of deceptive conduct in his dealings with the Australian organisation. The suit focuses on a dispute over the Australian organisation's production of a creationist magazine, sold in the US to more than 35,000 subscribers, and has led to revelations about the three-year battle between the two ministries. ..."


Carroll on Behe's New Book: "The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands."...

In the June 8th issue of Science, Sean B. Carroll's article "God as Genetic Engineer" notes that "'The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands.' Those are the words that Thomas Huxley, Darwin's confidant and staunchest ally, purportedly murmured to a colleague as he rose to turn Bishop Samuel Wilberforce's own words to his advantage and rebut the bishop's critique of Darwin's theory at their legendary 1860 Oxford debate. They are also the first words that popped into my head as I read Michael J. Behe's The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism. In it, Behe makes a new set of explicit claims about the limits of Darwinian evolution, claims that are so poorly conceived and readily dispatched that he has unwittingly done his critics a great favor in stating them. ..."

Source: (Monty Python fans, don't miss the satirical cartoon!)

And don't miss Nick Matzke's classic takedown on The Panda's Thumb (June 5th) : "Oh, I almost forgot the best part: Which apicomplexan critter is it that builds cilia [without Intraflagellar transport (IFT) genes] despite Behe’s declaration that 'a functioning cilium requires a working IFT'? Why, it’s Plasmodium falciparum, aka malaria, aka Behe’s own biggest running example used throughout The Edge of Evolution. Yes, it’s the very critter about which Behe wrote on page 237, 'Here’s something to ponder long and hard: Malaria was intentionally designed. The molecular machinery with which the parasite invades red blood cells is an exquisitely purposeful arrangement of parts.' But not, apparently, the parts which Behe thought were required for cilium construction. If there is an Intelligent Designer up there, I suspect He’s having a bit of a chuckle right now. ..."


Dover II?

Just as the Dover, PA Intelligent Design trial was called "Scopes II," here comes the Chesterfield, VA School Board, with what may become Dover II. reports on June 5th that "How were the oceans, puppies and human beings formed? Was it through evolution, creationism or something in between? It's a heavy topic that's generated debate for years. That discourse landed in Chesterfield School Board members' laps recently when they set about adopting new science textbooks for middle and high schools. At issue was the concept of intelligent design, and why none of the proposed textbooks offered an alternative to evolution for how the universe came to be. Intelligent design proponents urged the School Board to include that theory in the school system's science curriculum so students can consider differing viewpoints in the classroom. ... In the end, members unanimously approved the proposed textbooks, but issued a formal statement saying, 'It is the School Board's belief that this topic, along with all other topics that raise differences of thought and opinion, should receive the thorough and unrestricted study as we have just articulated. Accordingly, we direct our superintendent to charge those of our professionals who support curriculum development and implementation with the responsibility to investigate and develop processes that encompass a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of these topics.' ..."


The Holy Grail (of Particle Physics) - Found at Last?

Slate's James Owen Weatherall reports on June 4th that "Some call the Higgs boson the Holy Grail of particle physics. As the only undetected element of the field's theoretical masterpiece—the 'standard model'—the Higgs guarantees a Nobel Prize for the experimenters who find it first. Now the European Union has spent an estimated $8 billion to build the world's largest particle accelerator, the large hadron collider, to finally track it down. ... But what if someone else has already found it? A rumor flying around physics departments these last few weeks claims that physicists working at the Tevatron, an accelerator located outside of Chicago, have found something new. ..."


Alibi interviews Paranormal Investigator/ upcoming NMSR speaker...

Marisa Demarco interviews Benjamin Radford in the June 7th Weekly Alibi. She begins the article, "Talking Points :Repelling Pseudoscience; Investigator quests after real info on our myths and monsters"  by saying "A woman came to Benjamin Radford a couple years ago with proof of the supernatural, a recording of a child ghost. You've got to hear this , she said. Radford's response: How do you know what a child ghost sounds like? 'I wasn't trying to be nasty or facetious,' he says. That's just his job. Radford is the managing editor of the Skeptical Inquirer , the journal of a nonprofit organization started by people like Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, scientists concerned about the rise of pseudoscience. ..."


Radford is speaking to NMSR next Wednesday, June 13th, at 7 PM at the UNM Law School.


New Creation Museum's "Adam" star likes to romp naked ... on Porn Site!

WKYT (Kentucky) and AP report on June 8th that "The man picked as Adam by a museum based on the Bible's version of Earth's history led quite a different life outside the Garden of Eden, flaunting his sexual exploits online and modeling for a line of clothing with an explicit mascot. Registration records show that Eric Linden, who portrays Adam taking his first breath in a film at the newly opened Creation Museum, owns a graphic Web site called Bedroom Acrobat. He has been pictured there, smiling alongside a drag queen, in a T-shirt brandishing the site's sexually suggestive logo. ... The museum's operators, informed Thursday by The Associated Press of Linden's online appearances, acted swiftly to suspend airing of the 40-second video in which he appeared. The clip is one of 55 featured on tours of the museum, in Petersburg, Ky., which tells what organizers call, the Bible's version of Earth's history. ..."


Posted June 1st, 2007

Roswell UFO Theme Park in the Works...

AP/Yahoo reports on May 26th that "Businesses here have been cashing in on the UFO craze for years — paintings and replicas of UFOs and space aliens adorn downtown buildings, and even the McDonald's and Wal-Mart are UFO- and space-themed. Now city officials want to take it to another level with a UFO-themed amusement park, complete with an indoor roller coaster that would take passengers on a simulated alien abduction. ... 'We're still in the infancy of our UFO-related economic development,' Montgomery said. 'Eventually, when people come to Roswell they're not going to have enough time to do everything they want to do. That's our goal.' ..."


New Creation Museum in Kentucky: Adam and Eve, and Noah Too...

The Washington Post reported on May 26th that "At the Creation Museum, a fanciful Eden rises from the void. Adam appears, bearded and handsome, if slightly waxen. Eve emerges from his rib with luxuriant hair and a kindly expression. Trees blossom and creatures frolic, evidence that all started well in God’s perfect world. Elsewhere, as the story develops, Cain stands over his slain brother, Abel; life-size workmen build a replica of Noah’s ark, and Methuselah intones, 'With each passing day, judgment draws nearer. … I can tell you, whatever God says is true.' Despite the showmanship behind the $27 million museum opening in Kentucky on Monday, the evangelists who put it together contend none of the gleaming exhibits are allegorical. God did create the universe in six days, they say, and the Earth is about 6,000 years old. ... 'This may be fascinating, but this is nonsense,' said Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Case Western Reserve University and a vocal defender of evolutionary science. 'It’s fine for people to believe whatever they want. What’s inappropriate is to then essentially lie and say science supports these notions.' Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, calls the sparkling facility 'the creationist Disneyland.' ... The Creation Museum, a project of the socially conservative religious organization Answers in Genesis, mocks evolutionary science and invites visitors to find faith and truth in God. It welcomes its first paying guests — $19.95 for adults, $9.95 for children, not counting discounts for joining a mailing list — just weeks after three Republican presidential candidates said they do not believe in evolution. ... For the record, mainstream scientists currently estimate the age of the Earth at about 4.5 billion years, but don’t try telling that to Ken Ham, an Australian-born evangelist and former high-school science teacher who heads Answers in Genesis [owners of the Museum]. ... To put together a museum with pizzazz, the planners recruited Patrick Marsh, the designer who created the Jaws and King Kong attractions at Universal Studios in Florida. The exhibits, backed by dozens of professionally produced videos, keep the action lively and the content coming — 'to create something of a ‘wow’ factor,' said Looy, who expects 250,000 visitors the first year. ..."


NMSR Prediction: let's see how the Museum is actually doing a year or two down the road. Prediction: either the $20 admission fee will drop, or the annual number of visitors will fall far short of 250,000...

See the Museum for yourself! A student has kindly written up a Virtual Tour.


And Kudos to JOHN YOUNG of Cox News Service, who has supplied a much better name than "Museum" for the Answers in Genesis travesty: "SUPPOSEUM." In the June 1st Waco Tribune, Young writes "Welcome to the Supposeum. The Supposeum is a museum dedicated to bolstering our suppositions, whether they be religious, ethnocentric, political, economic or militaristic. We founded the Supposeum after seeing the turnstiles spin at the new creationism museum in Petersburg, Ky. Among other things, it explains scientifically how Earth 'was created in seven days.' Four thousand people showed up in Petersburg to have their suppositions reinforced. ..."


CreationSCHism divides young-earth ranks...

While Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis must be very busy with their new museum opening, they might want to check on what other creationists are saying about them. Christian Faith and Reason Magazine, in a May 27th article titled "Fellow Christians Aggrieved by Business Practices of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis," reports that "At the grand opening ceremonies of the Creation Museum this Saturday in Petersburg, Kentucky, Answers in Genesis Chief Communications Officer Mark Looy waxed eloquent as to the personal character of Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham. 'Integrity.' Looy said. 'Ken Ham is an example of Christian integrity.' His former business partners and fellow Christian Creationists, Australian based Creation Ministries International, use different words to describe the business ethics of Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis non-profit corporation. The dispute among these ideological allies centers around the tactics used by Answers in Genesis to terminate the American distribution relationship it had with Creation Ministries International to distribute that organization’s Creation Magazine. ... Dr. Carl Wieland, Managing Director of the Australian based Creation Ministries International, who has known Ken Ham for over two decades, was shocked at what transpired next. 'The planning for their own magazine to replace ours in due course was underway already in 2005, well before they announced they were dropping ours.' ... Since the events unfolded, Wieland and the Australian group have been pressing Ham and Answers in Genesis to resolve the dispute in a manner consistent with Christian principles. ... Bringing up the topic to Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham yields an abrupt and aggressive response. After the question was posed in the Christian Faith and Reason interview last Friday, Ham unceremoniously hung up the phone. ... Apparently, the only news that Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis want to be heard about their organization is news they originate and control. ..."


Humans learned how to walk in the trees, not on land, experts say... reports on May 31st that "Humans learned to walk upright in the trees, not on the open land, experts have said. The new theory marks a U-turn in scientific thinking. Previously it was assumed humans only began to stand upright after moving out of the forests on to the wide open savannahs of East Africa. Moving on two legs was thought to have evolved slowly from the all-fours 'knuckle-walking' displayed by chimpanzees and gorillas today. But a study of orang-utan behaviour, published in the journal Science, suggests this is wrong, according to a British team of scientists from Liverpool and Birmingham universities. They believe knuckle-walking evolved only recently as a way of getting around the forest floor. Walking on two legs, assisted by the support of branches, appeared to be an older trait which evolved from foraging for food in tree tops. According to the new theory, bipedalism was always a feature of great ape behaviour. Humans inherited it without ever passing through a knuckle-walking phase. Skeletons of early human ancestors show a combination of short legs and long arms, which are adaptations for tree-living. ..."


Scientist: I Believe In Evolution, Except For The Whole Triassic Period...

The May 30th edition of the Onion includes an article by Stephen Jossler, who writes "Don't get me wrong: I'm not one of those religious nut cases who denies that evolution is real. Of course evolution is real, just not during the 'Triassic period.' This so-called Triassic period saw the formation of scleractinian corals and a slight changeover from warm-blooded therapsids to cold-blooded archosauromorphs. Clearly, such breathtakingly subtle modifications could only have been achieved by an active intelligence. The secular Triassicists would have you believe that these changes were just the result of millions of years of nature favoring certain genes over others in order to adapt, the same way evolution worked prior to the Triassic. Obviously, that doesn't make any sense. Think about it: I'm supposed to believe that the same process that we know slowly changed us from simple bacteria into highly advanced reptiles over the course of the Paleozoic era is also responsible for turning us into highly advanced reptiles with different body lengths? Do these people ever pause to think how ridiculous they sound as they advance these theories? ..."


Endangered Species Protection Sought for Bigfoot...

Benjamin Radford, NMSR's speaker at the upcoming June13th meeting, has a May 25th column at on Bigfoot: "Recently, Mike Lake, a Canadian member of parliament from Edmonton, Alberta, agreed to introduce a petition that called for Bigfoot to be protected under the Canadian version of the endangered species act. Lake presented to the House of Commons a petition that stated, 'The debate over (Bigfoot’s) existence is moot in the circumstance of their tenuous hold on merely existing. Therefore, the petitioners request the House of Commons to establish immediate, comprehensive legislation to affect immediate protection of Bigfoot.' ... Protecting endangered species is important for biodiversity, but protecting animals that may not even exist is putting the cart before the unicorn. No one has ever injured or killed a creature not known to exist; Bigfoot and lake monsters are no more in need of legal protection than are leprechauns or dragons. If the creatures are eventually discovered, scientists will do all they can to preserve and study the species. Until then, surely lawmakers have more important things to worry about. ..."


Posted May 25th, 2007

99.9% DNA Match - and Yet, STILL a Paternity Mystery...

ABC News reports on May 21st on a strange case in which two men are suspected of being a baby's father. Neither man wants to pay child support, and both are contesting the paternity suit. DNA tests were performed, and the results showed that BOTH men have 99.9% chance of being the father. The trouble is that the men are identical twins... and DNA alone cannot resolve the quandary.


Solid Proof of Dark Matter...

Seed Magazine reports on May 16th that "US astronomers on Tuesday presented the most solid proof yet of the existence of dark matter, a mysterious substance believed to make up more than a quarter of the universe. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope spotted a ring of dark matter in a galaxy cluster some five billion light-years away from Earth, which measured some 2.6 million light-years across. 'This is the first time we have detected dark matter as having a unique structure that is different from the gas and galaxies in the cluster,' said James Jee, a member of NASA's team of astronomers. ..."


Fish were Wired for Walking a Long Time Ago...

Yahoo News reports on May 23rd that "Primitive fish already may have possessed the genetic wiring needed to grow hands and feet well before the appearance of the first animals with limbs roughly 365 million years ago, scientists said on Wednesday. University of Chicago researchers were seeking clues behind a momentous milestone in the evolution of life on Earth -- when four-legged amphibians that descended from fish first colonized dry land. These first amphibians paved the way for reptiles, birds and mammals, including people. ... They studied one of the most primitive types of fish on Earth -- the long-snouted paddlefish Polyodon spathula -- and found the fish that predated the first land vertebrates may have possessed genetic underpinnings for limb development. 'What we found is that aspects of the genetic program and the patterns of gene activity that serve to make hands and feet are actually found in the fins of fish -- not just any fish but in primitive living fish,' Shubin added. The research was published in the journal Nature. ..."


Origin of Life Pioneer Stanley Miller Dies...

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports on May 23rd that "Stanley Miller, a pioneer in scientific research on the origin of life, died on May 20, 2007, at the age of 77, in National City, California. Born in Oakland, California, in 1930, Miller received his bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1951, and his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1954. As a graduate student at Chicago under the supervision of Harold C. Urey, he conducted his famous experiment demonstrating the abiotic synthesis of organic compounds under conditions resembling those of the early earth; he published a report (PDF) in the journal Science in 1953. ..."


The Politicization of Tenure...

Republican Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Sam Brownback commented on May 21st regarding the denial of tenure to Iowa State University Professor Guillermo Gonzales. Brownback said "When I was informed that Professor Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure, I was puzzled given his excellent academic record of achievement and faithful service. I understand that now two of Dr. Gonzalez's colleagues have indicated that Gonzalez's interest in intelligent design theory was, at least in part, responsible for this denial of tenure. This is rather alarming. ... Observation, testing, and the development of reasonable hypotheses have long been integral to good science. Scholars, such as Professor Guillermo Gonzales, ought not to be intimidated nor silenced by those in the academic community who would rather dismiss a well-reasoned hypothesis than debate it on its merits. Such an assault on academic freedom does not bode well for the advancement of true science. ..."


In their rush to decry this "assault on academic freedom," presidential candidates and Intelligent Design promoters are themselves attacking academic freedom, namely the academic freedom of the Iowa State tenure committee to base tenure decisions on merit. Professors on Tenure Committees themselves have the "academic freedom" to deny tenure to professors who have not published anything since becoming a professor, or to professors who have not brought in any research grants to the department, like Gonzalez. Unfortunately for Prof. Gonzalez, few universities would ever consider granting tenure to someone who brings a posse of special-interest groups and politicians to harrass the university about tenured positions. Perhaps he should apply to Bob Jones University. ...


Gay Parents adopting Unwanted Children...

Nothing too unusual about this story, EXCEPT  that the parents are Pink Flamingoes. The Daily Mail (UK) reports on May 21st that "When a newly-hatched flamingo chick was abandoned by its mother and father, the search for surrogate parents did not take long. Carlos and Fernando, the only gays in the bird sanctuary, were the automatic choice. The pair have already brought up three chicks after snatching eggs from other (mixed) couples at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. ..."


An Open Letter to Oprah about The Secret...

Slate columnist John Gravois wrote apiece on May 16th regarding Oprah Winfrey's continued plugs for Rhonda Byrne's book The Secret. Gravois writes "Dear Oprah, Not too long ago, one of your viewers—a woman named Kim—wrote you to announce that she had decided to halt her breast-cancer treatments and heal herself with her mind. Kim had just seen your two shows dedicated to The Secret, the self-help phenomenon that says we shape the world with our thoughts, and she was inspired to bet her life on it. ... But don't worry, Oprah. You still have the power to turn this entire misguided craze into a "teachable moment." And I know how you can do it. Just have your people pick up the phone right now and invite Karen Cerulo on to your show. ... Cerulo, a professor at Rutgers University, wrote a book last year called Never Saw It Coming. In it, she argues that we are individually, institutionally, and societally hellbent on wishful thinking. The Secret tells us to visualize best-case scenarios and banish negative ones from our minds. Never Saw It Coming says that's what we've been doing all along—and we get blindsided by even the most foreseeable disasters because of it. ... (What do you think The Secret folks would say about Iraq? 'We will be greeted as liberators' was good, but 'Mission Accomplished' was even better. Visualize, guys, visualize!) A little negative thinking might have gone a long way in all those situations. ..."


Does Childhood Family Experience Affect Adults' Political Persuasions?

The Albuquerque Journal reported on May 25th that "Researchers at the University of New Mexico think they know why aunt Bertha is an ACLU-card-carrying liberal while cousin Winthrop is a rifle-toting conservative. Blame it on their parents. A new paper in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior suggests that those who have experienced stresses in childhood— divorce, family violence, angry parents— are more likely to be liberal. Conservatives, meanwhile, are more likely to have had less stressful childhoods. The study, conducted by UNM biology professor Randy Thornhill and research associate Corey Fincher, ties political values to how people were raised and the interactions between children and their parents and between the parents. ... The study was based on responses to a questionnaire filled out by 123 UNM students. ..."

Source: (subscription)

Cool Video of Waves in the Sky...

Here's an engaging Time-Lapse of gravity waves in the sky from the Tama, Iowa KCCI-TV webcam on 6 May 2007, courtesy

Source: has tons of other videos for all tastes, inclusing one of a sparrow making its opinions known to President Bush:

Posted May 18th, 2007

Travolta leads Scientologists' attack on BBC...

The Daily Mail (UK) reports on May 15th that "Angry Scientologists are trying to get a BBC documentary about their faith scrapped amid claims of 'gross bias' by presenter John Sweeney. The Panorama programme, to be shown tonight, investigates whether the Church of Scientology has moved away from its past as a brainwashing cult. But furious church members - including actor John Travolta - say the programme should be ditched because Mr Sweeney showed he was biased by losing his temper and shouting at a top scientologist. ..."


The Southwest Nebraska News "Gets" Discovery Institute..

In a May 14th article headlined "Creation Group Calls Showtime 'Flock of Dodos' a Hoax," the Southwest Nebraska News reports that "In a press release issued by the Discovery Institute, President Bruce Chapman is said to have sent a letter to Showtime Networks requesting air time to respond to various 'false claims' in the film 'Flock of Dodos.' The release claims, 'Showtime Networks will air filmmaker Randy Olson's fanciful evolution film Flock of Dodos this week, apparently not realizing that key parts of the film are so wildly inaccurate that they amount to a hoax.' ..."


Is there any truth to the Discovery Institute's claim that "Flock of Dodos" is a hoax?  Not a chance! P.Z. Myers has looked into it, and writes "... the two 'big' objections the DI levies against the movie are complete duds. ... I show that Olson actually described the representation of Haeckel in textbooks accurately. ... I go on at some length about Wells' misrepresentations of developmental biology in his Icons of Evolution. ..."


Falwell's Legacy...

Thanks to Answers in Genesis for reminding us of the late Jerry Falwell's legacy: "Dr. Falwell was a strong supporter of biblical creation."


Slate's "Jerry Falwell's Hit Parade: The right's holy fool" by Timothy Noah :

Geller Abusing YouTube Community..

Hat tip to James Randi for this series of articles by Brian Flemming, on how Uri Geller is mis-using the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) to "get YouTube to delete several videos that show Geller's deceptions being exposed. Before Geller launched his purge, when you searched YouTube for 'Uri Geller' you would immediately discover videos that let you know he is a trickster. But as of this moment, that same search yields mainly uncritical videos." Trouble is, Geller doesn't own copyrights on all the videos he's gotten yanked, and that's just not Kosher. Skeptics aren't taking this lying down. Expect to hear more on this in coming months (legal matters take time). But check out how Geller forgot to purge his personal information from a Word file he sent as "Anonymous," as part of his harrassment of skeptical opponents.


SCIENCE MAG: "Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science"...

The May 18th article by Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg notes that "Resistance to certain scientific ideas derives in large part from assumptions and biases that can be demonstrated experimentally in young children and that may persist into adulthood. In particular, both adults and children resist acquiring scientific information that clashes with common-sense intuitions about the physical and psychological domains. Additionally, when learning information from other people, both adults and children are sensitive to the trustworthiness of the source of that information. Resistance to science, then, is particularly exaggerated in societies where nonscientific ideologies have the advantages of being both grounded in common sense and transmitted by trustworthy sources. ..."


NMFC Fires Kevin Jackson...

The Albuquerque Tribune reported on May 15th that "Rio Rancho Mayor Kevin Jackson has been fired from his role as executive director of a nonprofit group after accusations that he mismanaged federal grant money, the chairman of the group's board said today. The board of New Mexico Family Council-Best Choice - which works to strengthen marriages and promote abstinence education - on Monday voted unanimously to oust Jackson, said chairman Dale Lumley Sr. ..."


In 2002, Jackson's group, NMFC, sent hundreds of copies of Michael Behe's "Intelligent Design" (ID) book "Darwin's Black Box" to science teachers in New Mexico, on UNM letterhead:

And in 2005, Jackson's wife Kathy sat on the Rio Rancho School Board as it approved since-amended "Science Policy 401," widely denounced as pro-ID:

Los Alamos Lab: Give 'Em All Polygraphs...

Bob Park's "What's New" column for May 18th notes that "A 30 Apr 07 memo notified Los Alamos employees that random polygraph tests of 8,000 personnel in high-risk categories will be conducted by the DOE as part of a new counter-intelligence program. Three years ago, a National Academy of Sciences study done at the request of the DOE, The Polygraph and Lie Detection, (WN 18 Apr 03) concluded that the high incidence of false positives made the polygraph worse than useless. Nothing indicates it will work any better for randomly chosen personnel. The polygraph, in fact, has ruined careers, but never uncovered a single spy. If you have an orgasm while being tested and lie about it, the operator can probably tell. For anything else, it's a coin toss. ..."


Posted May 11th, 2007

Larry Barker Looks at the Aztec UFO...

The Larry Barker Investigative Reports: "Aztec alien tale won't die" aired on KRQE-TV13 on Thursday, May 3rd. It can now be viewed Online. NMSR members Ken Frazier and Dave Thomas both appear in the segment, along with some staunch Believers. Rest assured, Barker is not your typical gushing and overly-credulous "TV Journalist."



Republican Candidates Vying for Top Creationist Slot...

From the California Republican debate, May 3, 2007, on MSNBC:

"Moderator: Senator McCain, this comes from a reader and was among the top vote getters in our early rounds. They want a yes or a no. Do you believe in evolution?"

McCain: Yes.

Moderator: I'm curious, is there anybody on the stage that does not agree, believe in evolution?

(Candidates Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo all raised their hands.)

McCain: May I just add to that?

Moderator: Sure.

McCain: I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.



DIscovery Institute Bemoans WIKI Entry on ID...

Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute's Ministry of Disinformation opined on May 8th that "I recently discussed how Wikipedia has inaccurate information on intelligent design, or constantly rebuts (fallaciously) the claims of ID proponents. This post looks at merely two sentences out of the long Wikipedia entry on intelligent design and finds inaccuracy, misrepresentation, bias, and hypocrisy. These two sentences come from Wikipedia's discussion of polls and intelligent design. Wikipedia presently states: According to a 2005 Harris poll, ten percent of adults in the United States view human beings as 'so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them'. Although some polls commissioned by the Discovery Institute show more support, these polls have been criticized as suffering from considerable flaws, such as having a low response rate (248 out of 16,000), being conducted on behalf of an organization with an expressed interest in the outcome of the poll, and containing leading questions. There are a number of biased and/or inaccurate aspects of this statement: ..."


The Wikipedia entry on ID Luskin refers to was recently changed:

The portion about the low response rate (248 out of 16000) has been moved to the Wiki "Intelligent Design Movement" page:

Luskin can whine about the Wiki page being biased and inaccurate all he wants, and it won't change the reality of the original claim.

In 2003, IDnet-New Mexico and Zogby really DID try to present results on a poll of just 248 respondees, from a possible 16,000. They supposedly polled NM scientists at Sandia, Los Alamos, and the Universities, but hundreds of NM scientists came forward to confirm they had NOT been polled.

The actual "Data" are still on-line at the IDnet-NM website:

"The second poll was based on the response to an online survey sent to approximately 16,000 employees of Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs and 500 science and engineering faculty members at the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, and New Mexico State University. Two-hundred forty-eight scientists responded as follows: 103 scientists at Sandia National Labs, 114 scientists at Los Alamos National Labs, and 31 at the universities. ..."

After the poll results were released in 2003, 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 today, Renick’s group is STILL using those bogus Zogby polling results.

My suggestion to Luskin: Stop whining about the Wiki page not meeting your expectations, and ask Joe Renick why his bogus poll is STILL posted on the IDnet-New Mexico website, even though Renick publicly promised to stop using the poll almost FOUR YEARS AGO.

Purdue to Reinvestigate Professor Claiming Desktop Fusion...

The New York Times reports on May 11th that "Three months after it cleared him of research misconduct, Purdue University has begun a new inquiry into a professor who claims to have generated nuclear fusion in a desktop experiment, the university acknowledged yesterday. Rusi P. Taleyarkhan was cleared of misconduct in an earlier inquiry. The new inquiry goes beyond the focus of an earlier one, which looked at whether the professor, Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, improperly omitted himself as an author on two scientific papers. For the first time, a committee is examining whether the underlying research might have been fraudulent. ..."


Posted May 4th, 2007

Are Superstitions Harmless?  Not to this poor old lady... reports on April 30th that "A crowd of Guyanese villagers lynched an elderly woman they accused of being an evil spirit who drinks the blood of human babies, police said Monday. Authorities in the South American country said the woman raised suspicions with unusual behavior and was set upon by villagers who apparently believed she was an 'Old Higue'—the equivalent of a vampire in the local Obeah religion that blends folk magic and African rituals. The woman, who has not been identified, was beaten to death and her remains were found on Saturday in a village 15 miles east of Georgetown, police said. ..."


Pictures of the Week...

Remember that impossible-looking dust-storm in the movie "Hidalgo"? These things, called "Haboobs," really do happen! Here's a stunning image, from the May 3rd Daily Mail (UK).


And surf on over to NASA for some splendid movies of storms on Jupiter, and a volcanic eruption on Io. Links and commentary are found in this May 3rd Daily Mail article.


SF Bridge: Fire Melts Steel... Wait, Isn't That IMPOSSIBLE?

On the March 29th edition of ABC's "The View," Rosie O'Donnell, asked "Do you believe in a conspiracy in terms of the attack of 9/11?", responded "But I do believe the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel. I do believe that it defies physics for the World Trade Center Tower Seven, building seven, which collapsed in on itself, it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved, World Trade Center Seven. World Trade Center one and Two got hit by planes. Seven, miraculously, for the first time in history, steel was melted by fire. It is physically impossible. ..."


Here is a typical instance of the conspiracy claim "No kerosene fire can burn hot enough to melt steel.":

The conspiracy theorists were doing fine, until a truck fire last week caused the collapse of a major freeway near San Francisco. A May 1st INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY editorial had this to say: "Conspiracy: Unless the feds had something to do with it, the theory held by Rosie and others that the Twin Towers were brought down by the Bush administration just crashed and burned on a California freeway. In recent discussions on the jaundiced 'View' and her Web site, conspiracy theorist Rosie O'Donnell opined that the 9/11 collapse of the Twin Towers, as well as 7 World Trade Center, marked 'the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel.' This, she said, is 'physically impossible.' Well, not exactly. Fire only has to weaken a structure already weakened by, say, a fully fueled passenger aircraft flying into it, sufficiently so that the weight of the structure brings it down. We wonder what Rosie's reaction was Sunday, when a gasoline truck exploded in flames beneath an elevated section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge known as the MacArthur Maze, a network of ramps and interchanges that carries motorists to a number of freeways in the area. ... Sorry, Rosie, it appears that on a California freeway fire has melted steel for the second time in history. ..."


Posted April 27th, 2007

Trouble Brewing at NMFC...

The Rio Rancho Observer reported on April 25th that "Rio Rancho Mayor Kevin Jackson is waiting for the results of an audit of New Mexico Family Council, the non-profit organization for which he serves as executive director, and hoping that the investigation clears his name. According to NMFC board chairman Dale Lumley, Jackson was placed on a leave of absence without pay last week, for suspicion of misappropriation of funds, pending those results. ... In a press release, Jackson said the accusations were unfounded. 'The allegations from current and former disgruntled employees against Mr. Jackson concerning any improprieties are false,' read the press release, sent by Jackson's attorney, B.J. Crow of Albuquerque. 'He looks forward to clearing his good name and continuing to serve the interests of New Mexicans with his community service.' The funds in question involve a $495,000 marriage grant, which is in the first of five years, and a $500,000 five-year abstinence grant, which will be renewed this summer, according to Lumley. ..."


In 2002, Jackson's group, NMFC, sent hundreds of copies of Michael Behe's "Intelligent Design" (ID) book "Darwin's Black Box" to science teachers in New Mexico, on UNM letterhead:

And in 2005, Jackson's wife Kathy sat on the Rio Rancho School Board as it approved since-amended "Science Policy 401," widely denounced as pro-ID:


Why Cancer? An Evolving Mystery... reports on April 17th that "Cancer is a natural consequence of human evolution. Our genes have not developed to give us long and happy lives. They are optimized to copy themselves into the next generation - irrespective of our personal desires. According to Jarle Breivik, an associate professor at the University of Oslo, Norway, we are therefore unlikely to find a final solution to cancer. ... ' The ultimate solution to cancer is that we would have to start reproducing ourselves in a different way.' ... 'Cells exposed to particular carcinogens die if they have the relevant repair mechanism, while genetically unstable cancer cells continued to grow,' Breivik explains. This research shows how the environment influences the selection of genes inside of the body and is identical to the principle that Darwin found to explain the origin of species. ..."


'Limbo' in Limbo...

The Seattle Times/Los Angeles Times reported on April 21st that "Limbo has been in limbo for quite some time, but is now on its way to extinction. A Vatican committee that spent years examining the medieval concept on Friday published a much-anticipated report reversing limbo's basic tenet that unbaptized babies who die may not go to heaven. That could reverse centuries of Roman Catholic traditional belief that the souls of unbaptized babies are condemned to eternity in limbo, a place that is neither heaven nor hell, giving rise to the popular usage meaning 'in between.' ..."


3D Glasses On: The Sun in Three Dimensions...

NASA has released some stunning stereo images of our sun, on April 23rd.


NM Creationists On the Stump in Bozeman, Montana...

Dr. Todd Feeley (U. Montana) attended a RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) conference in Bozeman, MT on April 20-21, 2007. RATE is a young-earth creationist group with the goal of showing the earth is much, much younger than modern science says. New Mexicans Russell Humphreys and John Baumgardner were among the presenters. Feeney has a good report: "The ‘science’ talks by Russell Humphreys, Andrew Snelling, and John Baumgardner contained the standard RATE mantras on He diffusion, Po radiohaloes, and 14C. ... I asked why no recognized experts on radiometric dating were invited to participate in the conference, given that none of the speakers had any training or experience in experimental geochronology. He was candid enough to admit that they would have liked to included one on the team, but there are no young- earth geochronologists in the world. ..."


What would an "ID World" REALLY Look Like?

Wander on over to Hawks' "IN an ID World" to check out his amusing speculations...


Posted April 20th, 2007

Are Cell Phones behind Bee Death Mystery?

The Independent (UK) reports on April 15th that "It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail. They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well. The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up. ..."


Gen Next Rejects Creationism...

Freom the Pew Research Center, Jan. 9th, 2007 report "How Young People View Their Lives, Futures and Politics: A PORTRAIT OF 'GENERATION NEXT'", we find this little gem that is probably striking fear into creationists as we speak:  "Gen Next Rejects Creationism. There is a clear generational divide on the issue of evolution. Nearly two-thirds of Nexters (63%) believe humans and other living things evolved over time, while only 33% say all living creatures have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Gen Xers share a similar perspective, though they are slightly more open to the idea of creationism. Here the generational divide is among those under age 40 and those over age 40. Baby Boomers and Seniors are more closely divided over how the world came to be. ..."


"Show Me (the Creationism)": "Intellectual Diversity" Legislation Proposed in Missouri ...

Inside Higher Ed reports on April 16th that "The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would require public colleges to report regularly on how they promote and protect 'intellectual diversity.' While the bill still must be approved by the Senate and the governor to become law, House passage was a major victory for groups seeking legislative help to change campus climates they view as hostile to conservative ideas. The bill outlines a series of topics on which colleges could report, and one of them has academics afraid that 'intellectual diversity' means that biology professors who teach evolution as more than just a theory competing with creationism may find themselves having to defend themselves against charges brought against them by complaining students. The legislation passed by the House says that among the things colleges could include in their reports are 'intellectual diversity concerns in the institution’s guidelines on teaching and program development and such concerns shall include but not be limited to the protection of religious freedom including the viewpoint that the Bible is inerrant.' The phrases — some suggesting this as a requirement and others suggesting that it isn’t — are confusing, but academic groups note that it is rare for public colleges to be told or even urged that they must protect the teaching that the Bible is literally true. ..."


Posted April 13th, 2007

Did Rare "Hair-Trigger rage" Disease lead to Hatfield-McCoy feud?

The AP/Yahoo reported on April 5th that "The most infamous feud in American folklore, the long-running battle between the Hatfields and McCoys, may be partly explained by a rare, inherited disease that can lead to hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts. Dozens of McCoy descendants apparently have the disease, which causes high blood pressure, racing hearts, severe headaches and too much adrenaline and other 'fight or flight' stress hormones. No one blames the whole feud on this, but doctors say it could help explain some of the clan's notorious behavior. ..."


Fleck: Citizens do not use the news media as scientists assume....

In "Scientists Can Be Dense,"  (April 5th), Albuquerque Journal science reported John Fleck writes "I love my scientist friends. They are endlessly generous with their time, patiently explaining to me the details of their work. But (can we talk frankly), they can be absolutely dense when it comes to understanding what happens at the interfaces between their words, my words, and the minds of readers. I am going to print out hundreds of copies of the piece in tomorrow’s Science by Matthew Nisbet and Chris Mooney, to hand out to every scientist I meet: '[M]any scientists retain the well-intentioned belief that, if laypeople better understood technical complexities from news coverage, their viewpoints would be more like scientists’, and controversy would subside. In reality, citizens do not use the news media as scientists assume.' ..."


And in "P.Z. Myers Just Doesn’t Get It" (April 8th), Fleck comments "P.Z. Myers is one of the brightest and most interesting writers out there on the front lines of the evolution-creation wars. He’s obviously a very smart guy, who believes passionately that researchers have learned very important things that need to be incorporated into the way we, as a society, approach important problems. So why, outside his own field, is he so absolutely blind to the research conducted by others? Myers response to the Mooney-Nisbet piece in science about the use of 'framing' as a tool in scientific communication is a crystalline example of the blowback Chris and Matt are receiving from scientists unwilling to accept the clear message of the small mountain of research on how things actually work at the science-media-policy-politics interface(s): the world doesn’t work the way they (the scientists) would like. ..."


Pope on a Rope... a Tightrope, That Is...

The NCSE reported on April 12th that "Pope Benedict XVI's views on evolution are back in the news, following the publication of Schoepfung und Evolution (Sankt Ulrich Verlag, 2007), the proceedings of a seminar on creation and evolution that he conducted at Castel Gandolfo, the pope's summer residence, with his former doctoral students in September 2006. Reuters (April 11, 2007) reports, that in his contribution to the book, the Pope 'did not endorse creationist or 'intelligent design' views about life's origins,' adding, 'In the book, Benedict defended what is known as 'theistic evolution,' the view held by Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches that God created life through evolution and religion and science need not clash over this.' But Reuters also reported that the Pope regards evolution as unamenable to scientific proof; the Associated Press (April 12, 2007) quoted him as saying, 'the theory of evolution is not a complete, scientifically proven theory,' in part because of the length of time involved: 'We cannot haul 10,000 generations into the laboratory.' Asked for comment by Der Spiegel (April 12, 2007), the evolutionary biologist Josef Reichholf replied, 'So there would be no history, too, since one can't completely reconstruct it either,' and cited archaeology as a historical discipline in which knowledge is attainable despite gaps in the archeological record. ... NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, 'The Pope giveth and the Pope taketh away.' It was gratifying, she explained, that there were no signs of the Pope's embracing creationism in any form, and that he expressed such a high view of science. 'But it is disquieting,' she added, 'that his reported comments manifest a misunderstanding of the scientific status of evolution. No scientific theory is 'complete' and 'scientifically proven', but scientists accept theories when the evidence is strong enough -- and the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.' ..."


How Did the Universe Survive the Big Bang?...

The N. Y. Times reports on April 12th that "An experiment that some hoped would reveal a new class of subatomic particles, and perhaps even point to clues about why the universe exists at all, has instead produced a first round of results that are mysteriously inconclusive. ..."

Source: (registration)

T. rex and Birds: All In The Family...

Reuters reported on April 12th that "Tiny bits of protein extracted from a 68-million-year-old dinosaur bone have given scientists the first genetic proof that the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex is a distant cousin to the modern chicken. 'It's the first molecular evidence of this link between birds and dinosaurs,' said John Asara, a Harvard Medical School researcher, whose results were published in Friday's edition of the journal Science. ... [Asara] compared his results to collagen data from living animals. Most matched collagen from chickens, while others matched a newt and frog. 'Based on all of the genomic information we have available today, it appears these sequences are closer to birds or chickens than anything else,' Asara said. Ultimately, scientists had hoped to find genetic material that was unique to the T. rex. That was not possible with the tiny T. rex sample. 'We never found unique T. rex tags,' he said. ... Still, Asara said the T. rex protein sequence was useful in providing clues about the evolution of the species. ..."


Science Study: Abstinence Classes Don’t Stop Sex...

The N. Y. Times reported on April 13th that "Students who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not, according to a study ordered by Congress. Also, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes that were reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes. And they first had sex at about the same age as other students -- 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc. The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education. Critics have repeatedly said they don't believe the programs are working, and the study will give them reinforcement. ..."

Source: (registration)

Posted April 6th, 2007

N.M. Future... Permanent Dust Bowl?

In the April 6th Albuquerque Journal, John Fleck writes "Global warming could turn the Southwest into a permanent Dust Bowl, where the dry conditions of our worst 20th-century droughts— the 1930s and 1950s— become the norm over the next century, according to new research. The changing climate appears to be pushing our winter storm track, which brings the region much of its moisture, to the north, according to Richard Seager at Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. Seager's results were published online Thursday by the journal Science. They suggest a new kind of drought— not the occasional dry stretches like the region saw in the 1930s and 1950s, but a climate that is that dry all the time. ..."

Source: (Subscription)

Parasites as Neuropharmacologists...

Carl Zimmer's Loom blog for April 3rd discusses Toxoplasma gondii, a "single-celled parasite that lives in roughly half of all people on Earth and has the ability to alter the behavior of its host." That's right - this little bug releases chemicals that bend the host's behavior to the parasite's advantage. Specifically, "They found that healthy rats were deeply affected by the scent of a cat, becoming less curious. Parasite-infested rats showed no fear. They proposed that the shift in behavior was an adaptation of the parasite for getting into its final host--cats. ..." While this observation is not new, a dramatic new confirmation of the hypothesis at Stanford has been published. Check it out - as Zimmer says, "these are parasites worth learning from."


Antarctica in the Triassic: Balmy Weather...

Seed magazine reports on April 3rd that "The fossilised remains of an amphibian which lived more than 245 million years ago have been found in Antarctica, suggesting that the climate during much of the Triassic era was remarkably balmy. The 60-centimetre (24-inch) piece of skull was teased out of thick sandstone at Fremouw Peak in the Transantarctic Mountains, just six degrees short of the South Pole...."


Surprise: Earth Had Strong Magnetic Field 3.2 Billion Years Ago...

From and April 6th University of Rochester press release: "Geophysicists at the University of Rochester announce in today's issue of Nature that the Earth's magnetic field was nearly as strong 3.2 billion years ago as it is today. The findings, which are contrary to previous studies, suggest that even in its earliest stages the Earth was already well protected from the solar wind, which can strip away a planet's atmosphere and bathe its surface in lethal radiation. 'The intensity of the ancient magnetic field was very similar to today's intensity,' says John Tarduno, professor of geophysics in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester.... Tarduno is now pushing back in time to 3.5 billion-year-old rocks to further investigate when the Earth's inner core first formed, giving new insights into early Earth processes that also may have had an effect on the atmosphere and the development of life on the planet. ..."


AIDS Treatment in Ethiopia: Take a Holy Water Bath...

Sky News (UK) reports on April 3rd that "Thousands of Aids and HIV patients are risking their lives by refusing medication in favour of holy water, Sky News can reveal. The controversial treatment is offered by a church in Ethiopia which claims to have cured hundreds of believers. Sky News correspondent Ian Woods reports on the practice doctors in the country say is extremely dangerous: 'It was a scene which reminded me of the holocaust. Naked men, women and children, some of them in chains to prevent them escaping, cower in front of the men in charge in a dimly-lit room in the church of St Mary on Mount Entoto. These people fear death, but they believe that coming here will prolong their lives. It is more likely to have the opposite effect. ..."


Were the Pyramids Built from the Inside Out?

ABC News reports on April 3rd that "Among the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt, are the only ones still standing. For 1,000 years, they were the tallest buildings in the world. Built with prehistoric technology, they were an architectural riddle, as elusive as the Sphinx. No one really knows how they were built. ... Hollywood has mostly taken its cues from the Greek account: 100,000 slaves laboring for 20 years. Others believe a giant ramp snaked around the pyramid. One American recently advanced the theory that kites could have lifted the 2-ton stones. Now a French architect says that after studying the pyramids for eight years, he has solved the mystery with the help of 3-D computer animation. Jean Pierre Houdin believes the pyramids were built from the inside out, through an internal spiral ramp. 'This is completely new. Everyone [before] me thought that the pyramid was built from the outside, only the outside,' Houdin said. Scholars of ancient Egypt are intrigued. ..."


More Info: ,

Cool Crawling Crinoid...

It Walks! Check out the movie, here:

Have Peanut Butter, Disprove Evolution...

This YouTube video shows how peanut butter disproves evolution. I'm a believer now!

Hat Tip:

April Fools...

The Panda's Thumb did a nice little prank this year. Follow the links: (look for the eye-patch!)

Posted March 30th, 2007

"High Strange New Mexico" comes to the Net...

Journalist Anthony DellaFlora's and documentary filmmaker James Lujan's delightful basement documentary, "High Strange New Mexico," is now on-line. There's a free 9-minute preview, but the actual movie costs about $5 on-line, or $20 for the DVD. Hat tip John Fleck. (This is the movie that got me a "Kevin Bacon number of 3, since it featured Jim Marrs and myself; Jim Marrs was in a JFK documentary film with Helena Bonham Carter ( FATAL DECEPTION: MRS. LEE HARVEY OSWALD (1992)), and Helena Bonham Carter was in Novocaine (2001) with Kevin Bacon .)


Imported Toads Adapting to Australia, Spreading to New Habitats...

The Australian Broadcasting Company reported on March 28th that "Scientists say cane toads are evolving so quickly, they will soon be on Sydney's doorstep and breeding in Perth, Adelaide and western Victoria. A team of researchers from Sydney University has found cane toads are spreading across the continent at a much faster rate than previously thought. The team, headed by evolutionary biologist Rick Shine, says the feral invaders have rapidly adapted to Australia's climate, after they were first introduced in 1935 to wipe out cane beetles. ..."


Darwin's "20-Year Publishing Delay" - another Urban Legend...

The BBC reports on March 28th that "The idea that Charles Darwin delayed publishing On the Origin of Species for 20 years for fear of ridicule is a myth, a new assessment claims. A Cambridge historian with access to Darwin's papers says there is simply no evidence to show the naturalist held back his evolution theory. Dr John van Wyhe says the scientist was just busy with other writings and also sporadically hindered by ill-health. His analysis of events is published in a journal of the Royal Society. ..."


Hexagon on Saturn - Proof of Intelligent Design?

The Daily Mail (UK) reports on March 28th that "A mysterious giant hexagon lies above Saturn's north pole, captured by cameras on Nasa's Cassini Orbiter. Spanning 25,000km - equivalent to the width of two planet Earths - the bizarre geometric feature appears to remain virtually still in the atmosphere as clouds swirl around it. ..."


It's not the first image of the Hexagon, which has long inspired "Face on Mars" bunker Richard Hoagland as "proof" of his "Hyperdimensional Physics" model.


"Skirmisher" has a post titled "Saturn’s “Mysterious” Hexagon Is Breeding A Fresh Batch Of Alien-loving Loonies As We Speak," noting "Nope, we completely have no data about the breeding of loonies, but we’re joining the 'Saturn hexagon dance party' by citing the potentially hype-deflating Earth-bound possibilities of squarish, pentagonal, and hexagonal spinning things, as found out last year by researcher Tomas Bohr and colleagues: 'Tomas Bohr and colleagues made plexiglass buckets, 13 and 20 centimetres across, with metal bottoms that could be rotated at high speed by a motor. They filled the bucket with water and spun the bottom to whip up the liquid into a whirlpool that rose up the sides of the container. ... The researchers found that once the plate was spinning so fast that the water span out to the sides, creating a hole of air in the middle, the dry patch wasn’t circular as might be expected. Instead it evolved, as the bucket’s spin sped up, from an ellipse to a three-sided star, to a square, a pentagon, and, at the highest speeds investigated, a hexagon.' ..."


For a neat movie of the spinning hexagon on Saturn, check out NASA's page:

And for a taste of how this is filtering out the the "Intelligent Design" community, consider this from the"Reflections" Blog:"The cosmos speaks to use in beautiful mathematical symmetry revealing an 'intelligent design' to the nature and structure of the universe.We need only look to nature to realize who we are. We are this intelligent design! That eye of Saturn is God's consciousness watching over the cosmos :-) ..."

More on Creo Teacher Sacked in Oregon..

The Bend, Oregon Bulletin has more on the substitute fired for teaching creationism instead of science. A March 25th report on teacher Kris Helphinstine notes "Helphinstine gave a roughly hourlong presentation, explaining how the Third Reich perverted evolution and eugenics to slaughter Jews and Gypsies in death camps to protect the 'superior race.' On the Monday and Tuesday before giving the PowerPoint presentation, Helphinstine had given the students supplemental material that included an essay promoting creationism and links to That Web site is 'dedicated to enabling Christians to defend their faith, and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively.' ..."


Of course, "Intelligent Design" proponents always deny being creationists, but that didn't stop DaveScot of William Dembski's "Uncommon Descent" blog from sending a lot of sympathy Helphenstine's way...

ABC highlights Dangers of "The Secret"...

ABC News has had some terrible reports science-wise (such as gushing over con-artist healer "John of God"), but they did pretty well on a review of the new book and video "The Secret" (the work of Rhonda Byrne, an Australian television producer). Oprah Winfrey gave the book glowing reviews, and sales are soaring. ABC's Nightline reported on March 23rd "The 'Secret's' premise is simple. Love, money, health -- you can have them all, simply by thinking it. ... Critics say 'The Secret' is not only wrong, it is dangerous, leading people to believe you can get what you want, whether it's getting rich, curing disease, losing weight…simply by thinking positively about it. ... In the DVD version of 'The Secret,' for example, a woman claims she healed herself of breast cancer simply by seeing herself as healthy. 'I believed in my heart that I was healed. I saw myself as if cancer was never in my body. One of the things I did to heal myself was to watch really funny movies,' she said in the video. 'From the time I was diagnosed to the time I was healed, totally, was approximately three months. And that is without radiation and chemotherapy.' ABC News consulted a range of professionals about the claims in the book. Dr. Richard Wender, president of the American Cancer Society, has concerns with the implication that we can create disease or heal ourselves simply by our way of thinking. 'I want to be very clear that there is no evidence that people attract cancer by their thoughts,' said Wender. 'Not only that, I know patients who went through their treatments anxious as can be, convinced the whole time that they would never make it, who today are completely cured because they got good treatment in a timely way.' Wender also worries that people following the guidelines in 'The Secret' may reject helpful therapies in favor of positive thinking. 'If some person chose to strictly follow the steps in this book, there is a risk that they could die needlessly,' said Wender. 'If you have a disease where we have treatment that we know can cure you, and you opt not for that treatment, you will die.' ... "


The IDnet Empire Strikes Back...

The director of IDnet-NM, Joe Renick, had an op-ed in the Albuquerque Tribune of March 28th titled "Fear of exposure: The fight against academic freedom is rooted in the worry that Darwinism’s weakness will be revealed." Renick rambles on, writing at one point "A whole new field of biology called 'Systems Biology' has emerged during the past 10 or 15 years. ... In this exciting new field, research is guided not by Darwinian principles but by design principles because design principles are needed to explain design-like features."


Ummm, sorry, no. As I've commented to Rencik's supporters on the Trib page's comments section, "When the systems biologists are talking about 'design,' it's evident from context that they are talking about *evolutionary design* - the development of new features and species by *natural processes* such as natural selection, genetic drift, mutations, genome variability, etc. If you can find ANY statement on the Institute for Systems Biology web page that says 'design' in organisms can NOT be explained by natural phenomena, and are thus indicative of the creative powers of an entity OUTSIDE nature, then post that statement here. ..."

Renick himself has waded into the extended discussion, but has contributed more murk than clarity, IMHO.

I've a blog about this latest dissembling on the Panda's Thumb, "Is There A Systems Biologist In The House?"

The Creationist Choir is cheering Renick on:

Discoevry Institute's "News and Views" :

Chuck Colson's "Breakpoint Ministries":

"Vital Signs Ministries" :

NMSR's Alabama Pi Still a Top Spoof...

Every April 1st, news agencies around the world feel compelled to mention NMSR's 1998 April Fool's Prank, "Alabama Pi."

The Middle East Times reports on March 29th "In 1998, a newsletter titled New Mexicans for Science and Reason carried an article that the state of Alabama had voted to change the value of pi from 3.14159 to the "Biblical value" of 3.0. ..."


The Denver Post reports on March 30th that "The best April Fools' hoaxes of all time have been ranked by the San Diego-based Museum of Hoaxes. The list rates pranks based on notoriety, absurdity and the number of people fooled. Here they are, in order: 1: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest ... #7: Alabama Changes the Value of Pi: A newsletter published in 1998 by the New Mexicans for Science and Reason claimed that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Before long the article had made its way onto the Internet, and was forwarded by e-mail around the world. The Alabama legislature received hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. A physicist named Mark Boslough was revealed as the author of the article, which he intended as a parody of legislative attempts to limit the teaching of evolution. ..."


Even the Russians are talking about it!


Posted March 23rd, 2007

Cold Fusion - 18th Anniversary...

Bob Park's "What's New" column for March 23rd notes that "On this day 18 years ago, the University of Utah announced the discovery of cold fusion without giving any technical details ... The Utah research was exposed as a pitiful embarrassment. For years the faithful sulked at their own annual meetings held at swank resorts around the world. There they could congratulate each other on their progress. Each year another experiment would be hailed as proof, but never survived replication. A few years ago, however, the bolder of the faithful began to reemerge from the dark, giving papers at professional society meetings. They now prefer to call their field Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR),and they held a session at the APS March Meeting in Denver. Next week they will hold a session at the ACS Meeting in Chicago. Once again, there is a new experiment that is being hailed as proof-at-last. Who knows, maybe this will be the one. ..."


Now, thanks to the Internet and Google Video, we can all re-live the excitement. Here's a link to the complete press conference announcing "Cold Fusion" held at the University of Utah on March 23rd, 1989. Enjoy!

Session Ends - Fat Lady Sings at Last..

The NCSE reported on March 22nd that "With the end of the legislative session on March 17, 2007, all four antievolution measures in the New Mexico legislature are dead. (The House of Representatives is in a special session now to deal with a handful of bills, but these include none of the antievolution measures.) ... Before the bills died, Dave Thomas's op-ed "Intelligent design supporters find new, creative ways to get their message out" appeared in the March 13, 2007, issue of the Albuquerque Tribune. ..."


The story has also made the Evolution Minute, a web-based radio program:

Genetically-engineered Mosquitoes ... a way to wipe out Malaria? reports on March 21st that "Researchers have developed a malaria-resistant mosquito, a step that might one day help block the spread of an illness that has claimed millions of lives around the world. When they fed on malaria-infected mice, the resistant mosquitoes had a higher survival rate than nonresistant ones, meaning they could eventually replace the ones that can carry the disease, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Jason Rasgon of the department of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University cautioned that the research so far is only a proof of principle and any field tests remain far away. Nonetheless, it's a goal eagerly sought by scientists in hope of developing a practical way of blocking the spread of malaria. ..."


Creationist Lessons get Substitute Canned in Oregon...

The Sisters, Oregon Nugget News reported on March 20th that "Kris Helphinstine lasted less than two weeks on the job as a new Sisters High School biology teacher. The school board fired him last Monday night on the recommendation of Superintendent Ted Thonstad for deviating from accepted curriculum by presenting materials supporting creationism to his biology class. ... One parent, John Rahm, said his daughter reported that only "one day of 10" was devoted to the study of evolution, with the rest devoted to 'Intelligent Design' materials. 'The test as well was 90-plus percent ID material,' Rahm said. ... According to Rahm the material was "conspicuously intelligent design type information or teaching. Actually if you took the material and Googled the crucial passages it takes you to a creationist Web site called Answers in Genesis,, that is run by Ken Ham. ... One of the lines in his (Ham's) mission statement for the Web site is any statement which contradicts the Bible is inherently false," Rahm said. ..."


Symington Flip-flops on Arizona UFO...

Ten years ago, some strange lights ("The Phoenix Lights") were seen in Arizona (March 13, 1997). At the time, then-governor Fife Symington was involved in a federal court case, on a variety of fraud charges. Symington held a press conference in June of 1997, in which he satirized the UFO episode. The Arizona Daily Start reports on March 23rd, 2007 that "He hosted a press conference a few months after the mass sightings to announce that his Department of Public Safety had arrested the culprit responsible — a very tall bug-eyed creature brought before the media in handcuffs. He then unmasked the creature to reveal his chief of staff, Jay Heiler, who at 6-foot-4 made an imposing, somewhat comical space alien. ..." But now, Symington is saying that "I'm a pilot and I know just about every machine that flies. It was bigger than anything that I've ever seen. It remains a great mystery. Other people saw it, responsible people. ... I don't know why people would ridicule it." The Star also reported that "Tucson astronomer and retired Air Force pilot James McGaha said he investigated two separate sightings over Phoenix that March night and traced them both to A-10 aircraft flying in formation at high altitude. McGaha said he talked to an amateur astronomer who observed the A-10s and to the National Guard unit that flew them. 'It was clearly aircraft in formation, flying at two different times and then dropping flares and it's clear to any rational person that's what it was,' McGaha said Thursday. ..."


Was Houdini Murdered by the Spiritualists He Debunked?

The National Website of Wales reported on March 23rd that "The great-nephew of Harry Houdini will spell out today his plans to exhume the escapologist’s body to determine if he was poisoned by Spiritualists, following a new biography implicating Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. For all his death-defying stunts, Houdini could not escape the Grim Reaper: the unparalleled American performer died on Halloween 1926, at 52, taking with him many of his trade secrets. Rumours that he was murdered, however, soon took on a life of their own. Now, 81 years later, his great-nephew wants a team of top forensic investigators to conduct new tests on Houdini’s body. 'It needs to be looked at,' said George Hardeen, whose grandfather was Houdini’s brother, Theodore. ... The generally-accepted version was that Houdini suffered a ruptured appendix from a punch in the stomach, leading to a fatal case of peritonitis. But no autopsy was performed. ... In the Houdini biography, authors William Kalush and Larry Sloman detail a November 1924 letter from Doyle that smacks of Professor Moriarty-style malevolence. Houdini, it said, would 'get his just desserts very exactly meted out. ... I think there is a general payday coming soon.' Two years later, Houdini – by all accounts an extraordinary physical specimen - was dead before his 53rd birthday. Kalush and Sloman noted that 'the Spiritualist underworld’s modus operandi in cases like this was often poisoning' – possibly arsenic. ..."


A Donut - but is it Intelligently Designed?

NPR reports on March 19th on a giant snow donut, noting "Maintenance crews in Washington state spotted a snow doughnut last week on the North Cascades Highway. At first glance, a snow doughnut may look like a man-made creation. But Mike Stanford, who snapped this photo, assures Robert Siegel that snow doughnuts are real — but rare — natural occurences. ..."


Posted March 16th, 2007

ID folks get Unexpected Help re "Darwin Fraud"...

We are used to Intelligent Design Creationists demonizing evolution as a "fraud."  Now they're getting help from a new quarter - Billy Meier, the official "contactee" of the Pleiadeans/Plejarens, and creator of numerous "UFO" photographs, has channeled this wisdom from the Aliens: "Charles Darwin was a criminal fraudster and, (according to contact #217 and #250) the scientist of his day who originally enthusiastically spread his theory, found out too late to set the matter straight, and today the 'eingeweighten Kreisen' (those who are in initiated circles) know the truth, but stubbornly conceal this crime, which Billy described as 'the biggest fraud and the biggest lie that a scientist has ever created.' Only the USAmericans' Apollo 11 hoax, and the lies which brought about the world religions are worse. 'That he thereby also tried to underpin his teachings through the fraud of his adaptation of ape bones, and that he presented the Tibetan legend - that all humans are arisen from eight branches of apes - as reality, then led to the erroneous teaching that the human descended from apes, whereby this has endured until today and even the scientists grant their belief to this deception.' - Billy, 437th official contact conversation on the 18th of November, 2006 ..."



Just for fun, see how a Brit has managed to make UFO photographs as good as Meier's "real thing":


NMSR Op-Ed in the Trib...

The Tuesday, March 13th edition of the Albuquerque Tribune ran an op-ed of mine entitled "Intelligent design supporters find new, creative ways to get their message out."  It covers the recent rash of legislative measures, plus the sneaky-pete antics of the "New Mexico Science Foundation," a new science-y looking front for local young-earth creationists. The Bottom Line: "Creationists aren't going away. They're just getting sneakier."


The Discovery Institute took immediate notice, and cherry-picked out a few out-of-context quotes to assemble their assault. DI's Casey Luskin wrote "[Thomas] says that the 'creationists' are getting 'sneakier,' ...”.

I responded to Luskin's silliness on the Panda's Thumb, with a blog titled "Casey Luskin and the Inappropriate Scare Quotes."


And Luskin has outdone himself again, now claiming "Thomas has replied calling my direct quotation of him here the equivalent of using scare quotes. That's a weak response because I'm simply quoting his own words. In the English language, quotation marks are used when you're quoting someone. That's why I used quotation marks around those words because I'm quoting his words and I intended to show that. It's not complicated. ..."


The Blogosphere has taken notice:

"Luskin and the New Mexico creationists"

"A liar from the Discovery Institute? Say it ain’t so!"

"Maybe They Aren't Christians"

"Heads Up - Discovery Institute Distortions"

Why Long Childhoods? Evolution...

MSNBC reports on March 14th that "The long childhoods and delayed maturity common in modern humans are traits that date back to at least the early members of our own species in Africa. Previous research had found that fossils from earlier hominids, such as Australopithecus and Homo erectus, possessed short growth periods that were more similar to chimpanzees than living humans. So it was unclear when a lengthier period of child development emerged in human evolution. The new analyses of teeth belonging to a child living in North Africa 160,000 years ago reveal longer-term growth patterns similar to those found among modern European children. The finding, detailed in the March 12 issue of the journal for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests some of the traits commonly attributed to our species appeared relatively late in the 6-million-year history of human evolution. ..."


Pluto Reinstated as a Planet (When Passing Above New Mexico...)

The Albuquerque Journal reports on March 16th that "Pluto isn't considered a full-fledged planet by many of Earth's other residents, but it's on the way to being deemed the solar system's ninth member — again — anytime it's visible over New Mexico. A nonbinding memorial approved this week by the state House of Representatives declares that Pluto be designated a planet whenever it 'passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies.' ..."


The Memorial:

Posted March 9th, 2007

New Dinosaur - and a Transitional Species, at that...

Yahoo Newes reported on March 4th that "A new dinosaur species was a plant-eater with yard-long horns over its eyebrows, suggesting an evolutionary middle step between older dinosaurs with even larger horns and the small-horned creatures that followed, experts said. The dinosaur's horns, thick as a human arm, are like those of triceratops — which came 10 million years later. However, this animal belonged to a subfamily that usually had bony nubbins a few inches long above their eyes. ... That makes the newly found creature an intermediate between older forms with large horns and later small-horned relatives, said State of Utah paleontologist Jim Kirkland, who with Douglas Wolfe identified Zuniceratops in New Mexico in 1998. He predicted then that something like Ryan's find would turn up. 'Lo and behold, evolutionary theory actually works,' he said. ..."


It's great to see Jim Kirkland getting some press on this. After all, when we were starving college students at New Mexico Tech, my dad helped get Jim develop an interest in hunting dinosaur bones.

LANL miffed: Sandia got the NMSR Award Instead...

The Feb. 23rd edition of the " LANL: The Corporate Story" Blog declares "No Fair! Sandia Snags 'Award'! Each January NMSR Reports, the newsletter of 'New Mexicans for Science and Reason' (, publishes its 'Best and Worst Awards.' They're prepared by NSMR President Dave Thomas, a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. One of the Annual Awards for the year that just ended goes to Sandia National Labs -- 'the 'National Lab for Hire' Award to Sandia National Labs, for letting a parade of young-earth creationists promote their pseudoscience and hawk their books in the Steve Schiff Auditorium.' ..."


More Wiki Alarm Bells ... now, It's Fake Professors

The BBC reported on March 6th that "Internet site Wikipedia has been hit by controversy after the disclosure that a prominent editor had assumed a false identity complete with fake PhD. The editor, known as Essjay, had described himself as a professor of religion at a private university. But he was in fact Ryan Jordan, 24, a college student from Kentucky who used texts such as Catholicism for Dummies. He has now retired from the site. ..."


Dept. of Transportation: "Just say NO! to Windows Vista"...

The Jan. 19th, 2007 DOT memo says "This memorandum establishes an indefinite moratorium until further notice on desktop/laptop computer software upgrades to Microsoft Vista, Office 2000 and Internet Exporer version 7."


Hat Tip: Ross Goeres, a.k.a. "Cringely confidant Ross G."

Discovery Channel's "Jesus Tomb" a Stunt?

The Washington Post reports on March 2nd that "Leading archaeologists in Israel and the United States on Tuesday denounced the purported discovery of the tomb of Jesus as a publicity stunt. Scorn for the Discovery Channel's claim to have found the burial place of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and -- most explosively -- their possible son came not just from Christian scholars but also from Jewish and secular experts who said their judgments were unaffected by any desire to uphold Christian orthodoxy. ..."


Men, Want Babies? Then Step Out of the Hot Tub...

The Innovations Report (Germany) said on March 5th that "Exposure to hot baths or hot tubs can lead to male infertility, but the effects can sometimes be reversible, according to a new study led by a University of California, San Francisco urologist. ..."


Onyate Man Still Making the Rounds..

This YouTube video, titled "Re: Evolution Bloopers Hoaxes and Contradictions" features NMSR's very own Onyate Man!


And Lord J-Bar blogs about how Onyate Man fooled Kent Hovind:


Web Site O'The Week: CLOUDS...

Best on a highspeed connection - and well worth the visit! (Hat Tip: John Covan)


Alien Affiliations of Current Governors...

This site is full of fascinating information! I had no idea that NM's Bill Richardson was a Reptilian Alien, while California's Arnold Schwarzenegger hails from Kochab, central planet of darkness. Who knew?


Bible Code Troopers Hanging In There...

Even as they lament that a "whole series of nuclear prediction blunders has been the most ghastly thing that the LWs [Lords' Witnesses] have done," they are bellying up for still more doomsday predictions. The latest: "We now predict a terrorist Dirty Bomb or Nuclear Bomb will hit the UN plaza in Midtown Manhattan sometime in 2006Adar, i.e. on or before Tuesaday [sic] March 20th 2007."


Posted March 2nd, 2007

Titanic Director Cameron - 'Cancel Easter, We Found the Body' ?!?...

The Evening Standard (UK) reports on Feb. 25th that "Archaeologists and biblical scholars have poured scorn on a Hollywood film director's sensational claim that he has discovered the coffin of Jesus Christ. Oscar-winning 'Titanic' director James Cameron's assertion that the bones of Jesus and his family were hidden for centuries in a Jerusalem tomb caused an outcry in the Holy Land. The very fact that Jesus had a grave would contradict the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven. 'The Lost Tomb of Christ', a documentary set to air on Channel Four next month, argues that ten ancient ossuaries, small caskets used to store bones, which were found when bulldozers flattened a Jerusalem suburb in 1980, may have contained the remains of Jesus and his wife and child. One of the caskets even bears the title, 'Judah, son of Jesus,' which Cameron claims as evidence that Jesus may have had a son. Another coffin was said to hold the bones of Mary Magdalene, also known as 'Mariamne'. ..."


Brit Scientists Successfully Protest Stem Cell Ban...

The Times (UK) reports on Feb. 27th that "Plans to outlaw the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for potentially life-saving stem cell research are to be dropped after a revolt by scientists. The proposed government ban on fusing human DNA with animal eggs, which promises insights into incurable conditions such as Alzheimer’s and motor neuron disease, will be abandoned because of concerns among senior ministers that it will damage British science. While ministers will not endorse the research in full yet, they are no longer seeking legislation to prohibit it, The Times has learnt...."


Tennessee Senate Resolution calls for Answer on Creation of Universe..

The Knoxville TN News Sentinel reported on Feb. 27th that "Sen. Raymond Finney proposes to use the legislative process to get an answer to the question of whether the universe was created by a 'Supreme Being.' Under Senate Resolution 17, introduced by the Maryville Republican, the answer would come from state Education Commissioner Lana Seivers 'in report form' no later than Jan. 15, 2008. Finney, a retired physician, said Monday that his objective is to formally prod the Department of Education into a dialogue about the teaching of evolution in school science classes without also teaching the alternative of 'creationism,' or 'intelligent design.' ... As the resolution is written, if Seivers does answer no to the first question - stating that the universe was not created by a Supreme Being - she would be offered 'the General Assembly's admiration for being able to decide conclusively a question that has long perplexed and occupied the attention of scientists, philosophers, theologians, educators and others.' But if she answers yes, or states that the answer to the creation of the universe is uncertain, then there is a follow-up question that must also be answered: Why is creationism not being taught in Tennessee schools? ..."


Garlic does NOT Lower Cholesterol - Study... reports on Feb. 27th that "Those who count on eating raw garlic or taking garlic supplements to get their serum cholesterol under control, may not want to hear this, but a new Stanford University School of Medicine study has found that the herb does not help lower low-density lipoprotein or LDL or bad cholesterol. The study was published in the Feb. 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study on the effect of garlic on plasma cholesterol was conducted by a number of 'heavy weight' experts ..."


Roswell Alien Technology - the Key to End Global Warming?

Yahoo News reports on Feb. 28th that "A former Canadian defense minister is demanding governments worldwide disclose and use secret alien technologies obtained in alleged UFO crashes to stem climate change, a local paper said Wednesday. 'I would like to see what (alien) technology there might be that could eliminate the burning of fossil fuels within a generation ... that could be a way to save our planet,' Paul Hellyer, 83, told the Ottawa Citizen. ... Such alien technologies could offer humanity alternatives to fossil fuels, he said, pointing to the enigmatic 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico -- which has become a shrine for UFO believers -- as an example of alien contact. ..."


Latest Cassini Images - Stunning!...

Check out the latest NASA photographs and movies from Saturn. I didn't see any aliens flying around, though.


Posted February 23rd, 2007

Roundhouse Roundup: NM Rep Tables Own Creationism Bill...

On Feb. 21st, I reported on the Panda's Thumb that "Today, House Bill 506, 'AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC EDUCATION; PROVIDING FOR SCHOOL SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS AND RULES REGARDING THE TEACHING OF THEORIES OF BIOLOGICAL ORIGINS,' was heard in the NM House Education Committee: only Mike Edenburn, at sponsor Dub Williams’ side, spoke in favor of the bill. Speaking against were several scientists and educators, myself included. After the comments, sponsor Dub Williams himself voted to table the bill, which was then tabled 8-4. (I was expecting the same 7-5 split as for the bill on teaching Bible as History, HB 498, which was tabled just before the HB 506 discussion.) But Williams himself moved to table his bill. ..."



“Cheshire Cat” Creationism in New Mexico...

On Feb. 22nd, I reported on the Panda's Thumb on "... a new group calling itself the 'New Mexico Science Foundation.' ( The group recently sent a package of materials to science teachers in the embattled Rio Rancho School District, where the Intelligent Design/Creationist-friendly Science Policy 401 was adopted, and then amended after strong protests. You wouldn’t know who is behind this mailing from the group’s website, which has quotes from Einstein, captions like 'Dedicated to the pursuit of the scientific method,' and links to bonafide science organizations, like the National Science Foundation, the National Science Teachers Association, the Institute for Systems Biology, and more. ... Some colleagues and I thought it might be a new cover organization for the New Mexico branch of the Intelligent Design Network, or perhaps something done under the auspices of the Discovery Institute. We were wrong. The New Mexico Science Foundation website is the work of Bible-believing young-earth creationists (YECs), but you wouldn’t know it just by looking at it. All that’s left of its original YEC incarnation is a toothy grin. ..."


"Divine Strake" SCRAPPED...

The Albuquerque Journal's John Fleck reports on Feb. 22nd that "The Pentagon says it is scrapping its 'Divine Strake' simulated nuke test blast."


Brit Psychics 'Hired to find Bin Laden'...

The Daily Mail (UK) reported on Feb. 23rd that "Psychics were recruited by the Ministry of Defence to locate Osama Bin Laden's secret lair, it was claimed yesterday. Newly declassified documents revealed that the MoD conducted an experiment to see if volunteers could 'see' objects hidden inside an envelope. However, after running up a bill of £18,000 of taxpayers' money, defence chiefs concluded there was 'little value' in using psychic powers in the defence of the nation and the research was taken no further. The study, conducted in 2002, involved blindfolding test subjects and asking them to 'see' the contents of sealed brown envelopes containing pictures of objects and public figures. The MoD tried to recruit 12 'known' psychics who advertised their abilities on the Internet, but when they all refused they were forced to use 'novice' volunteers. ..."


'Second Chance' seeks NM Legislative Boost (for SCIENTIOLOGY)...

KRQE News 13's Michael Herzenberg reports on Feb. 21st that "A controversial inmate drug-rehab program linked to the Scientology religion is hoping the Legislature will provide $3.6 million to expand its services. Last summer a KRQE News 13 investigation exposed how Second Chance as being based on the teachings of the Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. And while the program claims great success in keeping inmates and addicts from becoming reoffenders when released, there are no scientific studies to back that up, according to critics. ..."


See Also:

ID's Calvert ... Evo/Creo debate "More important than Iraq War"

The Australian reports on Feb. 19th that "The resurrection of the intelligent design v evolution controversy at the Kansas Board of Education last week exposed the residents of the 34th state to yet another round of national and international ridicule. ... 'This issue won't go away because it's about fundamental freedoms,' retired corporate lawyer John Calvert said yesterday. 'Can you think of an issue more important to the American people? This has got to be more important than the Iraq war.' Calvert, who heads up the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network, says the the next step is likely to be legal - a challenge based on the US constitutional obligation of the government to remain neutral on matters of religion. But he says his organisations won't be taking it up. 'Our job is to explain the issues to the public,' he says. 'There are others who are better placed than us to go to court.' ..."


Here in New Mexico, Calvert is recognized as the person most responsible for the Discovery Institute's onling Lie, "New Mexico's Science Standards embrace the Intelligent Design Movement's 'Teach the Controversy' Approach.' "


Using Wikipedia at School?  Maybe Not for Long...

The New York Times reported on Feb. 21st that "When half a dozen students in Neil Waters’s Japanese history class at Middlebury College asserted on exams that the Jesuits supported the Shimabara Rebellion in 17th-century Japan, he knew something was wrong. The Jesuits were in 'no position to aid a revolution,' he said; the few of them in Japan were in hiding. ... Dr. Waters and other professors in the history department had begun noticing about a year ago that students were citing Wikipedia as a source in their papers. ... At Dr. Waters’s urging, the Middlebury history department notified its students this month that Wikipedia could not be cited in papers or exams, and that students could not 'point to Wikipedia or any similar source that may appear in the future to escape the consequences of errors.' ..."


Bushbabies Beware - it's Killer Chimps with SPEARS...

New Scientist reports on Feb. 22nd that "In a revelation that destroys yet another cherished notion of human uniqueness, wild chimpanzees have been seen living in caves and hunting bushbabies with spears. It is the first time an animal has been seen using a tool to hunt a vertebrate. ..."


First Extra-Solar-System Planetary Light Show...

Red Orbit reports on Feb. 21st that "NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has captured for the first time enough light from planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, to identify signatures of molecules in their atmospheres. The landmark achievement is a significant step toward being able to detect possible life on rocky exoplanets and comes years before astronomers had anticipated. ..."


Russian "Scopes" Trial Ends...

The Russian News and Information Agency reports on Feb. 21st that "A St. Petersburg court rejected Wednesday a lawsuit against Russia's education authorities over the compulsory teaching of evolution in schools. ..."


Watch a Movie, Solve a Math Puzzle...

John Fleck sent along this amazing video of a novel way of performing multiplication graphically. Check out the video:

If you want a clue as to why it works, visit this page and follow the instructions:

Richard Berthold to speak at NMSR on April 11th, 2007...

Former UNM Histopry professor Dr. Richard Berthold will speak on "Greeks: Why These Dead White Males Discovered Rationalism." He had been scheduled to give a similar lecture at the Museum of Natural History and Science on April 17th, 2007, but the Museum cancelled that lecture after receiving a complaint about Berthold's September 11th, 2001 remarks on bombing the Pentagon. This will be an interesting event!


Posted February 16th, 2007

Believing Scripture but Playing by Science’s Rules...

In the Feb. 12th New York Times, Cornelia Dean writes about Marcus R. Ross, a young-earth creationist who recently earned a doctoral degree in geosciences at the University of Rhode Island. She quotes UNM's own earth scientist John Geissman: "May a secular university deny otherwise qualified students a degree because of their religion? Can a student produce intellectually honest work that contradicts deeply held beliefs? Should it be obligatory (or forbidden) for universities to consider how students will use the degrees they earn? Those are 'darned near imponderable issues,' said John W. Geissman, who has considered them as a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of New Mexico. For example, Dr. Geissman said, Los Alamos National Laboratory has a geophysicist on staff, John R. Baumgardner, who is an authority on the earth’s mantle — and also a young earth creationist. If researchers like Dr. Baumgardner do their work 'without any form of interjection of personal dogma,' Dr. Geissman said, 'I would have to keep as objective a hat on as possible and say, ‘O.K., you earned what you earned.’ ...


Dumbing down evolution to KILL it...

Edward Humes, author of a new book on the Dover Trial ("Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion and the Battle for America's Soul"), writes in the Feb. 12th Los Angeles Times that "There are really two theories of evolution. There is the genuine scientific theory, and there is the talk-radio pretend version, designed not to enlighten but to deceive and enrage. The talk-radio version had a packed town hall up in arms at the 'Why Evolution Is Stupid' lecture. In this version of the theory, scientists supposedly believe that all life is accidental, a random crash of molecules that magically produced flowers, horses and humans — a scenario as unlikely as a tornado in a junkyard assembling a 747. Humans come from monkeys in this theory, just popping into existence one day. The evidence against Darwin is overwhelming, the purveyors of talk-radio evolution rail, yet scientists embrace his ideas because they want to promote atheism. These are just a few highlights of the awful and pervasive straw-man image of evolution that pundits harp about in books and editorials and, yes, on talk radio, and this cartoon version really is stupid. No wonder most Americans reject evolution in poll after poll. But then there is the real theory of evolution, the one that was on display in that Harrisburg courtroom, for which there is overwhelming evidence in labs, fossils, computer simulations and DNA studies. Most Americans have not heard of it. Teachers give it short shrift in schools because the subject upsets too many parents who only know the talk-radio version. But real evolution isn't random; it doesn't say man came from monkeys. Those claims are made up by critics to get people riled up — paving the way for pleasing alternatives like intelligent design. ..."


The greatest myths of birth defects — Should unborn babies fear the environment?

Sandy Szwarc, RN, BSN, CCP, has written a detailed and fascinating account of our last regular NMSR meeting, which featured Dr. Jon Aase talking about "Dysmorphology" (the science of birth defects). She does a splendid job of describing the Myths which Dr. Aase debunked. Check it out!


See Also: NMSR Reports, Feb. 2007:

Know your Creationist Candidates...

As a companion page to "Know your New Mexican Creationists "(, we have started a "Know your Creationist Candidates" page for the 2008 Presidential Election. Currently, there are updates on Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and John McCain, who will be speaking at the Discovery Institute on Feb. 23rd, 2007.


Kansas, Bloody Kansas: Pendulum Swings Back to Science...

ABC News reports on Feb. 14th that "Kansas has repealed public school science guidelines questioning the theory of evolution that brought the state international ridicule, but educators aren't sure how long it will be before the decision is overturned. The State Board of Education approved new, evolution-friendly science standards with a 6-4 vote Tuesday, replacing ones that questioned the theory and had the support of 'intelligent design' advocates. ..."


Filed under "Politicians Are Not Scientists, as a Rule"...

The Dallas Morning News reports on Feb. 14th that "The second most powerful member of the Texas House has circulated a Georgia lawmaker's call for a broad assault on teaching of evolution. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, used House operations Tuesday to deliver a memo from Georgia state Rep. Ben Bridges. The memo assails what it calls 'the evolution monopoly in the schools.' Mr. Bridges' memo claims that teaching evolution amounts to indoctrinating students in an ancient Jewish sect's beliefs. 'Indisputable evidence – long hidden but now available to everyone – demonstrates conclusively that so-called 'secular evolution science' is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion,' writes Mr. Bridges, a Republican from Cleveland, Ga. He has argued against teaching of evolution in Georgia schools for several years. He then refers to a Web site,, that contains a model bill for state Legislatures to pass to attack instruction on evolution as an unconstitutional establishment of religion. ..."


The Blogging Community has not missed the fact that Bridges' reference is a website on GEOCENTRICITY. Perhaps Galileo was wrong - they DON'T move, eh?


Posted February 9th, 2007

"Intelligent Design Movement" skeptical about Global Warming, but not Quicky Cancer Cures...

In addition to maintaining a hugh level of obfuscation in biology, the folks at Uncommon Descent are now blogging about over-rated global warming:

and are simultaneously oohing and aahing over the latest over-hyped Cancer Cure:

Surgeon Orac has kindly taken take-down duties on this one:

Ancient skeleton focus of modern debate...

The AP/Yahoo report on Feb. 6th that "Deep in the dusty, unlit corridors of Kenya's national museum, locked away in a plain-looking cabinet, is one of mankind's oldest relics: Turkana Boy, as he is known, the most complete skeleton of a prehistoric human ever found. But his first public display later this year is at the heart of a growing storm — one pitting scientists against Kenya's powerful and popular evangelical Christian movement. The debate over evolution vs. creationism — once largely confined to the United States — has arrived in a country known as the cradle of mankind. 'I did not evolve from Turkana Boy or anything like it,' says Bishop Boniface Adoyo, head of Kenya's 35 evangelical denominations, which he claims have 10 million followers. 'These sorts of silly views are killing our faith.' ..."


Rio Rancho Board Tilts Toward Good Science...

Over on the Panda's Thumb, I've reported on last Tuesday's school board elections. "In August of 2005, the Rio Rancho, New Mexico School Board adopted “Science Policy 401,” which was amended last April, after strong protests from scientists and teachers against the Intelligent-Design friendly policy. After yesterday’s Rio Rancho school board elections, Policy 401 had better start looking over its shoulder. Even though the amended policy is basically toothless in comparison to the original version, the existence of this totally unnecessary policy still rankles many in the community. One of the policy’s original supporters, Kathy Jackson, decided not to run again, and gave her support to candidate Steve Dietzel. Dietzel, however, was crushed by strong pro-science candidate Divyesh Patel in a landslide vote. So, the creationist-leaning members of the board now find themselves in the minority, and policy 401 itself may be on the chopping block soon. Another of the policy’s supporters, Marty Scharfglass, was able to keep his seat, but only by a few dozen votes. His opponent, pro-science candidate Sabrina Vidaurri, ran a surprisingly strong campaign against the incumbent. ... In other local school board elections, the three Albuquerque candidates who were supported by the local young-earth creationist home schooling group Rio Grande Enrichment Studies, L.L.C., Cecilia C De Baca, Cynthia L Jones and Charles MacQuigg, were all given a good whumpin’ at the polls. ..."




The FEBRUARY 2007 Issue of NMSR Reports is ONLINE (PDF).


This Month:


DARWIN DAY EVENTS February 9th (Socorro, NM Tech) and Feb. 12th (UNM SUB BALLROOM A)


Posted February 2nd, 2007

New Mexico Legislation Update: Disco Plays the Usual Cards - read all about it on The Panda's Thumb...

I have followed up last week's report with a new Panda's Thumb blog on the creationist bills introduced in the current legislative session.

Last week:

This Week:

Scientology - Government Funded, and Being Taught in New Mexico Schools...

Sandy Swarc has an amazing tale of inappropriate governmental endorsement of a religion - in this case, Scientology. And it's right here in New Mexico!


Creationist Candidate #2 Steps Forward...

Last week it was Sam Brownback. This week it's Oklahoma's Arkansas's Mike Huckabee. The Washing Post reported on Jan. 29th that "Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee yesterday announced plans to form a presidential exploratory committee, hoping to carve out a conservative niche in an increasingly crowded field of Republican candidates. ...Huckabee, 51, said yesterday that he supports President Bush's position on the Iraq war ... He also publicly supported creationism, a philosophy advocated by fervent Christians, arguing that students should be exposed to the study of the doctrine as well as evolution. ..."


Folsom Site RUINED by Mistake...

On March 9th, 2005, anthropologist Bruce Huckell of UNM talked to NMSR about his dog's stunning discovery of a genuine Folsom Site right here in Albuquerque, near a planned new High School. Unfortunately, the very folks who were supposed to take heed of the discovery managed not to. KRQE TV reports on Jan. 29th that "Pieces of Albuquerque's ancient past have apparently been plowed out of the way to make room for its future. Crews working on the Albuquerque Public Schools’ new west side high school have come across its prehistoric history. But work on a waterline for a new high school near Paseo del Norte and Universe NW destroyed part of an archaeological site more than 10,000 years old. The site is called the earliest evidence of the Folsom culture in the Albuquerque basin. UNM archaeologist Bruce Huckell first discovered the site about eight years ago. He said APS had carefully located the school around the site, but not enough care was taken with the location of utilities for the school. ..."


Dennis Lee Strikes Out in Vermont...

The Vermont Attorney General's Office announced on Jan. 29th that "Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced today that the Vermont Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s consumer fraud judgment against a New Jersey “free electricity” promoter, Dennis Lee, doing business as United Community Services of America (UCSA). The trial court imposed a permanent ban on Lee’s doing business in Vermont and awarded $20,000 in civil penalties and over $20,000 in fees and costs to the State. In a consumer fraud complaint filed with the Washington Superior Court in 2001, Attorney General Sorrell alleged that Lee ran deceptive advertisements in the Burlington Free Press and Caledonian Record to persuade Vermonters to attend a sales presentation that summer in Burlington. The ads contained the offer, “Sign up to get all your electricity for the rest of your life absolutely free!” However, UCSA admitted to the Attorney General’s staff prior to the presentation that the “free electricity” did not exist. ..."


Dennis Lee's visits to New Mexico:

Posted January 26th, 2007

IPCC Update - 'Smoking Gun' on Climate?

The Washington Post/AP reported on Jan. 22nd that "Human-caused global warming is here, visible in the air, water and melting ice, and is destined to get much worse in the future, an authoritative global scientific report will warn next week. 'The smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak,' said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who reviewed all 1,600 pages of the first segment of a giant four-part report. 'The evidence ... is compelling.' Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist and study co-author, went even further: 'This isn't a smoking gun; climate is a batallion of intergalactic smoking missiles.' The first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is being released in Paris next week. ..."


Legislature is in Session... Silly Season Begins...

Mark Twain said "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." He wouldn't be changing his mind based on the latest happenings at the NM Roundhouse. There are no less than four anti-biology pseudoscience bills that have been introduced into the 2007 session.

The Senate sponsor is State Sen. Steve Komadina, while the House sponsor is State Rep. W. C. "Dub" Williams.

Senate Bill 371, "SCHOOL SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS," is online here:

The corresponding House version of "SCHOOL SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS" is here:

These bills don't even mention their main target, "EVOLUTION," but instead aim to "(1) give teachers the right and freedom, when a theory of biological origins is taught, to objectively inform students of scientific information relevant to the strengths and weaknesses of that theory and protect teachers from reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination for doing so; and (2) encourage students to critically analyze scientific information, give them the right and freedom to reach their own conclusions about biological origins and provide that no student shall be penalized in any way because the student subscribes to a particular position on biological origins."

The non-binding but equally sinister Memorials are where EVOLUTION is attacked specifically. Senate Joint Memorial 9 and House Joint Memorial 14 are titleed "OBJECTIVE TEACHING OF BIOLOGICAL ORIGINS."

More information, and handy links to the sponsors' Legislative web pages:

Know Your New Mexican Creationists,

There are Blogs on this bill, here: "New Mexicans for Intellectual Freedom,"

and an eerily similar bill, here: "New Mexicans for Freedom of Sexuality Education,"

More Sylvia Browne Brown Stuff ...

In his continuing efforts to reveal the mendacity of psychic parasites, James Randi has posted an entire transcript of a Sylvia Browne "reading."  Save yourself $700, and read this one instead of getting one of your own...


Finally, A Scientist Eliminates Need to Buy Donuts and Coffee Separately...

The Tech Journal South reports on Jan. 26th "About six years ago, Dr. Robert Bohannon was eating a donut with a glass of milk and thought, 'What I really need here is a buzz. I need a caffeinated donut.' After working with food flavoring experts, he found a way to make caffeinated Buzz Donuts or Buzz Bagels that he would like to license to a company such as Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts, or Starbucks. ... 'Now they’ll be calling me Doctor Buzz,' Bohannon quips. He says only a larger company such as Krispy Kreme or Starbucks is really in a position to market something like his Buzz Donuts. He has contacted them and other companies. ..."


Posted January 19th, 2007

So, what did Sylvia Browne and James Van Praagh Predict Years Ago on 4-Years-Missing Boy?

James Randi reports on Jan. 19th that "Back in February, 2003, 'psychics' Sylvia Browne and James Van Praagh were consulted by the parents of missing 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck – Pam and Craig Akers. That young man just recently turned up – very much alive and well, in rather sharp disagreement with the prognostications of the humbug artists. The Hornbecks had talked February 11th with Sylvia Browne on the Montel Williams television show, where she informed them that Shawn was 'no longer with us,' which means 'dead.' ... The Akers also appeared in television segments on 'Beyond' with James Van Praagh, another equally accurate 'psychic.' He led the search in an entirely different direction, suggesting that a person who worked in a railroad car plant was involved, and that the body 'might' be concealed in a railway car. Again, totally wrong, in all respects. ...This is yet another glaring example of how these leeches eagerly fasten onto grieving and vulnerable persons, exploit them, and profit from their situation. And it won’t stop. Larry King and Montel Williams will continue to give the scam-artists time and publicity – BECAUSE THEY JUST DON’T CARE!"


Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The Dangers are Double, but the Benefits are Few...

CBS News reported on Jan. 16th that "Older Americans taking shots of human growth hormone in an effort to turn back the clock will likely be disappointed. As an anti-aging treatment, the hormones appear to offer few benefits but significant health risks, a review of the research finds. Stanford University researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing 31 studies that included a total of more than 500 relatively healthy elderly people. The only clearly positive effect found from taking the hormones was a slight improvement in lean body mass. On the negative side, participants who took human growth hormones were significantly more likely to develop joint swelling and pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. There was also a suggestion of an increased risk of diabetes and prediabetes, but that association did not reach statistical significance. ..."


PEER in need of Peer Review, Gets Slapped ...

On Dec. 28th, the group "Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility" (PEER) reported that "Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. ..."

Here's the PEER source, but you will now find a SANITIZED version without this sentence.


Why is that? It turns out that PEER could not back up their claim whatsoever. Michael Shermer originally reported the announcement at the website for Skeptic Magazine, but withdrew it when PEER failed to corroborate their report. Whereas Shermer has acknowledged his error, and made amends, all the folks at PEER did was to apply a little white paint and hope no one will notice.



This make-believe story has been enshrined in Doonesbury:

PEER has damaged its own credibility severely. You can tell them to shape up here:

Creationist Candidates, 2008...

It appears that there is only one torch-bearer for creationism thus far in the 2008 Presidential Election. Buzzle,com reports in Jan. 16th that "Sam Brownback: Kansas senator expected to make a formal announcement on Saturday, and will run on the issues that move the Republican base. Opposes abortion and stem cell research, and what he calls the 'homosexual agenda', and supports creationism in state schools ..."


Human/Neanderthal Cross?

The Herald Sun (Australia) reports on Jan. 18th that "A picture has been released of a 40,000-year-old human skull found in Romania that shows early Europeans shared modern and neanderthal traits, suggesting the two species may have mixed. The skull fragments, which researchers say are the earliest modern human remains found in Europe, were discovered in a cave. The reconstructed cranium, named Oase 2, has the same proportions as modern human skulls and shares a number of non-neanderthal features. But it also has a flat forehead and the largest cheek teeth so far known for a modern human. ..."


Santa Fe "Letterman's Psychic Harassment" judge gets new Woo-woo Physics case...

Tom Sharpe of The New Mexican writes on Jan. 16th that "One Santa Fe woman claims another is holding hostage DVDs of an Iowa man on the verge of unlocking the 'code of the universe.' 'This will change our science, the atomic code, everything,' said Jeanne O'Dean, who recently moved to Santa Fe from Boston. 'But I really don't want to give any more detail.' ..."

The 'scientist' involved is Duane Whitlock, who claims to have discovered "new laws of physics." Sharpe notes that "Whitlock said, for example, that he has 'undeniable proof that the spectrum of light is hexadynamic, not the linear structure that it has been long believed to be.' He said he's self-educated and hasn't received a college degree...." O'Dean employed videographer Laureen Pepersac to document Whitlock's "science." Pepersac charged too much for O'Dean's liking, however, and was not paid. So she kept the videos, and is calling O'Dean "a psycho con artist."

Daniel Sanchez is the lucky judge who gets to arbitrate the mess. You may remember him from December of 2005, when he actually gave a woman a restraining order against Dave Letterman because of the "secret" messages Letterman was alleged to be emitting during his monologues, thus earning Sanchez NMSR's "Jurisprudence/ Schmurisprudence" Award for 2005...


Posted January 12th, 2007

First Image of Dark Matter...

The Independent (UK) reports on Jan. 8th that "One of the greatest mysteries of the universe is about to be unravelled with the first detailed, three-dimensional map of dark matter - the invisible material that makes up most of the cosmos. Astronomers announced yesterday that they have achieved the apparently impossible task of creating a picture of something that has defied every attempt to detect it since its existence was first postulated in 1933. ..."


Dinosaur National Monument - the Main Attraction is Collapsing...

The Daily Sentinel reported on Dec. 26th "Designed to be a glistening symbol of scientific inquiry when it was built in 1957, Dinosaur National Monument's Quarry Visitor Center was considered one of the greatest achievements of modern architecture found in any national park. Today, it's about to collapse. With a Nikon camera dangling over his red rain jacket, Gary Uhring surveyed a display of replica dinosaur bones embedded in faux stone housed beneath the dim fluorescent lights of a stuffy old office, part of an aging pavilion now posing as the monument's mini makeshift visitor center. Just up the hill, the broken Quarry Visitor Center, whose twisting, buckling, exploding walls once launched a chalkboard across an office, is keeping Uhring from seeing the dinosaur bones he traveled from Hamilton, Mass., to see. ..."


AAAS applauds Proposal for Nationwide Science Standards...

On Jan. 8th, the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) announced that they "today applauded a bipartisan proposal for voluntary nationwide standards to ensure that all American children receive a high-quality education in mathematics and science. AAAS further urged planners to base new nationwide standards on existing, well-tested and widely accepted guidelines -- set forth by Project 2061, the science-education reform initiative at AAAS, as well as the National Research Council, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). ... tests in some regions are not well-aligned to the key science concepts that students need to know at each grade level. In some regions, for example, the integrity of science education has been eroded by efforts to insert non-scientific concepts such as "intelligent design" into science curriculum. While supporting a single, nationwide set of science and math standards, AAAS -- the world's largest general scientific organization -- urged policy-makers and educators to begin with existing guidelines, which already provide a model for the nation's best state-level standards. ..."


Seen Naught of McNaught?

If our NM clouds have kept you from seeing marvelous Comet McNaught, check out these Brit images from the Daily Mail, which writes on Jan. 11th "The newly discovered comet, first observed in Australia last August, is three times more dazzling than Hale-Bopp in 1997. ..."


"MineSweeper" game alleged to cause Billion$ in Lo$$e$...

The AP reported on Jan. 12th that "Procrastination in society is getting worse, and scientists are finally getting around to figuring out how and why. Too many tempting diversions are to blame, but more on that later. After 10 years of research on a project that was only supposed to take five years, a Canadian industrial psychologist found in a giant study that not only is procrastination on the rise, it makes people poorer, fatter and unhappier. ... In 1978, only about 5 percent of the American public thought of themselves as chronic procrastinators. Now it’s 26 percent, Steel said. And why not? ... At work, e-mail, the Internet and games are just a click away, making procrastination effortless, Steel said. 'That stupid game Minesweeper — that probably has cost billions of dollars for the whole society,' he said. The U.S. gross national product would probably rise by $50 billion if the icon and sound that notifies people of new e-mail suddenly disappear, he added. ..."


Randi Revises Rules for the $1,000,000 Paranormal Challenge... reports on Jan. 12th that "Ten years after stage magician and avowed skeptic James Randi first offered a seven-figure payday to anyone capable of demonstrating paranormal phenomenon under scientific scrutiny, the 79-year-old clear-eyed curmudgeon is revising the rules of his nonprofit foundation's Million Dollar Challenge to better target high-profile charlatans, and spend less time on unknown psychics, who too often turn out to be delusional instead of deceptive. 'We can't waste the hundreds of hours that we spend every year on the nutcases out there -- people who say they can fly by flapping their arms,' says Randi. 'We have three file drawers jam-packed with those collections.... There are over 300 claims that we have handled in detail.' ..."


Posted January 5th, 2007

Russian "Scopes" Trial - We Got Monkeys!...

The Baltimore Sun has a detailed discussion of the Russian "Scopes" Trial in the Jan. 3rd edition. "This nation's first-ever lawsuit on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution began with a biology textbook, a bunch of bananas and a man dressed in a monkey suit. And it only got more tangled from there ..."


The Truth about Celebrity Health Claims...

The Guardian (UK) reports on Jan. 3rd that "From Madonna's efforts to find a way to "neutralise radiation" to Carol Caplin's advice on keeping "your lymph system unclogged" if you want to avoid breast cancer, celebrities are seldom shy about offering scientific-sounding health tips. But with the season for promoting new year diets and health fads in full swing, a group of scientists are hoping to steer the rich and famous away from making pseudo-scientific gaffes. The charity Sense About Science, which promotes the dissemination of good scientific information to the public, has assembled the wisdom of 16 leading researchers in a handy leaflet which it hopes will become a must-read for celebrities. ..."


Polonium 210 has Killed Before...

The LA Times reports on Jan. 1st that "The poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko in November caused by the radioactive isotope polonium-210 sparked a sharp interest in the exotic material, but the onetime Russian spy was not the first to swallow the lethal element. ... Marie and Pierre Curie discovered polonium while they were searching for the cause of excess radiation in a uranium-rich ore called pitchblende. In 1898, they traced the radiation to a substance that they dubbed radium F. When Marie Curie determined that it was a unique element, she named it polonium to bring attention to the plight of her homeland, Poland, which had been partitioned among Russia, Prussia and Austria. The Curies' daughter Irene also fell victim to the isotope. She died of leukemia in 1956, 10 years after a sealed capsule of polonium-210 was accidentally broken in her laboratory at the Radium Institute in Paris. ..."


All About Jinn...

The Economist (UK) reports on Dec. 19th on Jinn ("Genies"), writing "Although a few Islamic scholars have over the ages denied the existence of jinn, the consensus is that good Muslims should believe in them. Some Islamic jurists consider marriage between jinn and humans to be lawful. There is a similar provision for the inheritance of jinn property. Sex during menstruation is an invitation to jinn and can result in a woman bearing a jinn child. According to the Koran, the Prophet Muhammad preached to bands of jinn. Some converted to Islam. ..."

An interesting read!


Top 10 Astro Pix of 2006!

Phil Plait of has posted his picks for Top 10 Astro-Pix of 2006. The images are stunning - check them out!


Oh yeah, check out the 3D animated flyaround of the Face on Mars, Phil's #7:

AWARD TIME - NMSR's Best and Worst of 2006...

Check out who was naughty and who was nice in 2006, at!

See Also Hot News of the Week, or News Summaries for 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 or 2000.


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