Thursday, March 29, 2007

Human Evolution Continues?

It has sort of been thought that evolution of modern humans had stopped when humans with modern characteristics first appeared. Now a geneticist, Gregory Cochran, and an anthropologist, John Hawks, state that evolution has been proceeding faster in the last ten thousand years than in the presumed "origin" of modern humans 160-200 thousand years ago. In an article in World Science, they state that modern human brain cases have continued to change dramatically. According to the article:

An­thro­po­l­o­gist Jef­frey Mc­Kee of Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty said the new find­ings of ac­ce­l­er­ated evolution bear out pre­dic­tions he made in a 2000 book The Rid­dled Chain. Based on com­put­er mod­els, he ar­gued that ev­o­lu­tion should speed up as a pop­u­la­tion grows. This is be­cause pop­u­la­tion growth cre­ates more op­por­tu­ni­ties for new mu­ta­tions; al­so, the ex­pand­ed pop­u­la­tion oc­cu­pies new en­vi­ron­men­tal niches, which would drive ev­o­lu­tion in new di­rec­tions.

This is exciting, and may open doors for many different areas of research. It also puts a bit of a crimp in the "rapid replacement" model of modern humans origins. Put simply, if evolution has not slowed down with the advent of modern humans, then it is more of a continuum than was previously thought.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This Kind of Thing Doesn't Help

According to a story in Southern AP news, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League has asked for an apology from a Georgia politician who allegedly wrote a memo stating that the theory of evolution was originally put forth in the Kabbala. Evolution doesn't seem to have been the problem, though:

"Your memo conjures up repugnant images of Judaism used for thousands of years to smear the Jewish people as cult-like and manipulative," wrote Bill Nigut, the league's Southeast regional director.

The real fun is that, while the politician, Ben Bridges, denies having written the memo, one of his "closest political allies" Marshall Hall, states that he did.

Hall runs a web site called the "Non-Moving Earth and Anti-Evolution Site of the Fair Education Foundation, Inc." which has to be seen to be believed. One quote on the site that stood out to me was this:

This "Doctrine Purification Series" has been written over a period of some twenty years in preparation for that time when all teachings are brought in line with the unquestioned Bible inerrancy and infallibility that will be manifested globally by the exposure of the most fertile deception in Satan’s vast repertoire, namely, the universally believed lie that the Earth is orbiting on an axis and going around the sun.

This all came from an Instapundit post that linked a post by Neal Boortz with the heading "Why People Think Conservatives are Idiots." This is one good reason why.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Report on the Creationist Museum

Truthdig has a report on the construction of the Creationism museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. This museum, the brainchild of Ken Ham, the Australian creationist, is described thus:

It has the appearance of a real science museum, complete with a planetarium, a gift shop and plaques on the wall with quotes from creationist “scientists” who have the title doctor conspicuously before their names. It has charts, timelines and graphs with facts and figures. It is meant to be interactive, to create, like Universal Studios, a contrived reality with an array of costly animatronic men and women as well as moving dinosaurs.

The writer reports the following:

Only 13 percent of Americans in a 2004 Gallup poll, when asked for their views on human origins, said life arose from the strictly natural process of evolution. More than 38 percent said they believed God guided evolution, and 45 percent said the Genesis account of creation was a true story.2 Courses on intelligent design have been taught at Minnesota, Georgia, New Mexico and Iowa State universities, along with Wake Forest and Carnegie Mellon, not to mention Christian universities that teach all science through the prism of the Bible.

Aside from the inaccurate conflation of recent earth creationism and Intelligent Design, it is not clear that if either of the first two 83% were correct, that we could tell the difference. It seems more interesting to me that 45% of those polled thought that the Genesis account was a true story. One wonders what those polled thought that "true story" meant. I think it is a true story also, just not a literal one. Truth comes in all shapes and sizes and is both literal and figurative. The Primeval History teaches spiritual and religious truth. To paraphrase Conrad Hyers, we don't need to ask any more of it. This doesn't mean that Ken Ham isn't misguided.

Having said that, the tone of the article is condescending, calling YECs "Christo-fascists" Hence the following paragraph:

They pump out articles in self-published journals to provide “evidence” that homosexuals can be cured, that global warming is a myth, that abortion can cause breast cancer, that something they call “post-abortion syndrome” leads to deep depression and suicide and that abstinence-only education is an effective form of birth control.

This has nothing to do with the evolution/creation debate and is insulting to a wide range of people who, like me, are social conservatives, but take evolution seriously. I would encourage reading the comments, as well. They range from supportive to very caustic.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Sadly, I am not going to be at the Discovery Institute program here in Knoxville. I cannot justify the cover charge of fifty-five dollars, not with four hungry kids to feed. My graduate advisor, Andy Kramer, is going and will take notes. He suggested that I crash the gate at some point. I don't know. I sure know I don't want to give the Institute that kind of money, since I disagree with how they try to effect their program. I don't like deception, and have read enough to think they practice it on several levels. Oh well.

It sort of defeats the purpose of this blog not to go, but there will be plenty of press reports and interviews. Life goes on.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Discovery Institute is Coming to Knoxville!!

Here is the press release.

By: Staff
Discovery Institute
January 15, 2007

Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture will present a
special series of conferences, Darwin vs. Design, in 2007 and 2008
exploring the growing scientific evidence that life and the universe
were intelligently designed.

These events in selected cities across America will feature leading
scientists and philosophers who are advancing the theory of
intelligent design. Check this page frequently for updated
information about upcoming conferences in your area.

Upcoming Conferences
Knoxville Darwin vs. Design Conference
March 24, 2007
Knoxville, Tennessee
Dallas Darwin vs. Design Conference
April 13-14, 2007
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, Texas

Interestingly, this item showed up on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Technical Calendar. After quite a bit of outcry, it was removed. Nonetheless, it is possible to get discounts if you are en employee of the lab, which I am. I expect to hear alot of "Teach the Controversy."
One Kenyan speaks out against the gagging of evolution.
Well, this is kind of gross, but informative in an evolutionary sort of way.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Horned Dinosaurs

A new dinosaur has been found that has horns. Not in itself noteworthy, the horns are apparently in a family of dinosaurs that are only known for nub-like horns. The new find is called Albertosaurus nesmoi. The story relates:

The oldest known horned dinosaur in North America is called Zuniceratops. It lived 12 million years before [Michael] Ryan's find, and also had large horns.

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.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Its Creation Time in Tennessee!

The Nashville Post reports that State Senator Raymond Finney from Maryville is asking the state legislature to sponsor a resolution addressing some fundamental questions about science and open the door to teaching creationism as an alternate view of life. The story notes:

The resolution needs only to be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate in order to force Tennessee's Department of Education to answer on the record. A joint resolution would have to pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, where it would likely find itself relegated to a black hole committee and not see the light of day.

Yay rah! It never really goes away completely, does it?