This is a blog detailing the creation/evolution/ID controversy and assorted palaeontological news. I will post news here with running commentary.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Stein denied in the New York Times that he had misled anyone. "I don't remember a single person asking me what the movie was about," he said. The film company said the movie's title was changed on the advice of marketing experts.
There is also a New York Times article on the controversy. You can go there to find it if you really want to.
More than a century after his death, people are still trying to understand Charles Darwin. And a new report says those who label him anti-religion are wrong. The 19th Century English biologist famous for his theory of evolution supported Christian missionary work his entire adult life, reports a cultural historian.
The USAToday article is not particularly long but interesting.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
The family and I just got back from vacation to Virginia Beach and Washington D.C. where the kids whethered the heat and the walking around the mall quite well. I also got a chance to see these guys, perhaps one last time. A fantastic concert--Genesis played for two and half hours straight without an intermission. I hope I do that well at age 55.
The Teachernet press release and a corresponding document entitled "Guidance on the place of creationism and intelligent design in science lessons" (dated 18 September 2007) came about after a propaganda exercise in late 2006 on the part of a newly formed creationist organization calling itself Truth in Science.
Packets of creationist-backed teaching materials were sent to the science heads of every secondary school in the United Kingdom. Following complaints, the government issued a series of statements and disclaimers, including a 21 June 2007 statement affirming that creationism (including "intelligent design") "should not be taught as science" and promising guidance for schools "in due course."
Hat tip to the ASA.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
76. In the tradition of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI now welcomes the role of the sciences in the evolution of humanity: Science has opened up large dimensions of reason that have been closed up to now and thus brought us new insights. In early September 2006, he brought together a group of former students and colleagues at Castel Gandolfo for a seminar on the evolutionism versus creationism debate. He published the conclusions of this seminar in mid-April 2007 in German under the title “Schöpfung und Evolution” (Creation and Evolution). He does not support the ideas of creationism: the creationist position is based on an interpretation of the Bible that the Catholic Church does not share. The Pope rejects both a creationism that categorically excludes science and the theory of evolution, which hides its own weaknesses and does not want to see the questions that arise beyond the methodological capacities of science. The theory of evolution is considered too pervasive by the Catholic Church, which seems above all to be worried about the influence of “social Darwinism” and the evolutionist theories concerning economic matters and medical ethics.
The draft is quite long and an interesting read. Pastafarianism is even mentioned. Paragraph 87, however, is the one that cuts to the heart of why evolutionary theory ought to be considered on its own merits:
87. Some creationist fundamentalists attack “Darwinism” and materialism by accusing them of being the “real ideological source of terrorism”. “Darwinism is the basis of several violent ideologies that brought disaster to the human race in the 20th century”. Is it necessary to point out that human beings did not await the publication in 1859 of Darwin’s work The Origin of Species to indulge in a large number of massacres? How many people have died in the name of religious wars? The use of religion, like the reference to “social Darwinism” by some dictatorial regimes, is insufficient and cannot in any way call into question the theory of evolution or religion. Social Darwinism is an ideology that claims to have been inspired by Darwin but it has nothing to do with the Darwinian theory of evolution.
The team turned its research focus to the most complete of the 12 skeletons discovered and specifically toward three little bones from the hobbit's left wrist. The research asserts that modern humans and our closest fossil relatives, the Neandertals, have a very differently shaped wrist in comparison to living great apes, older fossil hominins like Australopithecus (e.g., "Lucy") and even the earliest members of the genus Homo (e.g., Homo habilis, the "handy-man"). But the hobbit's wrist is basically indistinguishable from an African ape or early hominin-like wrist—nothing at all like that seen in modern humans and Neandertals.
This is an HTML link to the Science article, which is, apparently, free to all. I wonder what John Hawks will say--he has always regarded the specimens as pathological.
Friday, September 21, 2007
In the new work, [Matthew] Tocheri and his colleagues analyzed three wrist bones from the hobbit skeleton, technically called Liang Bua 1 or LB1.
The shape and orientation of the bones matched those of non-human apes and were very different from the wrist bones of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and modern humans.
For example, the human trapezoid is boot-shaped, while the same wrist bone in LB1 is wedge-shaped.
"Are they a distinct species or are they pathological modern humans?" asks study leader Tocheri. "I think it's pretty clear that this is a smoking gun, that they are not pathological modern humans. Modern human wrists, normal or abnormal, don't look like an otherwise normal chimpanzee wrist."
I am pretty sure this is not the end of it.
Now playing: Peter Gabriel - Of These, Hope
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Although the religious side was in full force during the hearings, the Kansas Citizens for Science decided to stage a boycott. Their reasoning was that science is not something that can be determined in the courtroom.
"The average viewer may see the movie as filled with heroes and villains. But my viewpoint is it's filled with human beings," says Tamblyn, a 27-year veteran of corporate film and video production.
Here's an interesting tidbit:
He says, "There are 10 major characters in the film, and they've all been invited to the screening. So far none of the people on the creationist side are coming."
The Museum is dedicated to the belief that the Earth is but 6,000 years old, that a science that suggests life on this planet is millions of years old is wrong, that the first man looked like a hippie, the first woman looked like Grace Slick.
Now that's funny.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
"We know from the trackways that these animals had their feet planted almost under their body," Berman said, "whereas in textbooks, they give them a sprawling gait as if the limbs are extended out from the body considerably. This just isn't true. You look at the trackway and you see that the footprints are very close to the midline of the body."
Science in action.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Co-authored by two state university biology professors, two philosophers of science, and a science curriculum writer, Explore Evolution was peer-reviewed by biology faculty at both state and private universities, teachers with experience in both AP and pre-AP life science courses, and doctoral scientists working for industry and government. The textbook has been pilot-tested in classes at both the secondary school and college levels.
Where has it been pilot-tested? Not in any school district around here. Here is the book website.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the Roseville Joint Union High School District that was filed by a Granite Bay man unhappy with how evolution was being taught in his children's school.
Apparently, the man had met with school board officials several times and, when he did not get the answer that he wanted, sued them. The judge saw through the smokescreen and dismissed the suit. Said school board member Jan Pinney:
"He had more time before the board than anybody has ever had in my 12 years on the board."
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Anthropology.net isn't convinced.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
If a graduate student came to you and said: 'You know, I've got this great idea for a possible evolutionary pathway for the bacterial flagellum. I think I could figure it out and I've got an idea for some experiments that would test this. Would you recommend me to go along with that?' And Michael said no. Which left me stunned. This is obscurantist.
Bethell responded thusly:
I sent Behe an e-mail. Could he verify this account? No, he could not. "John Derbyshire is imagining things," he wrote back. "I would never have said such a thing. I welcome experiments into evolutionary pathways. It has been my experience that the more we know, and the more experimental work is done, the less and less plausible Darwinian mechanisms become."
Chapman, also present, recalls no such exchange with Behe.
Derbyshire then responded:
So far as my exchange with Michael Behe is concerned, I reported it as I recall it. I distinctly recall his answering "No" to my question, as the answer startled me. I had not expected him to be so blunt. It is possible, I suppose, that he mis-apprehended my question -- there was some crosstalk going on at the time. I know what I asked, though, and I know what he answered. If anything got lost there, I don't feel at fault, though I should be sorry to think that anyone -- even a creationist -- believed himself traduced by something I said in good faith. I should be especially sorry in the case of Professor Behe, who strikes me as the least shifty of a very shifty bunch. At least he had the guts to show up and give evidence at Kitzmiller.
Mr. Bethell responds (in the same article):
Mr. Derbyshire's bitter hostility to intelligent design is so great that he is unable to think straight on the subject. Now he tells us that Michael Behe may have "misapprehended" his question. It is certain that he did, for no intelligent-design theorist is opposed to any scientific research. That research is all tending to support, not weaken the claims of intelligent design. It is convenient for JD to think otherwise, for he is determined to represent intelligent design as another name for "creationism." He has fixed that idea firmly in his head, because he believes that it is the best way to discredit intelligent design.
Here's the problem: where is the research? One paper doesn't do it. I have the paper. Time to see what it says.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
But there should be nothing controversial about the Conservative leader's position -- especially given that Mr. Tory says his comment referred only to religious studies, not science class. Indeed, creationist material is already included in the religious studies courses taught at publicly funded Catholic schools across Ontario. Any number of creation stories also are taught at the province's various independent Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and (insert your favourite faith here) religious schools. When it suits them, our political and media elites laud these schools and their curricula as hallmarks of our multicultural society. (The same goes for aboriginal creation myths, which many Canadian students learn about in their history courses.) Has political correctness advanced to the point whereby every story of creation is politically acceptable except the one that happens to originate with the country's Christian majority?
This tracks with what David Warren wrote in his caustic review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion about the opponents of Christianity stepping up their rhetoric.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
In my recent musings on Darwinism, I have been perhaps a bit coy about why I have been raising it at all. This is because it is "in the air," thanks partly to books by Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others. But those books are themselves symptomatic of the intellectual moment in the West, when opponents of Christianity are moving beyond smug disapproval toward active persecution.
No one in the media quite seems to see that.
The first public crowds to observe Lucy's 3.2 million-year-old bones on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science responded with a wide range of human emotion: eye-rolling doubts, probing questions, witty jokes, tears of awe, and deep, philosophical dialogue weighing the spiritual, the scientific and what it means to be human.
For some, the lightbulb comes on, if dimly.
Still, [a visitor] said it was important to her to see the exhibit and expose her son to the idea of evolution for the first time: "All kids should know the evolution side and the religious side, because there's something to it or we wouldn't be finding millions and millions of years-old stuff."
Yes, there is something to it.
The clarification from the party office stated that the "Ontario curriculum does not allow for creationism (or any other religious theory) to be taught in science classes in Ontario's public schools," and that Tory "clearly stated that any school to be included in the proposal (for funding) must teach the Ontario curriculum."
Interesting politics north of the border.