Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Peer-Reviewed Creationism?

Nature News has reported that Answers in Genesis has launched Answers Research Journal, a "peer-reviewed" journal on creationist research. Now, here is what they mean by "peer-reviewed":

Papers will be peer reviewed by those who “support the positions taken by the journal”, according to editor-in-chief Andrew Snelling, a geologist based in Brisbane, Australia.

If the data do not fit the facts, they must be disposed of!! The article goes on to state:

“There have been these kinds of publications in the past,” says Keith Miller, a geologist at Kansas State University in Manhattan, who follows creationism. For the most part, he says, the work is ignored by the scientific community. But those without a science background, including some policy-makers, may not be able to judge the difference in value of a paper in ARJ and a genuine science journal.

Therein lies the real problem, as we have seen in Florida.

Texas Higher Education and the ICR

The American Statesman reports that the new proposal to offer degrees in science education by the ICR has been met with a flood of emails, both for and against. The article notes:

The American-Statesman, under the Texas Public Information Act, obtained printouts of the e-mails, which fill nearly 300 pages. [education commissioner] Paredes' recommendation on the proposal for an online master's degree program is expected to carry considerable weight, but the final decision is up to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which oversees certain aspects of public and private postsecondary education.

Oh boy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Florida Moves Forward

State educators in Florida are set to vote on new standards that look promising, replacing the phrase "biological changes over time" with the big "E" word. The article notes:

In March 2006, a review committee found that the discussion of divine origins in a ninth-grade Biology I book was "unacceptable for inclusion in a biology textbook." After almost a month of heated public debate, the Brevard County School Board voted to strike any mention of intelligent design from texts.

Frank Brunn, a tax accountant and father of a first-grade pupil at Meadowlane Primary School, said he thinks evolution is a theory that cannot be proven and that students must be exposed to other possibilities.

Yup. Not a biologist, a tax accountant. That is why this problem persists in public schools.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Problems in South Carolina

The Brown Daily Herald writes of a textbook controversy in South Carolina over a book written by Brown Professor Kenneth Miller.

One professor's critique of the presentation of evolution in a textbook written by Professor of Biology Ken Miller '70 and Joseph Levine almost prevented the book from appearing in South Carolina classrooms.

The textbook "Biology" was up for approval by the South Carolina Board of Education when retired Clemson professor Horace D. Skipper wrote a four-page review of the book, critiquing its treatment of evolution.

"In the view of this retired professor, what was wrong with our book was that we presented evolution to be true," Miller told The Herald.

The most astounding thing is what the retired professor actually said:

"The textbook under review fails to provide the necessary evidence (for the Darwinian theory of evolution). It seems reasonable to offer additional theories including creation and intelligent design, since all theories on origin are outside the scientific method."

Outside the scientific method? Dr. Skipper, it turns out, is a retired microbiologist, specializing in weed grass and turf. The fact that he views evolution as a "threory of origins" indicates that he is talking through his hat. For a textbook to get derailed by the criticisms of someone outside the discipline is ridiculous.
More on the Chinese human remains.

Dissent From Darwin

A bit back, the Discovery Institute promoted a list of scientists that "dissented from Darwinian evolution." Over time, the list has grown but recently, the DI has trotted out the list again to poke at evolutionary biologists. Mike Dunford at Questionable Authority takes issue with this. He quotes the DI:

Signers of the Dissent List have signed the list because it is their professional opinion that the evidence is lacking for the claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Period. Nothing more, and nothing less.

He then asks:

It's their professional opinion? Based on what, exactly?

What basis does Douglas Keil, who is listed as having a PhD in "Plasma Physics" have for forming a professional opinion on evolutionary biology? How about Jeanne Drisko, "Clinical Assistant Professor of Alternative Medicine" at the University of Kansas School of Medicine? Or Aaron Miller, who has a PhD in physics? Or mathematician Gary Dilts? Or "research meteorologist" John Brown? Or Baylor physical chemist John Burba? or Why on earth would I think that any of those people is in any way, shape, or form competent to form a professional opinion on a topic that falls outside their claimed area of professional expertise?

This is a persistent problem for creationists of all sorts. The grandfather of the recent creationism movement, Henry Morris, was a hydraulic engineer with no training whatever in biology.

"Board Opposes Evolution Being Taught As Fact"

Tampa Bay online reports:

SEBRING — Four of five members of the School Board of Highlands County [Florida]oppose the proposed change in the state's science standards that would present evolution as fact to students.

Some school board members across the state have opposed the proposed revisions to the science curriculum that specifies that evolution be taught as "fact" as opposed to a "theory," School Board Attorney John McClure said at a recent school board meeting.

Do these people even know what a theory is?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tony Campolo Gets it Wrong

Another Christian, with little or no training to do so, tackles evolution and gets beat up pretty badly. Josh Rosenau is the one who takes him to the cleaners. In a column in the Philadelphia Enquirer's Currents, Tony Campolo makes some baldly wrong claims:

Those who argue at school board meetings that Darwin should be taught in public schools seldom have taken the time to read him. If they knew the full title of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, they might have gained some inkling of the racism propagated by this controversial theorist.

Interestingly, Darwin only mentioned humans once in this entire book, and not in this context. As Rosenau notes, he clearly meant species when he used the term races. This is an elementary mistake on Campolo's part.

The second mistake is the classic "without Darwin, there is no Hitler." He writes about Ernst Haeckel, a naturalist of the late 1800s and early 1900s, who clearly did believe in biological determinism and eugenics as well as the anti-semitism of Heinrich von Treitschke. He then writes:

Although these men's lives much predated Hitler's rise to power, their ideas were very influential as he developed the racist ideas that led to the Holocaust. Konrad Lorenz, a biologist who belonged to the Nazi Office for Race Policy and whose work supported Nazi theories of "racial hygiene," made Darwin's theories the basis for his reasoning.

Nope. Hitler rejected evolution as it applied to humans. He felt that God had created humans separately and that the ascent of the Aryan nation was divine right. I have posted about this here and here. Hat tip to Josh Rosenau.

New Human Remains in China!

Archaeologists have uncovered the almost complete remains of a skull in Xuchang, China that purportedly dates to around 100 000 years, although I don't know how they know that yet and Chinese dating is notoriously squirrely. Here is the picture from China Daily.

More than one creationist has called the Chinese Homo erectus remains fakes and they still have a hard time accepting that there are human remains in China. This'll help.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Struggles of "Theistic Evolution"

The Chicago Tribune reports on the "New Theology" of scientists like Howard van Till, who (like me) accept evolutionary theory and Christianity at the same time. The story notes:

Evolution, they contend, is more than a soulless explanation for the development of life. It is a glimpse of a divine plan so subtle it's almost invisible. Some scholars call the idea "theistic evolution," though the term has been slow to catch on. Dr. Francis Collins, the leader of the U.S. government's Human Genome Project and a born-again Christian, prefers to call it "BioLogos," the union of biology with the word of God.

"BioLogos." Hmmm. Probably better than "evolutionary creationism."

The article also addresses the inadequacy of ID, a topic I have also addressed:

Intelligent design's shortcomings as science are immense, but its theological problems may be just as profound. The God of intelligent design is a master craftsman who leaves virtually nothing to chance. That's unsatisfying to Cambridge University paleontologist Simon Conway Morris, who says many of his objections to intelligent design stem from his Christian faith. "It's theology for control freaks, with God as an engineer."

van Till addressed the problems of ID in this article. In a related vein:

Darwin couldn't resolve his ambivalence about religion. But Georgetown's [John] Haught thinks he has a better answer to the dilemma that has bedeviled believers for nearly 150 years.

Don't think of God as a meticulous designer of life, Haught urges. A detailed design would have limited the paths that living things could take. Instead, he says, God's love led to a world that's always open to new directions for life, without the need for overpowering divine supervision. The chance-fueled nature of evolution doesn't disprove God's existence, Haught believes. It's what God wanted.

This is similar to what Kenneth Miller believes and has written about in Finding Darwin's God. Correctly, though, William Dembski points out a possible pitfall in this form of theology:

A theology of evolution risks turning God into an "attenuated deity," says William Dembski, one of the founding architects of intelligent design. Haught "sees God's hands in creation as fundamentally tied," says Dembski, a professor of philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth. Whether evolution can foster a spiritually satisfying picture of God ultimately depends on how ordinary believers receive the new evangelists of theistic evolution.

The problem as I see it is that it is extremely difficult to show that the earth is not 4.5 billion years old, that the continents have not moved around, that plants and animals have not evolved and that the earth has not been subject to continual biogeographic and geological changes its entire history. We either choose to believe that God created it or we don't. As for me and my house...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Going once, going twice??

Apparently, a Texas museum is having to auction off a remarkable mastodon skull just to stay in business. According to Foxnews:

The founder and curator of the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum, which rejects evolution and claims that man and dinosaurs coexisted, said it will close unless the Volkswagen-sized skull finds a generous bidder.

"If it sells, well, then we can come another day," Joe Taylor said. "This is very important to our continuing."

I have mixed feelings about this. I hate to see anybody go out of business, but I also fail to see the value in supporting a creationist museum. I also don't have a hundred and sixty thousand dollars lying around and, if i did, would spend it on something more worthwhile, like paying off my house.

The news seems light today. More smug sniping about the Papal cancellation of his visit to La Sapienza university. Not much else.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another Take on Presidental Debates

Randy Scholfield of the Wichita Eagle has this to say about presidential debates. He suggests that the candidates be asked the following questions:

Is it realistic for the United States to achieve energy independence? How do we get there?

What is the government's role in fostering innovation and the new generation of alternative energy technology?

How can our schools better prepare students to compete in science and mathematics?

Should creationism and intelligent design be taught in our schools?

How do you assess the evidence for climate change, and are specific measures needed to control greenhouse gases?

What is the future of NASA's manned space program?

How can we continue to attract the world's best and brightest scientists to study and live here?

Democrats charge that under President Bush, scientists' advice has been censored and politicized. Is that true? If so, what would you do to restore the integrity of science?

Good questions. Sounds the Alarm

Shawn Otto, writing for suggests that we need to inject more science into the political debate in advance of the election. He puts it thus:

But on the policy side of this cultural change, we haven't kept up. We have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to the expectations we place on our elected officials; we have allowed the wrong issues to sidetrack political debates. No matter one's political flavor, this is a matter of increasing practical concern. In a science-influenced world, we need and deserve leaders who understand the basic rules of the game, or we're going to get shut out.

Already happening.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Precursor to Wales?

Indohyus, a small 48-million year old animal from India, may be the link between land animals and whales, according to researchers.

The key finding connecting Indohyus to the whale is its thickened ear bone, something only seen in cetaceans.

An examination of its teeth showed that the land-dwelling creature spent lots of time in the water and may have fed there, like hippos.

Also, the specific positioning and shape of certain molars connects Indohyus to the earliest whales, which are about 50 million years old, [Hans] Thewissen said.


Now playing: Dan Fogelberg - Forefathers
via FoxyTunes

A Rat the Size of a Car!!

Foxnews reports on excavations taking place in Uruguay that have unearthed the remains of a rat that was the size of a car. While its likely descendant, the capybara is only about 125 pounds, this "rat" clocked in at around 2 ½ tons and was ten feet long!

Is Evolution a Religion?

David Gibbs III, the lawyer that represented Terry Schialvo's family and friends has written a legal memo in which he argues that by using evolution as the only method of explaining biological diversity, there is no room for alternative "philosophical" perspectives. Philosophical?? He is quoted as saying:

"Making this gigantic jump moves the evolutionary hypothesis from the realm of science into a philosophical faith-based belief system," Gibbs writes in the five-page memo, which he sent to the state Board of Education last month. "It has fallen into the same trap of which science has accused religion. It posits its entire interpretive rationale on something which is unobservable and untested."

Unobservable? Untested? Yeah, that'll fly. Another example of a well-meaning Christian in WAY over his head.

St. Petersburg Citizens weigh in Against Bill Foster

Here are some letters written with regard to Bill Foster's statement that without Darwin there would not have been a Hitler. They are not kind.

Pope Benedict vs. the Science Establishment

Breitbart notes a story in which the new pope has cancelled a speech at La Sapienza university due to protests by professors and students.

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday cancelled a speech at Rome's La Sapienza university in the face of protests led by scientists opposed to a high-profile visit by the head of the Catholic Church to a secular setting.

"Following the well-noted controversy of recent days ... it was considered appropriate to postpone the event," which had been set for Thursday, a Vatican communique said, in the first such cancellation in the face of hostility since the pope's election in April 2005.

Many scientists fault the intellectual, conservative and tradition-minded pope for a series of positions he has taken that they say subordinate science and reason to faith.

The protest against the visit was spearheaded by physicist Marcello Cini, a professor emeritus of La Sapienza, who wrote to rector Renato Guarini complaining of an "incredible violation" of the university's autonomy.

What is interesting is that When John Paul II visited in 1991, students heckled him as well—and he was a pro-evolution pope!

Secular Europe strikes again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The ICR takes on Tiktaalik

In what is an amazing piece of positive spin and vacuity, the ICR's Frank Sherwin has penned an article about Tiktaalik. It starts:

With the continued invalidation of the corrupt theory of neo-Darwinism in the eyes of many, and school boards nation-wide taking a favorable look at intelligent design, it is not surprising that evolutionists are scrambling to enact damage control. Enter an alleged “missing link” that some are saying reveals one of the greatest changes in the field of zoology.

A bit down, he writes:

But before evolutionists start celebrating, they should keep in mind that Tiktaalik roseae is incomplete. Scientists as of yet unable to determine what the hind fins and tail might have looked like. Paleontologist Neil Shubin states, “We’ve really only begun to sort of crack that spot [the small rocky outcropping 600 miles from the North Pole where Tiktaalik was found]” (AP 2006).
Also noteworthy, is the use of diffident language by the secular reporters and scientists when discussing Tiktaalik. For example, NGN says this creature “may” be a missing link. While the NYT states that changes in this creature “anticipate” the emergence of land animals. One may anticipate leaving the house, but he is still in the house.

Okay...of course its incomplete. There are very few fossils that are complete. Nonetheless, what is present is a wealth of intermediate characteristics. This does not in the least have any effect on the language that is used to describe it. A transitional fossil is a transitional fossil. Some damage control.

About the date of Tiktaalik, Sherwin writes:

We are reminded of the history of a lobed-finned fish called the coelacanth considered by evolutionists to be an index fossil that would date sedimentary strata to millions of years (the Devonian, a period in the Paleozoic Era). However, in 1938 a coelacanth was discovered alive off the coast of South Africa. Since then, others have been filmed and coelacanths have recently appeared in the South Pacific. Tiktaalik had lobed fins like the coelacanth and it “would have breathed like a lungfish”, says senior assistant curator Jennifer Clack of Cambridge's University Museum of Zoology (Owen 2006).

Guess what! That doesn't mean Tiktaalik isn't 375 million years old. Furthermore, the coelacanth is not a transitional animal. Tiktaalik clearly is.

No Darwin, No Hitler?

A candidate for the mayoral race in St. Petersburg Florida has equated Darwin with Hitler. Quotes the story in the St. Petersburg Times:

"Evolution gives our kids an excuse to believe in natural selection and survival of the fittest, which leads to a belief that they are superior over the weak," Bill Foster wrote board members in a letter received this week. "This is a slippery slope."

Later, the story notes:

"To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler," said the group's late founder, D. James Kennedy.

Foster echoed those words in his letter: "Adolf Hitler duped an entire generation using Darwin's evolution," he wrote. "He sought to preserve the 'favored' race in the struggle for survival."

Michael Ruse jumped on this one.

Ruse said Nazi ideologues were motivated by many factors, including "social Darwinism," a movement that tried to apply natural concepts like "survival of the fittest" to human society. But the Nazis later distanced themselves from Darwin because rather than promoting racial superiority, evolution showed "Aryans and Jews and Gypsies and Slavs were all one stem," he said.

I noted this problem a bit back. In both speeches that I reproduce by Hitler, he rejects the evolution of humans from lower forms of life. Another persistent untruth.

Sorry about the light posting. I have fallen prey to that marvel of UNintelligent design, the prostate. I spent the entire weekend with a catheter and am still trying to get up to speed, so to speak. No fun.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mike Huckabee vs. "Your Inner Fish"

It seems that Tiktaalik, the 375 million year old tetrapod ancestral fossil is rising out the murky depths of the past to take a swat at Mike Huckabee, who has publicly rejected evolution. According to the Ottawa Citizen:

Now Neil Shubin, the University of Chicago biologist who discovered the High Arctic fossil, is poised to release a populist recounting of his Canadian find -- Your Inner Fish -- in which he traces the primordial origins of the human race to such lowly creatures.

"It is far worse for Huckabee. Before apes, his ancestors were fish, worms, and other creatures," Mr. Shubin told Canwest News Service yesterday. "With jaw bones that correspond to gill bones in fish and sharks, a body plan shared with headless worms, and with parts of a DNA recipe shared with relatives of jellyfish, Huckabee's ties to some of the most humble forms of life on our planet run deep indeed."

As far as transitional fossils are concerned, Tiktaalik has it in spades:

The fossilized bones of the three-metre-long Tiktaalik (its Inuktitut name means "big, shallow-water fish") showed that it had the scales and fins of a fish but the ribs, neck, head and limb-like bones of a land animal.

I am looking forward to reading Your Inner Fish.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Off Topic

Will Smith, recent star of I am Legend and the Upcoming Hancock (hilarious trailer) has some peculiar ideas. The following appears in a Fox News report:

He told "Access": "I was introduced [to] it by Tom and I’m a student of world religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, I went to a Catholic school, but the ideas of the Bible are 98 percent the same ideas of Scientology, 98 percent the same ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism."

On at least a basic level, Smith might be thought incorrect in that statement. Neither Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism nor, for that matter, Judaism espouse the idea of space aliens occupying one’s body.

Ya think?

More Trouble in Florida

The Miami Herald reports from Taylor County.

Oscar Howard Jr., superintendent of Taylor County's School District, and Danny Lundy, vice chairman of the School Board, spoke in accents from that other Florida. ''We're opposed to teaching evolution as a fact,'' Howard said, adding that his School Board and 11 others have passed resolutions against the imposition of evolution in the school curriculum.

Evolution, Lundy warned, would tear the Taylor public schools apart. ''The good people back home,'' he worried, would have no choice but to pull their kids out of school.

Just Lovely.

Find Out Where You Came From

Genetic Genealogy is offering to trace your ancestry back as far as 150 000 years. That's pretty far back, considering we don't know who those people were. There are some other peculiar assumptions as well, such as the "common ancestor" at 65 000 years ago. This suggests that it was one person, which is silly. It was likely one mitochondrial variant (if the replacement model is correct). Even if it is, the level of resolution suggests somewhere between 140 and 280 000 years ago.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Funny Comic from Ted Rall

Here is an alternate universe version of Mike Huckabee and how the press would likely treat him.

Back to Plate Tectonics and Evolution

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on "theorizing" involving the East African Rift Valley uplifting and evolution. Quoth the story:

University of Utah geologists have devised a tectonic-based theory that supports this idea by linking massive uplift in east Africa with local climate changes that helped jump-start early human evolution.
"Most of the uplift occurred between 7 million and 2 million years ago, just about when hominins split off from African apes, developed bipedalism and evolved bigger brains," Royhan and Nahid Gani state in an article in the current edition of Geotimes, a magazine of the American Geological Institute.

Of course, carefully left out the story is the unexpected arrival of Sahelanthropus tchadensis, WAY OVER in Chad, which seems to be a pretty good candidate for hominid status at 7 mya and is nowhere near the rift valley. The split dates have been needing revision for some time now. 7 mya just doesn't cut it anymore.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Life Before the Cambrian

According to new research, even before the Cambrian "explosion," there was a radiation of life.

“It now appears that at the dawn of the macroscopic life, between 575 and 520 million years ago, there was not one, but at least two major episodes of abrupt morphological expansion," said Shuhai Xiao, a paleontologist at Virginia Tech.

It has been dubbed the "Avalon Explosion." Pushing back the frontiers of knowledge.

Friday, January 04, 2008

National Academy Report Emphasizes Evolution

The Statesman is reporting on a new version of a book by the National Academy of Sciences called Science, Evolution and Creationism that is strongly promoting the teaching of evolution. The article notes:

The report by the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine follows up on similar past publications, the last of which came out in 1999. The new document includes recently discovered evidence supporting evolution, including an important fossil find.

The report released Thursday also takes swipes at creationism and other anti-evolution views.

"Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes," the report says.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has an account with National Academy Press so I am downloading my copy even as I write this. It ought to be a fun read.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Call For More Science Education

Yahoonews reports on a coalition of seventeen science organizations that are urging for more science education, especially on evolution. The article does not say what the science organizations are but the umbrella organization is the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). As Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief or the organization's journal notes:

"The bottom line is that the world is round, humans evolved from an extinct species, and Elvis is dead."

The corresponding article, which is behind a subscription wall, is called Evolution and its discontents: a role for scientists in science education. In it, the FASEB reports on a survey done on 1,000 likely U.S. voters. They found the following:

  1. 61% thought that living things have evolved - 36% without God, 25% with God.
  2. 53% thought that humans have evolved.
  3. 31% thought that things were created in their present form.

As far as teaching evolution, the breakdown is like this:

  1. 41% not sure about teaching creationism
  2. 22% not sure about teaching evolution
  3. 53% favored teaching evolution
  4. 36% favored teaching creationism
  5. 25% favored teaching ID

Here is where the wheels fell off. Only 23% of those questioned knew that continental drift theory explained the movement of the land masses, that antibiotics do not kill viruses and that humans and dinosaurs were not alive at the same time. Of those respondents

  1. 78% who got all three questions right accepted evolutionary scenarios of life history
  2. 78% favored teaching evolution in schools
  3. 24% thought ID should be taught in schools
  4. 27% though creationism should be taught.
Here is the smoking gun. The percentage of people who favored teaching evolution in schools has a positive correlation with the number of questions they got correct:

  1. 0 to 1 question right: 38%
  2. 2 questions right: 58%
  3. 3 questions right: 78%
Many other factors likely play into this and the r-square for this may not as robust as the researchers let on, but anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not far off--as mentioned earlier, some of my friends thought that the Creation Museum in Kentucky was really neat and, based on conversations that I have had with them, couldn't find evolution on a map. Sound the alarm!!

Third Generation Leakey

Conference Room 4, an engineering blog to which I subscribe, has a weekly profile of a woman of science. This week, it is Louise Leakey, the granddaughter of Louis Leakey, the patriarch of African hominid studies. The article notes:

Louise Leakey received a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology and Biology from the University of Bristol. She then completed a PhD program in Paleontology at the University of London, where her dissertation focused on the influence of climate on faunal evolution at West Turkana between 3.3 and 1.6 million years ago. Like her parents, Richard and Meave Leakey, and her grandparents, the pre-eminent Louis and Mary Leakey, Louise focuses her study on the evolution of early human ancestors.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Polk County, Florida--In Search of National Press

The Polk County School Board, although since backing down, declared (5 of 7 members, anyway) that they wanted more ID taught in schools rather than "Darwinian Evolution." Somehow it always seems to be "rather than," instead of "alongside." According to the story:

Four of those five sympathetic board members said they would like to see intelligent design taught in Polk schools as an alternative to Darwinian evolution, at a time when new state standards mentioning evolution by name for the first time are under consideration.

Just like that, it appeared the Darwin wars had found their newest battlefield.

Yet a few weeks later, the controversy is dying with a whimper. There's no board support for a challenge to the proposed standards. Some of the five school board members blame the local newspaper for trying to start a fight.

"It's not our agenda," said Tim Harris, one of the board members. "My personal opinion and how I vote don't always jibe."

Apparently, they received a touch of Pastafarianism:

The satirical religious Web site asserts that an omnipotent, airborne clump of spaghetti intelligently designed all life with the deft touch of its "noodly appendage." Adherents call themselves Pastafarians. They deluged Polk school board members with e-mail demanding equal time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism's version of intelligent design.

"They've made us the laughingstock of the world," said Margaret Lofton, a school board member who supports intelligent design. She dismissed the e-mail as ridiculous and insulting.

I find it more than mildly amusing.

More Bad News from South Carolina

Apparently, the evolution issue is simmering now in South Carolina. According to Myrtle Beach Online:

State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, successfully lobbied for revisions to include the term "critically analyze," linked to a movement to elevate instruction about creationism and "intelligent design" to the status of evolution.

That modification of the state's widely acclaimed biology standards prompted criticism from national experts.

Fair's campaign angered many high school educators, including those who consider themselves devoutly religious but objected to being told to mix lessons about beliefs with science.

State senators ought to know better than to stick their necks into science education. The problem with evolution education is that you just can't get people up to speed with one or even a few articles. This is what hampers the local school boards--who fall prey to the bad science of the recent-earth creationists. Most science educators are not out to derail the religious leanings of your average student. That pretty much happens in the guidance counselor's office.

Neandertals Froze to Death?

In a study reported in Yahoonews, Ian Gilligan suggests that Neandertals did not survive because they did not adjust to the coming ice age and, consequently, froze to death. States the article:

Neanderthals probably froze to death in the last Ice Age because rapid climate change caught them by surprise without the tools needed to make warm clothes, says an Australian researcher.

Ian Gilligan, a post-graduate researcher from the Australian National University believes that by the time Neanderthals developed sewing tools it was too little too late.

Neanderthals began to die out just before the last glacial maximum, 35 to 30,000 years ago and were replaced by modern humans, say archaeologists.

Well, aside from the fact that many archaeologists suggest exactly the opposite, that hybridization is the only way to explain the fact that early modern humans and Neandertals used most of the same kinds of tools, especially in Southwest Asia, this seems somewhat "Day After Tomorrow"-ish in outlook and posits a remarkably minimal amount of intellectual prowess for Neandertals, who were pretty dang smart. People know when it is getting colder and they adjust. Another thing that seems to go unmentioned is needle and bone points don't show up until the Solutrean and Gravettian minimally and then the Magdelenian more so. This is a long time after the coming of the second part of the Würm glaciation and relates more to population pressure and changing resources.

Time to hunt down the article.