Monday, October 24, 2005
Friday, October 21, 2005
Data Janitor: Intelligent Dog Design
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The 'Scientist' who Supports Intelligent Design
Slate has some good coverage by Hanna Rosin of the trial going on in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She writes primarily about Michael Behe, whom we've discussed before.
I've met biologists who are strict Biblical literalists. Usually they exhibit a certain humility and reconcile their twin beliefs by admitting that there are many mysteries of creation the tools of science can never explain. Behe utterly lacks that deference. In his book, he writes that ID should be ranked as "one of the greatest achievements in the history of science," rivaling "Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schrodinger, Pasteur and Darwin." The evidence of design is all around us, and any honest scientist would embrace that as the obvious Ur-Explanation.
My 4-year-old daughter feels this way, too. She marvels at how a katydid looks exactly like a leaf, or how stars really do twinkle in the sky. But I'm hoping by ninth grade her thinking will have evolved.
Friday, October 14, 2005
National Academies Press: Rising Above The Gathering Storm
There's a new report out from the National Academies called Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. (It's free to download the pdf, although for some reason they make you give out your e-mail address and zip code.) Thomas Friedman wrote about it today, although I won't bother linking since I assume most of my readers don't have TimesSelect.
However, here's Friedman's synopsis of the report's recommendations, and I think it's a pretty good list:
(1) Annually recruiting 10,000 science and math teachers by awarding four-year merit-based scholarships, to be paid back through five years of K-12 public school teaching. (We have too many unqualified science and math teachers.)
(2) Strengthening the math and science skills of 250,000 other teachers through extracurricular programs.
(3) Creating opportunities and incentives for many more middle school and high school students to take advanced math and science courses, by offering, among other things, $100 mini-scholarships for success in exams, and creating more specialty math-and-science schools.
(4) Increasing federal investment in long-term basic research by 10 percent a year over the next seven years.
(5) Annually providing research grants of $500,000 each, payable over five years, to 200 of America's most outstanding young researchers.
(6) Creating a new Advanced Research Projects Agency in the Energy Department to support "creative out-of-the-box transformational energy research that industry by itself cannot or will not support and in which risk may be high, but success would provide dramatic benefits for the nation."
(7) Granting automatic one-year visa extensions to foreign students in the U.S. who receive doctorates in science, engineering or math so they can seek employment here, and creating 5,000 National Science Foundation-administered graduate fellowships to increase the number of U.S. citizens earning doctoral degrees in fields of "national need."
You already know where I'm going with this, though. How seriously can we take the government's recommendations about beefing up academic research when the government wants to pollute young minds with the pseudo science of intelligent design? I'd really love to see some recommendations about taking science education seriously at the elementary level, which of course would include basic facts about what a scientific theory is, and why evolution is such a strong theory that it serves as the bedrock of biology.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Scientists Are Unmoved by Claim of New Species
You probably remember the new species of extinct "little people" that was discovered a while back. More have been discovered, but some scientists believe this isn't a separate species at all, and that scientists just happened to find some regular plain old humans who happened to be short and/or deformed.
Half of Americans Don't go to Church
I am stunned. I always assumed the broad opposition to the teaching of evolution was fostered by huge masses of people who go to church every Sunday. But a new Gallup poll shows that 43 percent of respondents answered no to one of the following questions:
1. "Do you happen to be a member of a church, synagogue, or mosque?"
2. "Apart from weddings, funerals, or special holidays, such as Christmas, Easter or Yom Kippur, have you attended the church, synagogue, or mosque of your choice in the past six months, or not?"
Surveys of church attendance tend to be skewed by people who think they should say they go to church even though they don't, so let's round it off and say that means half of all Americans aren't members of a house of worship or haven't gone in six months or more. So why does it feel like it's the other half of the American people who are always the ones out there in front of the cameras on the issue of teaching evolution?
Saturday, October 08, 2005
I caught a documentary on TV last night called Born with Two Heads. A couple of observations:
1. The baby in question was born in Egypt. All the nurses were Muslims wearing veils, and many of them refused to treat the baby because they thought looking at a baby with a birth defect would cause them to one day have babies with birth defects. These are nurses, and that's how ignorant they are. We talk a lot around here about the way that religion has a negative influence on the understanding of science. I imagine it's worse in Muslim countries than it is in Christian countries.
2. I really dislike the way this is referred to as a baby born with two heads. It's not. It's two babies, conjoined twins, one of whom was born without a body. They decided to kill one of them to save the other, which is fine with me, but it bothers me that neither this documentary nor any of the media accounts I've read could be honest about that.
Friday, October 07, 2005
British Bishops: Not Everything in Bible is True
I don't think we'll be hearing anything like this from their American colleagues any time soon.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Seeing Creation and Evolution in Grand Canyon
I love the Grand Canyon. It's a beautiful thing to behold. It makes me said that people like these can't see the Canyon for the Bible.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Roy Moore for Governor?
We've talked before around here about how evolution and other science-related issues could cause a split within the Republican Party. The pro-business side of the party knows that the future of many of our nation's industries depends on educated people who understand science. But the religious right side of the party opposes the teaching of evolution and much scientific inquiry.
I think next year's Republican gubernatorial primary in Alabama could be a good test case for what will happen when the religious side takes on the business side. Roy Moore, best known for his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments monument when he was chief justice of the state Supreme Court, has announced that he'll seek the Republican nomination. That means he'll take on Bob Riley, the pro-business incumbent.
It so happens that I like Bob Riley. (When I say that, I mean I like him about as much as I could conceivably like an Alabama Republican. Read this Paul Krugman column to find out why.) Unfortunately, it's inconceivable to me that a person I like could win a Republican Alabama primary against a person like Roy Moore. So my guess is that Moore becomes the next governor of Alabama. I can only imagine what the state's biology standards will look like once Moore is in office.