Teaching Evolution

A blog devoted to teaching evolution, both in our schools and in our communities.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lady Goes Crazy on Trading Spouses

I've never seen even a minute of Trading Spouses other than this clip, but if they're all as good as this at showing religious fanatics, maybe I should watch more often.

NPR and 'Intelligent Design': Skeptical or Credulous?

As a journalist myself, I struggle with the issue of whether news stories should be objective. On the one hand, I believe in having media that explore all sides of an issue -- I don't want to live in a world where liberals get their news from liberal sources, conservatives get their news from conservative sources, and people's opinions and beliefs are never challenged. On the other hand, I think balance is often inserted into a story where it doesn't belong. Intelligent design is a good example of that -- a good journalist, when reporting on intelligent design, needs to make it clear that this is a controversy among people who don't understand science. Among people who do understand science, there's no controversy.

The NPR ombudsman takes a look at how public radio has reported on the issue.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

And Now for Something Completely Different

Hola, amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I've been feeling stagnated lately regarding the stated purpose of this blog. Evolution is still a subject of fascination and importance for me, but as I watched an American Enterprise Institute discussion about Intelligent Design on C-SPAN this morning I realized that most of what I had to say about the topic, I've already said. So I'm going to start introducing new stuff to this blog, just things that happen to be on my mind at any given time.

We're going to start with another great interest of mine, lifting weights. I don't have the genetics to be a bodybuilder, so if you looked at me you wouldn't guess this, but I'm really into lifting weights. I'm pretty good at it and quite knowledgeable about it, too. I lift weights regularly with my wife, who's a truly gifted weightlifter. If she wanted to, she could be a competitive powerlifter; I've spent a lot of time at gyms and my wife is the only woman I've witnessed who can bench press more than her own body weight. So yesterday, when the wife proposed that we use our guest passes at the new gym in the neighborhood, I was excited.

But the problem with this gym, like the problem with so many others, is that it doesn't really cater to people who are serious about their workouts. Here's what happened to me: I was doing dumbbell bench press with 65-pound dumbbells. At the end of my set, I lowered the bells to the ground. I didn't drop the weights -- they were in my hands all the way to the ground -- but I did lower them quickly for a very simple reason: It's impossible not to. If you're doing an amount of weight that challenges you on the bench press, there's no way you're going to be able to gently set the weights on the ground. So, when I lowered them quickkly and they hit the floor, the gym attendant came up to me and told me not to drop the weights. Immediately, I knew this was not a place for me. Go to any gym where top-notch athletes work out, and you'll find that if what I was doing was dropping the weights, everyone drops the weights. If you're really challenging yourself, at the end of a set you won't have enough energy left to set them down gently.

So, if you're looking to join a gym, and you really want to go somewhere where the people take their lifting seriously, what should you do? Ask if Olympic lifts are allowed. If they say yes, you're in business: The Olympic lifts are the most challenging of all lifts, and at the end everyone drops the weights to the ground. Great gyms like Quads specialize in the Olympic lifts. If they say no, this probably isn't the gym for you. If they say "What are Olympic lifts?" you're probably at Curves, and it'd be better to get so fat and out of shape that you can't leave your home than it would be to join Curves.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Pope Echoes Arguments of Intelligent Design Advocates

The Catholic Church and science have a long and entangled history, of course, but one thing you've got to admire about those Catholics is that they admit their mistakes. Sure, it took them a few centuries of convincing before they acknowledged the earth revolves around the sun, but they did it eventually.

Unfortunately, the Pope's latest statement indicates that Catholicism is moving away from its longstanding support of evolution. I wouldn't really care if this were just some esoteric theological debate, but I worry about what will happen if Catholic schools start teaching "intelligent design" in science classes. Right now, if you want your kids to learn about science, you're probably better off, on average, sending them to Catholic schools than to public schools. That might not be the case much longer.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Signs of Crocodile From Dinosaur Era Are Found

The journal Science has announced the discovery of a large sea-dwelling crocodile that lived 135 million years ago, in the middle of the dinosaur era. "Paleontologists have known about crocodiles living in the oceans since the 1800's when their fossils were uncovered in Europe. Some had even evolved flippers and a fish-like tail.... Despite its unusual shape, the 13-inch-long skull possessed telltale features like the shape of the nostrils, eye sockets and the roof of the mouth that indicated it was a crocodile. A detailed comparison by Dr. Pol with other marine crocodiles of the time indicated that the new species resembled a group with the flippers and fish-like tail." Details are here.

Dover Area School District

In case you're wondering, this is the official Web site of the Dover, Pennsylvania school district. It still has a prominent link on the right side to the pdf of the statement that is read to all biology students, although this week's elections ensure that students won't be subjected to that much longer.

What I really hate about the pdf is that it includes a definition of a scientific theory one sentence after it suggests to students that scientific theories are just guesses.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bad News in Kansas, Good News in Dover

In Kansas yesterday, the state board of elections voted 6-4 in favor of teaching their students that evolution is wrong and intelligent design is right. "This is a sad day. We're becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that," said board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat, getting it just about right.

But all is not lost. The conservative Pennsylvania town of Dover went eight-for-eight in last night's school board elections, kicking out all eight Republicans, who changed the curriculum to favor teaching intelligent design, and electing eight Democrats who favor evolution. A judge will rule on a lawsuit in Dover in January, but this election makes the trial irrelevant to Dover (but still very relevant in the big picture).

Hat tip: The Washington Monthly. (And thanks to ejswanso for pointing it out.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Evolution on ESPN.com's Page 2

I could happily go the rest of my life without ever reading ESPN.com's Page 2. And I don't know anything about Chuck Klosterman. But I did like the opening to his column:

I am an apolitical person. Absolutely nobody believes me when I say that, but it's true. Every conservative person I know thinks I'm mixing Noam Chomsky's personal Kool-Aid, and every liberal I know seems to assume I want to shampoo Ann Coulter's hair while watching outtakes from "The Passion of the Christ." I have no idea how this happened. For example, I don't have an opinion on abortion. I really, truly do not. You want to have an abortion? Fine; take my car keys, You think abortion is murder? Well, you're probably right. Who knows? Either way, it doesn't have anything to do with me. Do I think George W. Bush is the worst president of my lifetime? Well, of course I do -- but that's not because he's a Republican. It's because he somehow (a) got into Yale, yet (b) claims "the jury is still out" on the theory of evolution.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Domino's Pizza is to Blame for Intelligent Design

The Thomas More Law Center has been at the forefront of efforts to sue schools that insist on teaching biology and defend schools that insist on teaching nonsense. For a primer on the center, and how the man behind Domino's Pizza funded it, I recommend this article.

U.S. Court Allows Survey of Children on Sex Topics

This is good news, I think. A court has ruled that parents don't have control over what their children are exposed to at school. I think parents should play a role in their children's education, but I also think it's the schools that should have final say over the curriculum. Parents who don't want their kids learning evolution may have been dealt a setback with this ruling.

In other news, I've been away from this blog for a while, concentrating on other projects. I'm still around, though, so please keep checking back.