Teaching Evolution

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tienanmen - Google 图片搜索

You've probably heard about Google.cn, the new Chinese version of Google. The search company has agreed to filter information so that it's to the Chinese government's liking. Google's official blog discusses the matter here.

I wanted to know what the Chinese version of Google is like, but I can't read Chinese, so I decided to try some Google Images searches on the Chinese version of the site. It sure doesn't look like it's doing much filtering to me. Here's what you see when you type in "Tiananmen Square."

UPDATE: Apparently I didn't think they were filtering it because I was spelling it wrong.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Fox News columnist Steven Milloy, Pundit for Hire

I just love the phrase "junk science." Using that phrase makes me feel good, because there are so many people whose pseudo-scientific claims belong in the trash. The only problem is, the phrase has been so co-opted by so many people that it has ceased to have much meaning. Now if you google "junk science" you get this guy.

Fortunately, The New Republic has exposed Steven Milloy for what he is, a shill for businesses that pay him to write badly researched pieces that dispute how much the businesses are polluting the air. Will he stay on the Fox News payroll?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Numbers Guy: Results are In

The Numbers Guy at the Wall Street Journal has published the results of the quiz we discussed previously. Now that I look at the answers, I have to admit that I'm not 100 percent positive that I had all of them right before. (The first time I read the quiz I thought I knew all of them, but I didn't write the answers down and now that I'm looking at his answers I think a couple of mine were off.) Anyway, it's nice to see that he used the one answer I e-mailed to him.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Journalists and Numbers

This great column details how many journalists just plain have an aversion to numbers. That has always really bothered me. There's a 10-question quiz at the end of the column, and it pains me to realize that many journalists wouldn't score 10 for 10. There's no reason anyone with an education beyond ninth grade shouldn't know all of them. But regarding No. 9, a couple of points: The obvious one is that a 100% graduation rate couldn't possibly be NEAR the top, it would have to be, by definition, the top. I don't think many schools are graduating more than 100% of their students.

But here's the less obvious and more important one: The news media ALWAYS report high graduation rates as if high=good. It never seems to occur to any reporter that a high graduation rate could be the result of pushing students into easy classes, or even outright academic fraud. I'm more impressed by a school with a low graduation rate, as the students who actually graduate obviously did something out of the ordinary.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Vatican Calls Pennsylvania Judge Correct

This is certainly good news:

The official Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as "correct" the recent decision by a judge in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.

"If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another," Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, wrote in the Jan. 16-17 edition of the paper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science," he wrote, calling intelligent design unscientific. "It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Law of the Land, Supply and Demand

Has anyone ever said anything so smart and so stupid simultaneously? Check out this quote from Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee:

"If the law of the land ignores the law of supply and demand, the law of supply and demand will win."

I think that's true. But just think about Mehlman's GOP, and how often it ignores that maxim: prescription drugs from Canada, medical marijuana, recreational drug use, prostitution, online gambling, etc.

I'll make a deal with Mr. Mehlman. If he takes this belief of his to its logical conclusions, I'll vote straight Republican this year.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Can You Revive an Extinct Animal?

The quagga was a zebra-like species that went extinct in 1883. The front half of its body was striped like a zebra's, but the back half was brown with no stripes. Here's a picture.

This New York Times Magazine article reports on a movement to bring the quagga out of extinction. No, this isn't a Jurassic Park-type idea; that wouldn't work because DNA breaks down too quickly to take the remains of a dead animal and clone it. What the Quagga Project wants to do is take the Plains Zebra, the quagga's closest relative, and breed specimins that have similar traits to the quagga. They've only done it for three generations, but they've already made progress.

However, I really don't buy that they'd be creating anything more than a zebra that looks like a quagga. Still, this raises some fascinating questions of whether we can recreate natural selection in a lab.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

DNA Offers New Insight Concerning Cat Evolution - New York Times

A great New York Times article. Read the whole thing, but I absolutely love this paragraph, which reminds us that evolution doesn't always make a species stronger or faster or better at hunting.

Later, several American cat lineages returned to Asia. With each migration, evolutionary forces morphed the pantherlike patriarch of all cats into a rainbow of species, from ocelots and lynxes to leopards, lions and the lineage that led to the most successful cat of all, even though it has mostly forsaken its predatory heritage: the cat that has induced people to pay for its board and lodging in return for frugal displays of affection.