Teaching Evolution

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Anti-Darwin Bill Fails in Utah - Yes, Utah

We're winning.

That's the only reasonable conclusion after reading this. If Utah can't even pass anti-evolution legislation, can any state? The fight will never be over, but the forces for good are way ahead right now.

Thanks to Julie for the tip.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Update: Yahoo Relents

That was quick. I still don't like Yahoo, though.

Yahoo: Democracy Bad, Allah Good

Just to make sure we're all clear: If you're using a Yahoo account to promote Democracy in China, Yahoo will turn you in to the Chinese authorities.

And if you have a name like Callahan, you can forget about Yahoo giving you an e-mail address. Why? Because "Callahan" has "allah" in it. And we can't have anyone using the name of "allah" in a Yahoo e-mail address. Of course, Yahoo is more than happy to give out e-mail addresses that have names like Jesus or jehova. But not allah.

Gmail and Google are vastly superior to Yahoo from a technical perspective. And from a moral perspective. What on earth is anyone doing still using Yahoo?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Olympics vs. NASCAR

I've written before about how ludicrous it is to claim that NASCAR is the second most popular sport in America. The latest example is this Los Angeles Times article, which refers to a "ratings dip" for the Olympics but still makes clear that the Daytona 500, the most popular NASCAR race, gets lower ratings than the Winter Olympics. I'm puzzled at why people continue to insist that NASCAR is the second most popular sport when that claim is demonstrably false.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

China's Cyberdissidents and the Yahoos at Yahoo

You'll need TimesSelect to read the whole thing, but Nicholas Kristof, who has probably done more than any other journalist in the world to explain the way China cracks down on dissidents, has an absolutely devastating lead on his column today. Echoing Representative Chris Smith, he writes:

Suppose that Anne Frank had maintained an e-mail account while in hiding in 1944, and that the Nazis had asked Yahoo for cooperation in tracking her down. It seems, based on Yahoo's behavior in China, that it might have complied.

Kristof also does the best job of any journalist I've seen at explaining what each of the four companies called before Congress has done in China:

"Yahoo sold its soul and is a national disgrace."

"Microsoft has also been cowardly, but nothing like Yahoo."

"Cisco in China is a bit sleazy but nothing like Yahoo."

"Google strikes me as innocent of wrongdoing."

It says a lot about the place Google now holds in the American consciousness that this story has been almost entirely about Google.

For more, check out BooYahoo!

David Baltimore on the Bush Administration

David Baltimore is a great American. The president of Cal Tech, Baltimore is a brilliant scientist, a tremendous writer, and an outstanding administrator. I have exchanged e-mails with him and am consistently impressed by what he has to say.

What he has to say about the Bush administration is no surprise. The New York Times reports,

David Baltimore, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist and president of the California Institute of Technology, is used to the Bush administration misrepresenting scientific findings to support its policy aims, he told an audience of fellow researchers Saturday. Each time it happens, he said, "I shrug and say, 'What do you expect?' "

But then, Dr. Baltimore went on, he began to read about the administration's embrace of the theory of the unitary executive, the idea that the executive branch has the power or even the obligation to act without restraint from Congress. And he began to see in a new light widely reported episodes of government scientists being restricted in what they could say in public.

"It's no accident that we are seeing such an extensive suppression of scientific freedom," he said. "It's part of the theory of government now, and it's a theory we need to vociferously oppose." Far from twisting science to suit its own goals, he said, the government should be "the guardian of intellectual freedom."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ohio Board Undoes Stand on Evolution

Here's the first paragraph of the New York Times story.

The Ohio Board of Education voted 11 to 4 Tuesday to toss out a mandate that 10th-grade biology classes include critical analysis of evolution and an accompanying model lesson plan, dealing the intelligent design movement its second serious defeat in two months.

This is good news, but there's something bothersome to me about the phrasing. There's certainly nothing wrong with a "critical analysis of evolution." In fact, I think if it's done right, a critical analysis of evolution would give the students a wonderful understanding of what evolution is. The problem, of course, is that when they say "critical analysis," what they mean is, "teach the kids bogus doubts about evolution, confuse them about what a scientific theory is, and pass of pseudo-religious instruction as science."

House Members Criticize Internet Companies for Practices in China

Google, Yahoo, Cisco and Microsoft came under attack from Congressmen who believe they're keeping information from the Chinese people at the behest of the Chinese government. I tend to agree with the Congressmen, but I also think there's something to be said for the idea that some Google in China is better than no Google in China. (And let's face it, this is all about Google. The others were brought in just so it wouldn't look like Google was getting picked on.) If you're a Chinese dissident and you want access to information about the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, you're probably still more likely to get that information even with the filtered Google than you would have been with no Google at all.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ex-Press Aide for NASA Offers Defense

This guy George Deutsch is really something. He went from an undergraduate at Texas A&M to a worker on the Bush re-election campaign to a spokesman for NASA without completing his undergrad degree or, seemingly, knowing anything about science. He tried to use his position to prevent NASA from educating people about the Big Bang, which runs contrary to his religious beliefs. Now he has offered a defense of his actions.

My favorite part of this is his account of a correspondence he had with a NASA Web designer. "We are both Christians, and I was sharing with him my personal opinions on the Big Bang theory versus intelligent design," he said. What I find fascinating is that this guy is a proponent of intelligent design, and according to him, intelligent design somehow disproves the Big Bang. Intelligent design must be one hell of a theory if it's able to disprove both evolution and the Big Bang, two scientific theories that have nothing to do with each other.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dealing with the Depths of Depression: Shock Therapy

I was engaged in a conversation with a psychologist once, and I asked her, "What do you think of electroshock therapy?" She looked at me as if I had said, "Don't you think it's fun to torture kittens?"

I find it sad that even a mental health professional would be unable to see past the popular culture depictions of mad scientists torturing people by administering electric shocks. It's actually a very effective treatment for depression. I quote the Food and Drug Administration's own Web site:

When people are unresponsive to antidepressant medications or can't take them because of their age or health problems, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or "shock therapy," can offer a lifesaving alternative. Like antidepressants, ECT is believed to affect the chemical balance of the brain's neurotransmitters.

Before ECT, the patient is given anesthesia and a muscle relaxant to prevent injury or pain. Then electrodes are placed on the person's head, and a small amount of electricity is applied. This procedure is usually done three times a week until the patient improves. Some patients may experience a temporary loss of short-term memory.

I plan to write more about this in the future, but in the meantime, consider this a public service announcement. Electroshock therapy can be a wonderful thing. (This is usually the point where you'd read something along the lines of, "Of course, electroshock therapy isn't right for everyone..." as if that's not incredibly obvious. Chemotherapy isn't for everyone, either. That doesn't mean we should ban it, as many insist with electroshock therapy.)

If you have personal experience with electroshock therapy, know someone who has, or have just read anything interesting about it, I'd love to hear from you, either in the comments or at teachevolution@gmail.com. I'll assume any e-mails I get are strictly confidential unless you specifically tell me otherwise.