Appalling that this would occur at an NEA meeting. Science denialism, including as it relates to evolution, deserves a place alongside of phrenology, and Creationist literature has all of the scientific validity of Der Ewige Jude.
In front of me [at the National Education Association (NEA) meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2013] were hundreds of books, DVDs, and handouts spouting creationist myths and targeting evolution as falsehoods being distributed to teachers. It nearly paralyzed me to watch as teachers, attracted by the glow of free, new materials, took stacks to distribute back home. I saw thirty years of NCSE’s good work slowly wash away as each teacher took a book or DVD. What was worse was the knowledge that many, if not all of them, thought they were receiving good and legitimate science. The teachers were being fooled.
Now, I could spend the rest of this post talking about the many reasons why this is a problem. I could talk about how creationist myths misrepresent the evidence for evolution and the nature of science. I could talk about how by distributing this material, the creationists are setting teachers up for painful and expensive lawsuits, as teaching creationism in public schools has been found to be unconstitutional. Or I could simply ask if it wouldn’t be better not to waste students’ time.
But I want to talk about what NCSE is doing about this.
Americans do not get it. Nearly half of US adults believe that humans were created as is, less than 10,000 years ago (Newport 2012). Those of us who care about evolution education must confront a sobering truth: evolution education does not work. Yet since long before the days of John Scopes, most of us have simply offered more of the same.
Laats says that evolution education fails to convince creationists.
Granted, the special purpose of evolution education is not to convince creationists. Evolution education in general succeed with many students as it should. If a student is objective and intellectually curious, they will learn evolution's principles and contemplate the theory's implications, and perhaps if they do not start down a path towards a profession in the sciences, then they may--more probably--remain curious about the new discoveries and developments in the field as they encounter it in future years through popular science writing and documentaries.
But for this education to be utterly ineffective fro such a huge percentage of Americans is a significant problem.
Laat proposes that evolution science educators need to better understand creationist culture, because evidence of evolution isn't sufficient to convince creationists.
Evolution education should never become an exercise in religious conversion, but it is high time for scientists and teachers to notice that not even religious missionaries engage in the naive and blinkered missionary approach still so common among evolution educators.
In particular, Laat stresses rightly that too many evolution educators assume creationists are ignorant about evolution; in fact, they often are not. They simply reject the evidence.
Jerry A. Coyne, Ph.D is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago and a member of both the Committee on Genetics and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology. Today he's reintroducing his 2009 letter to Charles Darwin that was read on BBC Radio:
My letter to Charles Darwin on his birthday
In 2009, shortly after WEIT came out, I was asked by the BBC to write a letter to Charles Darwin and read it on the air. The letter was supposed to convey my sentiments to the old chap and bring him up to date on what had happened to evolutionary biology since he became food for his beloved earthworms. That letter later appeared on the Oxford University Press blog, which has given The New Republic permission to reprint it today.
Happy 200th birthday! I hope you are as well as can expected for someone who has been dead for nearly 130 years. I suppose that your final book, the one about earthworms, has a special significance for you these days. Are the worms of Westminster Abbey superior to the ones you studied so carefully in the grounds of your home at Downe in Kent? They’ve certainly mulched some distinguished people over the years!
Students will sing along with parts of “Natural Selection,” when the chorus intones the principle of natural selection: “The weak and the strong, Darwin got it goin’ on…whoever leaves the most spawn,” as the bearded rapper Darwin gyrates and twirls.....Brinkman describes Darwin as “the first to translate his amazement at the wonder of life into a way to explain it.”.... [In] “I’m a African,” in which Brinkman raps the origins of mankind: “Africa is where my momma got her mitochondria” accompanied by wild graphics. Don’t expect to hear the word “mitochondria” in a 50 Cent or Jay-Z rap. I’ve been humming “The fossil record has gaps but no contradictions” all morning.
In “Performance, Feedback, Revision,” Professor Baba compares the process of writing a rap with evolution and natural selection, showing how random changes due to mutations alter the text or performance piece (the genetic code). The altered text sees the light of day in the organism’s phenotype (the performance), which is accepted or rejected by natural selection (or the audience), feeding back on the endless creative cycle of life. The songs can be downloaded at http://bababrinkman.bandcamp.com/album/the-rap-guide-to-evolution.
A large, publicly funded charter school system in Texas is teaching creationism to its students, Zack Kopplin recently reported in Slate. Creationist teachers don’t even need to be sneaky about it—the Texas state science education standards, as well as recent laws in Louisiana and Tennessee, permit public school teachers to teach “alternatives” to evolution. Meanwhile, in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, taxpayer money is funding creationist private schools through state tuition voucher or scholarship programs.
1. Statements about climate trends must be based on, er, trends. Not individual events or occurrences. Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.
2. Global warming is actually expected to increase "heavy precipitation in winter storms," and for the northern hemisphere, there is evidence that these storms are already more frequent and intense, according to the draft US National Climate Assessment.
3. Antarctica is a very cold place. But global warming is affecting it as predicted: Antarctica is losing ice overall, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, sea ice is a different matter than land-based or glacial ice. Antarctic sea ice is increasing, and moreover, the reason for this may be climate change! (For more, read here.)
Poll: Republican Belief In Evolution Has Plummeted In Recent Years
Belief in evolution among Republicans has dropped more than 10 percentage points since 2009, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.
Pew found that 43 percent of Republicans said they believed humans and other living beings had evolved over time, down from 54 percent in 2009. More (48 percent) said they believed all living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.
The percentages for Democrats and independents were considerably more stable: Democratic belief in evolution went from 64 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2013; independent belief dipped from 67 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2013.
Among all American adults, 60 percent said they believe in evolution, according to Pew, and 33 percent do not.
The poll surveyed 1,983 Americans ages 18 and older from March 21 to April 8.
There is only one scientific explanation for how species originate. It's called the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. It's not a theory in the everyday and conversational sense of the word theory--i.e. a guess--but a theory in the formal scientific meaning of the term: a concept larger than the sum of its parts, one that incorporates various scientific laws, observations, and facts into a more unified whole and that has been verified by subsequent findings and research, like with the germ theory of disease, the theories of special and general relativity, the theory of plate tectonics, and the theory of a heliocentric solar system.
To not "believe" in evolution--as is the case with a shockingly large number of conservative religious adherents in the U.S.A. and majority-Muslim countries--is like not believing that the Earth orbits the sun or not believing in oxygen or x-ray radiation. Especially since the modern evolutionary synthesis of the 1930's that integrated genetics into evolution, thereby revealing the means of heredity--which is something evolution's main discoverer, Charles Darwin, did not know--evolution has become an increasingly important and dynamic topic of research and tool for understanding how species evolve. To not believe in it is to walk away from a rich and amazing reality about we scientists are discovering more and making interesting refinements and corrections to those discoveries on an daily basis.
Image: click to enlarge - (via Wikipedia) "A highly resolved Tree Of Life, based on completely sequenced genomes."
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The letter was written to Charles Darwin on 9 March 1875 from 81 Upper Leeson Street, Dublin. The correspondent says that they have just finished reading Descent. They write about their personal experience of pain, living in the country, collecting insects, a “long residence on the continent”, the Baths of Lucca, dogs, servants (including a French one), a thoroughbred mare, and once owning a water-spaniel that understood Italian.
“A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics,” writes Suzanne LaBarre. “Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to ‘debate’ on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”
Texas Conservatives Demand Science Textbooks Incorporate 'Creation Science Based On Biblical Principles'.... Brian Tashmanof PFAW's project Right Wing Watch reports that:
Creationists advising the Texas Education Agency, the state’s board of education, are no longer even trying to hide the fact that they want to insert pseudo-scientific material grounded in religious beliefs into public school science textbooks. Terrence Stutz of the Dallas Morning News reports that evolution detractors appointed to the review boards are urging the textbook publishers to ignore the Supreme Court (along with science) and push Creationism, or be rejected.
A response to this religious-right ploy comes from the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and its Stand Up for Science Education campaign (the hashtag is #standup4science). TFN explains:
Stand Up for Science is an ongoing TFN campaign uniting parents, educators, scientists and businesspeople in support of sound science education and responsible medical research in Texas. This multi-issue campaign focuses primarily on the issue of teaching evolution and climate change in public school science classes and defending stem cell research in Texas.
Simon Gregor, a London-based photographer, writes about his recent visit to Darwin's home, Down House, in Kent. Excerpt:
Most striking of all, though, was what I learned about the man himself. My impression had always been one of the intrepid explorer, circumnavigating the globe, and hopping between the inhospitable Galapagos islands with notebook in hand. In fact, whilst this is true of the first few years of his research, the vast majority of the rest of his life was spent working at home in the confines of Down House and its gardens, nursing his recurrent episodes of ill health, sending off for books and journals by post, and perhaps most importantly of all doting on the family he loved.
Alongside his famous On the Origin of Species, one of his other most influential scientific works was on the subject of earthworms, research which can’t often have drawn him much further than a few yards from his own back door. And this allowed him to spend time with his wife and children, to whom he was a loving and indulgent husband and father, often at odds with the more stringent etiquettes of his time.
It is striking how much of Darwin's scientific work was done in his own home, in part due to him being more invalided than many people realize. More than 40 diagnoses have been offered, including an inherited mitochondrial disorder Chronic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS), Crohn's disease, and--a diagnoses prominently mentioned at least once in the modern educational displays curated at Down House--Chagas Disease, tropical parasitic disease Darwin would almost certainly have acquired from a bite from the so-called "kissing bug" of the Triatominae family.
(Image: Darwin's study in Down House by Scott Isebrand; click to enlarge.)
There's a temptation to review each new book that makes the case for intelligent design by publishing a laundry list of every fact, experiment, subtheory, and interpretation that the author gets wrong. I'll spare you that exercise, partly because it's been done elsewhere, by scientists, and partly because Stephen Meyer, the author of Darwin's Doubt, is not your typical creationist hack.
Instead, Meyer, who holds a PhD in the philosophy of science from Cambridge, is that odd hybrid: the philosopher-huckster. His arguments are, for the most part, precise, his research is extensive, and many of his points echo those made by leading biologists. Like many other proponents of intelligent design, he's not committed to defending the details of Genesis. He accepts that the world is old, and that evolution does happen—at least in a limited way. As a result, he not only sounds like a scientist, but for much of the book he almost acts like one.
All of which is to say that a laundry list of errors doesn't get to the meat of Darwin's Doubt. Meyer is the finest kind of huckster: he doesn't tell lies, he merely rearranges truths. Darwin's Doubt is a toxic blend of hasty conclusions, cracked arguments, and terminological confusions. It's also, for those who are keeping count, a New York Times bestseller. More plausible than the arguments of 6,000-year-old-earthers, and much slicker than the earlier, bumbling efforts of intelligent design-ers, creationism 3.0 has arrived.
WITH TROWELS AND paintbrushes, dozens of archaeologists in white hard-hats patiently sift the reddish-brown earth in the caves of Atapuerca, searching for remains a million years old.
From under strata spanning hundreds of millenia at this site in northern Spain, they unearth ancient mouse bones and the teeth of horses – but what they most hope for is a sign of prehistoric humans that could write a new chapter in our evolution.
Image: A reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton, right, is contrasted to a modern human version of a skeleton in a display in 2003 of some of the finds from the Atapuerca caves.
Image: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II/PA Archive
The Infinite Monkey Cage (BBC Radio 4), July 23rd, 2013's broadcast (available here) dealt with Alfred Russel Wallace.
Brian Cox and Robin Ince discuss the life and works of Alfred Russel Wallace, the lesser known co-founder of the theory of evolution by natural selection. They are joined on stage by biologists Steve Jones and Aoife McLysaght and comedian Tony Law to ask whether Wallace is the great unsung hero of biology and why it was Darwin who seems to have walked away with all the glory.
Aoife McLysaght remindes listeners of Theodosius Dobzhansky's important summation: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
some public schools in America do all they can to avoid teaching evolution. Thanks to constant pressure from the Religious Right, many public schools are battlegrounds in a culture war that does great damage to our nation’s scientific credibility as creationists work overtime to slip their ideas into the curriculum.
Fossils from a quarry in a region of central Wisconsin known as Blackberry Hill show that the first footprints on land were made by an extinct arthropod known as a euthycarcinoid, and this occurred in the Cambrian period, roughly 500 million years ago. The authors of the study, Joseph Collette of the University of California – Riverside, Kenneth Gass, a researcher from Wisconsin, and James Hagadorn of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, published their findings in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of Paleontology.
The suggestion that extinct arthropods had been walking about on land in what is now called Cambrian times is not a new one. Sir Richard Owen had published that idea in 1852, based on fossil footprints that he named Protichnites from Cambrian beach sandstone of Quebec.
New Scientist reports that the sample comes from a recently deceased man named Albert Perry. After the African-American South Carolina man died, one of his relatives submitted a sample of his DNA to a company called Family Tree DNA for analysis.
Evidence for an earlier common genetic ancestry--i.e. evidence for an earlier time to MRCA (TMRCA, time to most recent common ancestor, a.k.a. the time to Y-chromosomal Adam)--has been growing. See Dienekes' Anthropology blog's post on May 20, 2011, "The father of us all: 142 thousand years ago." The estimate of 142,000 years ago was itself was a far cry from the then widely disseminated estimate of 60,000 years years ago.
Nothing like being more than 400% off, huh? Well, that's in part how science works: hopefully cumulatively increased precision and understanding attained by increments of new knowledge and refinements of knowledge and occasional massive leaps, and with no guarantee--it might be added--that some of those increments along the way may be a step backward. But, it's the net result of all the efforts/findings (the increments) along the way that matters. 142,000 years ago or 340,000 years ago.... It's not that the difference doesn't matter, but the difference has a significance that's profoundly minor in light of greater reality they're addressing: the story of us all.
(Photo: An X and a Y chromosome. Univ. of Arizona.)
The study fills in knowledge about the relationships between breeds, many of which are centuries old with origins in the Middle East. Darwin argued that all domestic pigeon breeds descended from the wild rock dove. Shapiro says this study puts data behind that argument, as all the breeds sequenced are more similar genetically to one another than to another, closely related, species of pigeon, C. rupestris. It also found that street pigeons are genetically similar to racing homing pigeons, which frequently escape into the wild.
The last thing we want to do is water down the teaching of biology because some people don’t recognize that evolution happened. Evolution is the basis of modern biology and, in fact, if a lot of people don’t believe it, it only means we have to do a better job teaching it. So once again, I repeat, the purpose of education is not to validate ignorance, but to overcome it. And to overcome a situation where a United States Senator can speak such manifest nonsense with impunity is vitally important to the healthy future of our society.
A trove of 84-million-year-old fossils recently discovered in western Hungary belongs to what appears to be a family of a new mosasaur species. Mosasaurs are large crocodile-like reptiles from between 66 to 100 million years ago that, until now, scientists believed only lived in marine environments. The fossils belong to a species that paleontologists have named Pannoniasaurus inexpectatus, the first mosasaur species discovered to live in freshwater. The research team, led by Laszlo Makadi, a paleontologist at the Hungarian Natural History Museum, was excited to find not just one organism’s fossil, but a number of Pannoniasaurus specimens representing a range of ages. Finding juvenile specimens’ fossils is unusual in itself, but finding them alongside adults is even rarer, and tells scientists a whole lot about how that species lived. Makadi and colleagues believe that, due to the variety of ages of specimens, these Mosasaurs lived in groups with more than one family unit, and lived their whole lives in freshwater, versus arriving there later in life from a marine environment.
Brian Cox and Robin Ince get into the Christmas spirit as they look at the science of Christmas behaviour with actor/writer Mark Gatiss, geneticist Steve Jones, psychologist Richard Wiseman and emeritus Dean of Guildford Cathedral Victor Stock.
And Matthew Tully, writing in the Indianapolis Star (December 8, 2012), remarked, "Less than a year after Kruse and others in the state Senate failed to push an embarrassment of a bill through the legislature that would have allowed the teaching of creationism in science classes, the Auburn Republican is at it again. ... It's a silly idea at a time when seriousness is needed in the General Assembly. It's a distraction when the legislature should be focused on core education issues. It's a reminder that ideology far too often gets in the way of tackling important issues under the Statehouse dome. And it's an attempt to walk through the back door a bill that — thanks to sensible lawmakers, outraged voters and the courts — can't make it through the front."
Romani wagon in Germany, 1930s; image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst - Zentralbild (Bild 183)
The Romani people—once known as “gypsies” or Roma—have been objects of both curiosity and persecution for centuries. Today, some 11 million Romani, with a variety of cultures, languages and lifestyles, live in Europe—and beyond. But where did they come from?
Earlier studies of their language and cursory analysis of genetic patterns pinpointed India as the group’s place of origin and a later influence of Middle Eastern and Central Asian linguistics. But a new study uses genome-wide sequencing to point to a single group’s departure from northwestern Indian some 1,500 years ago and has also revealed various subsequent population changes as the population spread throughout Europe.
King's Lomatia is unusual because all of the remaining plants are genetically identical. Because it has three sets of chromosomes (a triploid) and is therefore sterile, reproduction occurs only vegetatively: when a branch falls, that branch grows new roots, establishing a new plant that is genetically identical to its parent.
Although all the plants are technically separate in that each has its own root system, they are collectively considered to be one of the oldest living plant clones. Each plant's life span is approximately 300 years, but the plant has been cloning itself for at least 43,600 years (possibly up to 135,000 years). This estimate is based on the radiocarbon dating of fossilised leaf fragments that were found 8.5 km away. The fossilised fragments are identical to the contemporary plant in cell structure and shape, which indicates that both plants are triploid and therefore clones due to the extreme rarity of the occurrence of triploidy.
Yes, yes, it’s unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change. Men and women in white lab coats tell us—and they’re right—that many factors contribute to each severe weather episode. Climate deniers exploit scientific complexity to avoid any discussion at all.
If you've followed the decades-long innanity of science-deniers who target the Theory of Evolution (yes, all of geology, biology, and genetics is wrong--magic, indeed), you'll not be surprised that science-deniers exploit scientific complexity, nor that they often exploit and sometimes simply misinterpretent or misunderstand the role of disagreements within the scientific community, disagreements that quite often exist within the context of overarching, fundemental scientific consensus.
Back to the cost perspective given in the graphic (click on the above) designed by Jennifer Daniel: The number of U.S. natural disasters costing more than $1bn was 46 in 1980-1995 and 90 from 1996-2012. (Inflation plays a very small role in that increase.)
Yet, an October 2012 Pew Research Center poll
found that two-thirds of Americans say there is solid evidence the earth is getting warmer. That’s down 10 points since 2006. Among Republicans, more than half say it’s either not a serious problem or not a problem at all."
The graphic by Jennifer Daniel doesn't include a cost estimate (it's yet to to determined) for this year's U.S. drought, which was the worst in a generation.
Also from the article:
On Aug. 30, [Romney] belittled his opponent’s vow to arrest climate change, made during the 2008 presidential campaign. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” Romney told the Republican National Convention in storm-tossed Tampa. “My promise is to help you and your family.” Two months later, in the wake of Sandy, submerged families in New Jersey and New York urgently needed some help dealing with that rising-ocean stuff.
Yes, it's global warming, stupid, and it comes with a cost--one that in the future could grow worse than need be if science-deniers' influence continues to rise.
the remains of the five most complete North American male early Holocene skeletons to examine patterns of human morphology at the earliest observable time period.... Results indicate that early Holocene males have variable postcranial morphologies, but all share the common trait of wide bodies. This trait, which is retained in more recent indigenous North American groups, is associated with adaptations to cold climates. Peoples from the Americas exhibit wider bodies than other populations sampled globally. This pattern suggests the common ancestral population of all of these indigenous American groups had reduced morphological variation in this trait. Furthermore, this provides support for a single, possibly high latitude location for the genetic isolation of ancestors of the human colonizers of the Americas.
Below are shown statements of abject folly thought by their speaker to be like beacons of truth. If followed as pedagogy in their extreme would misdirect utterly, tragically signaling others, even school children if the speaker had his way, into failure: failure to understand the universe, failure to understand human origins, failure to understand the scientific method, failure to appreciate the scope and magnitude of reality, failure to engage with the grand struggles for knowledge in the areas of evolutionary biology, genetics, particle physics, cosmology, astronomy, virology, geology, and several other fields that daily rest upon and prove again the basic tenets of evolution, the basic fact of that there is one--one--only one known scientific explanation for the origin of species, including human beings, and the basic fact that the Earth is very, very old indeed, and the universe older yet.
This yawning gap in knowledge that he'll happily and haplessly steer others towards, this shadowy, oceanically massive maw of ignorance he promises can be bridged not by structures of scientific inquiry, correction, and knowledge, but by throwing something like an idol into the void it, a collection of select verses from self-described sacred texts penned in the pre-scientific age of bronze tools.
Science gives you the adventure of curiosity and curiosity channeled toward problem-solving, question-answering, and accumulating knowledge that can be shared and can grow. It can literally take you to the moon and let you gaze into the hearts of stars; it can let you see the past by reading the stories of Earth's rocks and even those of other worlds. It can make you marvel at the limits of imagination and knowledge as you're confronted with the limitless but utterly approachable and almost certainly solvable mysteries of the cosmos.
But this man says curiosity is overrated compared to a few words--most of them in a book called Genesis and all of which could all be read in minutes--which are supposed to direct or even completely satisfy a lifetime of curiosity and settle in some fundamental way all questions you and any American school student might have about where species come from and what is the natural history of our planet and universe.
And the man who makes these statements is a member of Congress.
And he sits on the House of Representatives' Science Committee.
What he says disqualifies him for any such seat. That his constituents are not shamefaced is a profound testimony against. What he says is an embarrassment. Yet...he is a policy-influencer and lawmaker, especially as policy and law relate to science.
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month.
“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth. Broun serves on the House Science Committee, which came under scrutiny recently after another one of its Republican members, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), suggested that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses against pregnancy.
Please click "Like" under Ashley's and Lee's photo on Blue Bridal Boutique's Facebook page to help Ashley win a wedding gown. Ashley and Lee are both paleontologists. Also, check out Philip and Susan's great story on NPR's Storycorps.
Two years ago, I was having a really hard time finding the man of my dreams in Los Angeles. I dated actors and musicians--nice guys, but not the kind of gut-wrenching, long-lasting love that movies are made of. I'd heard about OkCupid.com, a free online dating website, so I gave it a try. I went on dates, but no one really understood my love for paleontology. I catalogue and identify 70 million year old dinosaur fossils for my job (I'm asst. curator of paleontology), so I needed a guy who truly understood and shared the same passion. Not having any luck, I expanded my OkCupid search from the Los Angeles area to the ENTIRE United States. Sound desperate? I spent an entire night searching OkCupid for any keyword that might lead me to my very own Dr. Alan Grant: "paleontologists," "paleontology," "dinosaurs". I was determined.
Biologists Philip and Susan McClinton started their life together, in 1972, in a very different place.
Forty years ago this week, Philip and Susan McClinton had their first date. Today, Susan is a retired biologist and Philip is assistant curator at the Draper Museum of Natural History in Cody, Wyo. But when the two met, it was at a very different place.
The McClintons' story starts in 1972, at a topless bar in Fort Worth, Texas. Philip was a bouncer. Susan was there to compete in an amateur night, hoping to win the cash prize. To Philip, Susan was out of place.
"I thought, 'She doesn't belong in here,' " he recalls. "She didn't need to be in this place."
"At the time I had two children to support, so I needed the money. I remember at one point you said, 'I'll keep an eye on you,' " Susan says. "And I think that was the beginning of our relationship."
Philip told her he wanted to take her rattlesnake hunting. Susan thought he was crazy, but she went anyway. She loved it. "I thought, 'Hey, this is something I might want to do on a regular basis,' " she says.
On Aug. 13, the Kentucky legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education held a hearing. It was a very sorry affair indeed.
Four years ago, Kentucky legislators voted to tie the state’s testing program to national education standards, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. But now some of them are having second thoughts because the national science standards stress (gasp!) evolution.
“I would hope that creationism is presented as a theory in the classroom, in a science classroom, alongside evolution,” Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) told the newspaper.
How can we effectively convey a telling response to common creationist arguments in a 140-character tweet? How can we make our arguments in a public forum without coming across as condescending? Which of our common arguments and critiques are actually most telling with the lay public? How can we address the confirmation bias that seems to occur when people seek sources of information on the internet?
The questions' larger context:
It is no longer necessary to visit an expert at all, even indirectly through his books. Instead, learners can get their information from a wide variety of sources with trivially small amounts of effort and all manner of people have taken advantage of the new technologies to post their pet theories and claims for the world to see. The result is a stupendously huge mass of “information” which has not been tested, vetted or critiqued in any way. To make matters worse, there is evidence that people respond to such diversity by selectively accessing information which confirms their existing opinions (see Knobloch-Westerwick and Meng 2009). The information market is now very clearly a buyer’s market to which the sellers—experts like us—have yet to adapt. ..... [T]raditional methods of presenting science are not always well suited to the world of modern media. It’s my belief that we can win on this new battlefield, but it will require a new strategy for marketing scientific ideas— something the science community typically has not valued highly. What we need to do is spend some time thinking very seriously about how to meet this new challenge with new techniques.
Then, there are other active scientists such as Fabrice Leclerc @leclercfl, who is not only (re-)tweeting science-related findings, but also publishing a regular "online-paper" with evolution-related topics based on Tweets: The evolution daily.
Maria-José Viñas, AGU science writer, also wrote about Twitter and science communication.
(Image courtesy of id-iom via a Creative Commons License.)
Geoff Marcy has spent the better part of his career peering into the depths of space in the search for exoplanets and brown dwarfs. His pioneering work has resulted in the discovery of over 110 planets outside of our own solar system - including the first system of planets orbiting a distant star. But now, Marcy has decided to shift his focus and direct his efforts at detecting something just a bit more elusive: extraterrestrial intelligence.
Half a billion years ago, sea creatures fled from a terrifying new creature: a gigantic primordial shrimp with pin-sharp vision. It is one of the oldest known animals with compound eyes, the hallmark of modern insects and crustaceans.
Anomalocaris – the name means "strange shrimp" – is the earliest known example of a top predator. At 90 to 200 centimetres long, it was the largest animal in the Cambrian seas. It had formidable grasping claws, which allowed it to grab its prey and pull it into its mouth. Lacking legs, it must have swum in open water.
That raises a question: how did it find its prey? It had eyes, but all fossils discovered until now have been in poor condition, so we didn't know how well it could see. Now John Paterson of the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, and colleagues have found a pair of exceptionally well-preserved eyes, 515 million years old, on Kangaroo Island off Australia's south coast.
"Anomalocaris had remarkable vision, rivalling or exceeding that of most living insects and crustaceans," Paterson says.
Scientists are trading telescopes for aprons this week to sell Milky Way cupcakes, Saturn cake, and chocolate chip Opportunity cookies in an effort to salvage U.S. planetary science projects.
The 2013 budget proposal submitted by the Obama administration earlier this year would cut funding for NASA's planetary science projects by about $300 million. While Congress is still deliberating over the federal budget, groups of scientists are planning a series of demonstrations — in the form of bake sales, car washes and other events — for Saturday (June 9) to plead their case. ..... For Central Florida residents: The planetary bake sale is planned for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. EDT Saturday at the Chevron adjacent to the University of Central Florida campus on 1640 E. McCulloch Road in Orlando.
One of his sons pointed out what he thought was a ball in the creek below to his family. Once they got closer, John, who has an interest in archeology, noticed a marrow line at the top of the object, said reporter ABC5-WOI reporter Katie Eastman, who interviewed the family.
Wonders of Life is the BBC science department's follow up to Wonders of the Universe and Wonders of the Solar System, hosted by Professor Brian Cox OBE. Brian's blog related to the series is at http://wonders.posterous.com/.)
In addition to hosting the three documentary series, Brian Cox also co-hosts the BBC Radio 4 series The Infinite Monkey Cage with comedian Robin Ince.
Photo: Brian Cox with a scorpion in the Mojave desert. Scorpions' exoskeletons contain a chemical that makes them fluorescent under the UV light ("black light"). No one knows why this.
From the NCSE: I thought that you might like to know that Richard Milner will present an illustrated talk about his new book Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time -- the life and art of the "father of paleoart" who brought dinosaurs, mammoths, and cavemen back to life at the American Museum of Natural History. The artist's granddaughter, Rhoda Knight Kalt, will be on hand to share her personal reminiscences.
Check out The Evolution Store. "NYC's premiere retail outlet for science and natural history collectibles, artifacts, gifts, and home furnishings. Our store offers a museum quality atmosphere creating a unique and intimate shopping experience." They have a blog.
After doing a couple of dozen deep dives like I've illustrated above you'll begin to realize that, if a creationist makes a scientific claim in support of creationism, the claim is either wrong or trivial. After another couple dozen deep dives you'll start to see patterns in the errors. And at some point you'll be comfortable reaching the (tentative) conclusion that if the first fifty claims you investigated were wrong or trivial then then you can start making increasingly confident predictions about creationist claims in general.
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emergence of geology as a scientific discipline. A little over two hundred years ago a small group of friends founded the Geological Society of London. This organisation was the first devoted to furthering the discipline of geology - the study of the Earth, its history and composition.
Although geology only emerged as a separate area of study in the late eighteenth century, many earlier thinkers had studied rocks, fossils and the materials from which the Earth is made. Ancient scholars in Egypt and Greece speculated about the Earth and its composition. And in the Renaissance the advent of mining brought further insight into the nature of objects found underground and how they got there. But how did such haphazard study of rocks and fossils develop into a rigorous scientific discipline?
Paleontologists have long thought of the coelacanth as a stodgy old slowpoke: Two modern-day species of the fish—considered living fossils because of their remarkable similarity to ancient coelacanths—typically swim in a slow, almost dawdling manner. As a group, coelacanths had apparently kept the same basic body plan for hundreds of millions of years. But now, researchers have found fossils of a sleeker coelacanth—one that likely was a speedy, shark-like predator in the ancient seas west of the supercontinent Pangaea about 240 million years ago.
Thursday, May 3, 7:30 PM Ian Tattersall discusses Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins with Will Harcourt-Smith
50,000 years ago - merely a blip in evolutionary time - our Homo sapiens ancestors were competing for existence with several other human species, just as their own precursors had been doing for millions of years. Yet something about our species separated it from the pack, and led to its survival while the rest became extinct. So just what was it that allowed Homo sapiens to become Masters of the Planet? Curator Emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History, Ian Tattersall takes us deep into the fossil record to uncover what made humans so special. Surveying a vast field from initial bipedality to language and intelligence, Tattersall argues that Homo sapiens acquired a winning combination of traits that was not the result of long term evolutionary refinement. Instead it emerged quickly, shocking their world and changing it forever. Tattersall discusses our ancestors' precarious path to dominance with Will Harcourt-Smith, his colleague at the American Museum of Natural History and a noted teacher and scientist.
A quarter honoring a dinosaur whose remains were discovered in Alberta back in 1974, the Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai., is being made available for purchase on April 16, 2012. It glows in the dark to reveal a likeness of the fossilized skeleton.
The species of Pachyrhinosaurus honored in the coin was named after its discoverer, Al Lakusta, who found the bone fragments while hiking around Pipestone Creek. He wasn’t aware of the coin until a local post office employee told his wife about it after reading about it in a brochure.
Conservatives, particularly those with college educations, have become dramatically more skeptical of science over the past four decades, according to a study published in the April issue of the American Sociological Review. Fewer than 35 percent of conservatives say they have a "great deal" of trust in the scientific community now, compared to nearly half in 1974.
"The scientific community ... has been concerned about this growing distrust in the public with science. And what I found in the study is basically that's really not the problem. The growing distrust of science is entirely focused in two groups—conservatives and people who frequently attend church," says the study's author, University of North Carolina postdoctoral fellow Gordon Gauchat
Last week Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)...confessed that she was now "scared to death" by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world.
"We are sliding back into a dark era," she said. "And there seems little we can do about it. I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms." ..... [I]nstitutions, acting as covers for major energy corporations, are responsible for the onslaught that has deeply lowered the reputation of science in many people's minds in America. This has come in the form of personal attacks on the reputations of scientists and television adverts that undermine environment laws. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for blocking mining and drilling proposals that might harm threatened species or habitats, has become a favourite target.
"Our present crisis over the rise of anti-science has been coming for a long time and we should have seen it coming," adds Oreskes.
This point was backed by Francesca Grifo of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), although she added that one specific event had brought matters to a head this year: the decision by the United States supreme court to overrule the law that allowed the federal government to place limits on independent spending for political purposes by business corporations.