In the last 12 months, we’ve seen a storm of Evolution/Intelligent Design debates. The arguable culmination of these proceedings has been the court case in Dover, PA in which Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design (ID) was merely creationism re-branded as pseudoscience and should not be taught in the science classroom. Before and during the trial, I’ve read many comments by our Anglo friends across the pond, many of them puzzled by the United States’s apparent backwardness in science education. Now, unfortunately for them, this backward thinking is coming to them.
Intelligent design has become the US’s newest “intellectual” export. It has been included in the syllabus for biology produced by the OCR exam board under the guise of “teaching the controversy“. Of course, there is no controversy except that which was invented by the Discovery Institute several years ago as a part of its Wedge Strategy.
Naturally, critics of the inclusion say that the move elevates ideas like Intelligent Design to the same playing field as the theory of evolution, which is testable and conforms to the most basic principle of scientific theories: falsifiability.
James Williams, science course leader at Sussex University’s school of education, told the Times Educational Supplement: “This opens a legitimate gate for the inclusion of creationism or intelligent design in science classes as if they were legitimate theories on a par with evolution fact and theory.
“I’m happy for religious theories to be considered in religious education, but not in science where consideration could lead to a false verification of their status as being equal to scientific theories.”
Let’s hope this nonsense stops before it really starts for our friends overseas.
[tags]creationism, intelligent design, evolution, teach the controversy, education, science education, wedge strategy[/tags]
Drudge report has a copy of the press release scheduled to be released today at 2pm.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon.
“Other moons in the solar system have liquid-water oceans covered by kilometers of icy crust,” said Andrew Ingersoll, imaging team member and atmospheric scientist at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. “What’s different here is that pockets of liquid water may be no more than tens of meters below the surface.”
Liquid water, of course, is one of the things that most scientists consider necessary for life to potentially develop, which makes this announcement so exciting. While there may be liquid water, my money is on there not being life on Encedalus. Time will tell.
[tags]Enceladus, E.T., alien life, Saturn, NASA[/tags]
Sex is something that most people think about on a minutely basis, but most don’t *really* think about it. From a macroscopic evolutionary view, sex doesn’t really make sense. The amount of effort that males put in to attract females, even outside the human species, is extreme. Sex is expensive in terms of time, effort, and stress. It would be much easier and less expensive from a reproduction standpoint to undergo binary fission, or drop pieces of oneself every time one wanted to reproduce.
Of course we don’t do that, and there are a few explanations as to why this is. (Because it’s “fun” doesn’t apply: that’s an evolutionary byproduct of needing to reproduce.) One hypothesis put forth almost 20 years ago suggests that sex evolved as a way to purge harmful mutations from the population. By shuffling genes “randomly” (mixing chromosomes is anything but random — any sociologist will tell you that), the harmful mutations would be concentrated into a few select individuals who would be weaker and less likely to reproduce, and therefore these mutations would be weeded out through natural selection. (more…)
School has been kicking my ass lately, so here’s a quote that I really like instead of a real writeup…
“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
Indeed. It’s been my experience that those in the know know they don’t know everything, and are more likely to be open minded about something new.
A few days ago, I wrote about the trial going on in Dover, PA wherein the school board is trying to shoehorn intelligent design into the science curriculum. The textbook they are using, Of Pandas and People, espouses the theory of intelligent design. But intelligent design is simply a rewording of the term “creationism” for political reasons. Literally.
Reports are now out now showing that the book literally swapped terms like “creationism” for “intelligent design.” (Hey, I can do that too, with a simple Control-H!) The move shows how thin the veneer of “science” in the intelligent design camp is, because most proponents of ID have claimed that they are not creationists. Of course, teaching creationism in a public school is illegal because of the constitutional separation of church and state. Not to mention that it’s a little tough to try to teach “creation” as science. (By anyone’s standards.) By adding one more layer of abstraction between a deity and science, you get intelligent design which is politically acceptable to teach as science.
Forrest compared early drafts of Of Pandas and People to a later 1987 copy, and showed how in several instances the word “creationism” had been replaced by “intelligent design”, and “creationist” simply replaced by “intelligent design proponent”.
Matzke, who was at the trial, points out that the “switching” of the words is also suspicious because of its timing, which came just after the US Supreme Court’s decision on 19 June 1987 that it was unconstitutional to teach creationism in schools.
The names of the drafts alone are incriminating, he says. The first draft, in 1983, was called Creation Biology, the next is Biology and Creation, dated 1986, and is followed by Biology and Origin in 1987. It is not until later in 1987 that Of Pandas and People emerges.
Regardless of what one’s religious beliefs and political views on the matter, I believe that using underhanded tactics such as these is disingenuous and undermines the study of science in favor political maneuvering. While I have also said that science does not and should not exist in a political vacuum when it comes to ethics, it should exist in that vacuum when attempting to determine the truth and report facts. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the United States in this day and age.
Some quick morning bullets.
- A UK heart surgeon, Mr. Francis Wells (anyone else find it strange that he goes by the title “Mr.” rather than “Dr.”?) has pioneered a new way of restoring normal mitral valve function by studying the heart diagrams made by Leonardo da Vinci. His technique allows him to avoid some of the drawbacks that current repair operations introduce. Mr. Wells has successfully treated 80 patients with the technique. Three cheers for Leonardo?
- Pathological liars often have anatomically different brain structures which allow them to create complex lies quickly, with relatively little inhibition. Excess white matter in the prefrontal cortex (used for high-level thought) and decreased gray matter (which mediates inhibitions) giving them an edge over anti-social people and normal control subjects.
- Yesterday, I wrote about Gary Olsen, the third “space tourist,” and how calling him simply a tourist was unfair. As a materials scientist, it stands to reason that he’ll conduct experiments on himself. He’ll be investigating space sickness, lower back pain, and be collecting data on microorganisms inside in the ISS.
I find the commentary on Leonardo da Vinci interesting. It’s been said that some of the best doctors come from backgrounds outside medicine: particularly engineering because they bring a different mindset and way of looking at problems with them when they go to medical school. With no formal background in medicine, da Vinci brought an engineering perspective to the table when he looked at the body and drew his illustrations and diagrams. I think it’s all sorts of cool that even today, people are learning from his work.
Color me skeptical, but this story on Discovery Channel News suggests that a supernova was the ultimate cause for many of the large animals that are extinct today: mammoths, mastodons, sabre-toothed tigers, etc. Apparently the key piece indicating the explosion is a set of 34,000-year-old mammoth tusks riddled with tiny craters.
The researchers believe that in the sequence of events following the supernova, first, the iron-rich grains emitted from the explosion shot into the tusks. Whatever caused the craters had to have been traveling around 6,214 miles per second, and no other natural phenomenon explains the damage, they said.
They think the supernova exploded 250 light-years away from Earth, which would account for the 7,000-year delay before the tusk grain pelting. It would have taken that long for the supernova materials to have showered Earth.
These iron grains were traveling at exactly 6,214 miles per second, I’m sure. Somehow the leap from tiny craters in mammoth tusks to a supernova to iron grains traveling at exactly 6,214 miles per second seems a little… I dunno… HUGE to me.
Then there were storms similar to those in The Day After Tomorrow caused by a comet-like shower of debris (similar to a nuclear winter, I would suspect) which caused superheated hurricanal winds in the atmosphere that then rolled across North America
The debris is supposed to have killed all the large animals but saved the small animals who escaped by going underground.
In addition to the tusk evidence, the scientists said arrowheads from North America’s prehistoric Clovis culture, which went extinct around 13,500-13,000 years ago, Icelandic marine sediment, as well as sediment from nine 13,000-year-old sites in North America, contain higher-than-normal amounts of radiation in the form of potassium-40 levels.
Magnetic particles also were unearthed at the sites. Analysis of these particles revealed they are rich in titanium, iron, manganese, vanadium, rare-earth elements, thorium and uranium.
These elements all are common in moon rocks and lunar meteorites, so the researchers think the materials provide additional evidence that North America was bombarded 13,000 years ago by material originating from space.
I buy the space-bombardment, but I have difficulty making the leap from tiny tusk craters to superheated hurricanes destroying North America. A lot of scientists seem excited about the idea, so maybe I’m the only one having this difficulty. I would think that looking at the night sky would show up a location 250 light years from Earth where a supernova could have occurred. A black hole, perhaps. I’d like to hear from the astrophysicists now, I think, because frankly, this theory sounds a little like an Ice Age sequel than a solid scientific theory.