Tuesday, August 26, 2008

10 Questions, and Answers, About Evolution

Terrific article in the New York Times, I know not one of my usual sources, but I really liked this article. Take a read 10 Questions, and Answers, About Evolution

It takes an article by one of the Discovery Institute's favorite mouthpieces, Jonathan Wells, and his 10 questions he says highlights the weaknesses in Evolution and teams them up with how those questions are actually addressed in evolutionary biology. The answers are written by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Yes! This is an example of responsible journalism! Rather than offer Wells a chance to air his views completely one-sided, the NY Times gave space to the NCSE to address them and put them all together in one article. I would suggest this technique to Ann Coulter, but we all know she's not a journalist and therefor doesn't have to comply with minor details like ethical behavior. -- Yes, off topic, but please remember that her book "Godless . . ." spent a lot of time on Intelligent Design and she apparently only spoke with ID proponents (From her book "I couldn't have written about evolution without the generous tutoring of Michael Behe, David Berlinski, and William Dembski") She certainly wouldn't think of talking to someone of an opposing view.

OK, back to the subject of this post: Read the article for yourself and you will see the Discovery Institute's usual pattern of misdirection and ambiguity in trying to weaken something they haven't been able to touch in any other ways. I hope Biology teachers across the country read this and take note so if a student raises these issues they can address them appropriately.

Now the fun part was waiting for something that I knew was coming . . . the reaction of the DI, in typical knee-jerk style! It took three whole days and they didn't disappoint!


You gotta read this. They claim the NCSE was lying when they said "hardly any textbooks feature Haeckel’s drawings, as claimed".

Next go to http://www.discovery.org/a/3935 and read their actual whining. They claim that the drawings in the textbooks are derived from Haeckel’s earliest embryo stages. Please notice the word 'derived'! They also use the phrase "patterned after Haeckel". In fact nearly any drawing of early embryo's will show similarities to Haeckel's work. The DI is so reaching! I was pretty surprised they limited themselves to just one of the 10 questions, but I bet in the coming days they will jerk their knees of some more.

They do claim the drawings are not as detailed as the DI thinks they should be. Gee, they are DRAWINGS! They are used to illustrate the point made by . . . guess who . . . the NCSE . . . when they said "Twentieth-century and current embryological research confirms that early stages (if not the earliest) of vertebrate embryos are more similar than later ones; the more recently species shared a common ancestor, the more similar their embryological development. Thus cows and rabbits - mammals - are more similar in their embryological development than either is to alligators. Cows and antelopes are more similar in their embryology than either is to rabbits, and so on. The union of evolution and developmental biology — “evo-devo” — is one of the most rapidly growing biological fields."

So there we have it, the DI doing what the DI does best -- obfuscation, misdirection, and whining!

If you want to know a little more about Jonathan Wells, a senior fellow at the DI, a Moonie, and an Aids denier in addition to his being an anti-evolutionist. You can read more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Wells_%28intelligent_design_advocate%29

Friday, August 1, 2008

Another review of "Devil in Dover"

Here is an excellent review of Lauri Lebo's book "The Devil in Dover: An Insider's Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America." I'm sure you will like it. Much more detailed than mine. The comment at the beginning of the review is one that I wholeheartedly agree with " Battling creationists will not fix science education. Teaching science will." I never saw this battle as a way to fix science education, but I have seen it as a way to prevent our science education from eroding further.

We are already well behind in so many sciences compared to other countries, something I commented on last year (here). I realize that our science education has serious problems, and teaching Creationism -- even under the guise of Academic Freedom -- is not going to help the situation. What it will do is further erode an existing problem. We need to challenge our children with subjects to fire their imagination. We need teachers who are interested in their students, who believe their jobs have meaning. We have to properly fund our school infrastructure. There are so many problems that resources better used to fix the problems are being used on this political debate.

At the beginning of each School year, in a mall in Montgomery AL, they park a school bus and ask that people purchase and fill the school bus with school supplies. This should be outrageous, but it has become an annual tradition. My sister is studying to become a school teacher and the lack of resources is something she will be facing very soon. It shouldn't be this way!

Look at Dover PA and the little minor issue of having to pay out $1,000,000 because their elected school board took them down an indefensible path. How many school boards can afford to spend that kind of money? It was a waste because it should have never come up. I expect some school district in Louisiana will be next on the block and wind up in an expensive lawsuit. Currently the school district in Mount Vernon (Freshwater incident) is being sued because not only did they not take a teacher to task for violating school policy when he taught Creationism in science class(for at least the last 11 years), but he burned a cross into students' arms. It wasn't until one family complained and sued that the school board finally fired Mr. Freshwater. He is appealing, but I find it hard to believe anyone will condone physically harming a student. Plus he also LIED about his teaching Creationism when an investigation finally occurred.

Like I said I know this fight won't fix science education in the US, but until Creationists, and I lump Intelligent Design proponents, in the same group -- much to their howls of protest -- need to re-learn what Pope Benedict just recently said "Pope Benedict XVI said the debate raging in some countries — particularly the United States and his native Germany — between creationism and evolution was an “absurdity,” saying that evolution can coexist with faith." and we can use our resources to actually improve science education, rather than hurt it further.