Evolution debate ends in compromise

Absolutely not.

For 20 years, Texas science teachers have been required to cover the strengths and weaknesses of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Two decades later, that rule has been changed. They traded the curriculum for a new set of standards.

Board of Education member Bob Craig said the new curriculum will require students to use critical thinking to discuss, analyze and evaluate the information for yourselves.

Lies. The new ‘standards’ will set science back.

For example, the revised biology standard (7B) reflects two discredited creationist ideas — that “sudden appearance” and “stasis” in the fossil record somehow disprove evolution. The new standard directs students to “analyze and evaluate the sufficiency of scientific explanations concerning any data of sudden appearance, stasis and the sequential nature of groups in the fossil records.” Other new standards include language such as “is thought to” or “proposed transitional fossils” to make evolutionary concepts seem more tentative.

These people are stupid. Straight up stupid. Not politically, of course. They are, naturally, quite coy in that respect – that is the second most notable characteristic of the creationist mind. The most notable, of course, is the ability to simply not understand a single, damn thing about science. These people hate science. It conflicts with the beliefs with which they grew up, so they act like little babies and fail to realize that they are wrong. They assume what they hear of science must be incorrect because it does not fit their fairy tale. It’s rather pathetic, really.

By making these changes, the board of education hopes students will use reasoning and experimental testing to examine all sides of scientific explanations, including evolution.

“You need to have that critical thinking by the student,” Craig said, “and you need to have a free discussion of any scientific explanation.”

The revisions apply to students in kindergarten through 12th grade who take the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS test. However, they focus primarily on high school students.

“Have that free discussion, analyze and evaluate,” Craig said. “Critique those scientific explanations, and encourage critical thinking because that’s what we want to do in all fields.”

Scientists have that free discussion. High school students are not qualified in the least bit to tackle any of the vague, coy-creationist, sneak-attack, trojan, flat-out-fucking-liar terms listed.

“Somebody’s got to stand up to experts!” cries board chair Don McLeroy.

Don McLeroy is the chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. He is also a dentist. Next time 9 out of 10 of his colleagues tell you to do this or that with your teeth, tell them they aren’t allowing you to freely discuss, analyze, or evaluate any of the evidence. Tell them it is YOU that should be critiquing the field of dentistry. Those arrogant experts have been holding down the ignorant layman for far too long, I say!

Women and science

The mooks over at Conservapedia love to parade out old studies that show statistically insignificant leads for boy over girls in math and science. Despite this heavy dose of misogynistic idiocy, it’s no secret men outnumber women in science. Go one step further: famous men outnumber famous women by a longshot. In thinking of just 10 scientists, Lynn Margulis is the only female that comes to mind.

So when commenters focused on the looks of Sheril Kirshenbaum, she became understandably annoyed.

Now folks, I’m not naive. I recognize everyone forms preconceived notions based on visual and nonverbal cues. As it happens, my next book deals with science and sexuality, so this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately off the blog. Naturally, attention to physical appearance has been hardwired into our neural circuitry over a few millenia, however, you better believe it’s never acceptable judge anyone based on appearances and number of X chromosomes. And of course I’ve noticed the science blogosphere is buzzing over some neanderthal comments from Monday about my photo. After Phil was kind enough to welcome Chris and I to Discover Blogs, I was disappointed to read several of the responses. For example:

    as a living breathing male of the species, I look forward to any article with Sherils picture attached.

Or even less articulate:

    mmmmmmmm……….. wo-man

Okay, I get it. People are focusing on her looks rather than her credentials. But let’s take a look at that first quote. In full.

Having not read any of their material, I am supremely unqualified to comment on any of their writings.

But, as a living breathing male of the species, I look forward to any article with Sherils picture attached.

That’s just bad practice. While Kirshenbaum has a valid overall point, she misquotes a person. I thought reasoned people had left that up to creationists and other stupid conservatives.

Let’s keep in mind what the original post was all about. It was an introduction. Is there a specific, pre-approved, politically correct response expected? I see an intro to a new blog, a short description, and a picture – the most prominent thing about the post – and not much else. It is entirely reasonable to comment on the picture. Naturally, some level of respect should be given. The above, misquoted commenter did that. He wasn’t vulgar, he noted that he cannot speak of Kirshenbaum’s science credentials, and only then did he say, “Hey, she’s pretty”. Kirshenbaum extends this to a broader point.

I doubt any of the aforementioned anecdotes–or the now infamous comments–were intended to be insulting, but they each highlight a broader social issue. Several female colleagues have similar stories of receiving sexually explicit emails and poetry, while I’ve yet to hear the fellows complain of unwanted advances (though surely that happens occasionally too). This is not an isolated problem, nor is it specific to me as an individual, rather it demonstrates that no matter how much the nature of science has changed, it continues to be very much a ‘boys club.’

This is somewhat inappropriate. Of course, science is a “boys club”. It is a field that is dominated by men, shown to the public through male spokespeople, and probably has a good deal of misogyny running amok. That cannot be extrapolated from a few posts that say “I am attracted to this person”. Let’s drive this home. Here’s another quote from that original post.

Is it just me, or do they look YOUNG? It must just be me getting old I guess. I look forward to reading what they post.

WHOA! WHOA! What’s with all the ageism? Come on, people! Science is such an ‘old persons club’. It’s ridiculous. How about some common respect for the young members of the field?

Don’t miss the point. Please.

Kirshenbaum has valid points and she makes them shine through her other anecdotes. The comments about her being attractive, however, do not illustrate her point. If they do, then I just equally illustrated a point about ageism.

From Kirshenbaum:

Now folks, I’m not naive. I recognize everyone forms preconceived notions based on visual and nonverbal cues. As it happens, my next book deals with science and sexuality, so this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately off the blog. Naturally, attention to physical appearance has been hardwired into our neural circuitry over a few millenia, however, you better believe it’s never acceptable [to] judge anyone based on appearances and number of X chromosomes.

First of all, I prefer accuracy so let’s augment that last statement a tad. It’s never acceptable to judge anyone based on appearances and number X chromosomes, in most instances. If I’m looking for someone to date, I’m definitely going to find a person to whom I am attracted. If that isn’t physical judgement, I don’t know what is. Second, from the comments I read, there was judgement being passed on Kirshenbaum’s looks, not her quality of science. One cannot necessarily take such comments to be outright ignoring her scientific credentials. The prettiest creationist in the world can open up a blog, but I’m not going to give it any praise for that reason. If I say, “Hey, that creationist is sure pretty, but she’s also pretty dumb”, the first part of my comment may be irrelevant, but it is not harmful and it says nothing of the creationists’ credentials – the latter part of the comment does that. Take out that latter part, and no comment was made on scientific credentials. In other words, no credentials were demeaned. If the post was about Kirshenbaum’s research on a particular topic and people focused on her looks, then, yes, that would be inappropriate and demeaning.

Hell, take the mook Sean Hannity. Torture yourself with just a few interviews. Women will often make the point that while he is attractive, his points are awful and misguided. In other words, “here’s a compliment, but it has no bearing on what I think about what you’re saying.”

Of course, not everyone is so innocent with their compliments. Some people are just saying it for the sake of saying it. If that’s all they’re saying, give ’em hell. If they’re saying it in response to a picture accompanied by little more than a generic intro, it’s difficult to see a problem.

I really want to drive this home and I keep coming up with examples how. Take, for instance, a blogger who has a butt-ugly blog layout. Maybe some gross looking color scheme or whathaveyou. Even simply an ugly avatar. Would it be unreasonable for someone to say “I don’t know anything about John Doe’s science, but that is one ugly avatar/layout/whatever he has”?


because I like Golden Lion Tamarins.


Hurray! Internalization. Again.

Asshat Trooper Michael Galluccio risked the health of a soon-to-be-born baby and its mother for the sake of giving someone a ticket. That ticket was overturned because it was given improperly. The trooper got off without a real scratch. He should have been suspended without pay for at least a day for his stupidity and rule internalization. He wasn’t. No huge injustice. Now take this incident. If the officer is not fired, he should at least be suspended, given a pay cut, and put on some sort of administrative probation. He clearly can not do his job correctly.

Officer Robert Powell pulled over Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats’ sport utility vehicle outside Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano as he and his relatives were hurrying to see his dying mother-in-law on March 18.

Callers are tying up 911 lines to complain about the stop.

Police are asking people to stop calling 911 to sound off about the incident, because the calls are keeping dispatchers from responding to emergencies.

People are also calling the police department directly — some from as far away as Lansdale, Pa., Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Dallas police estimated Thursday night they are getting about 150 calls per hour.

Moats spoke with Kevin Scott and Greg Hill on 105.3 The Fan KRLD-FM on Thursday about the incident.

Video from a dashboard camera inside the officer’s vehicle revealed an intense exchange in which the officer threatened to jail Moats.

He ordered Moats’ wife, Tamishia Moats, to get back in the SUV, but she ignored him and rushed inside the hospital.

She was by the side of Jonetta Collinsworth, 45, when her mother died a short time later.

Collinsworth had breast cancer.

“Get in there,” said Powell, yelling at 27-year-old Tamishia Moats, as she exited the car. “Let me see your hands!”

“Excuse me, my mom is dying,” Tamishia Moats said. “Do you understand?”

Moats explained that he waited until there was no traffic before proceeding through the red light and that his mother-in-law was dying, right then.

Moats couldn’t find his insurance paperwork and was desperate to leave.

“Listen, if I can’t verify you have insurance…,” Powell said.

“My mother-in-law is dying,” Moats interrupted.

As they argued, the officer got irritated.

“Shut your mouth,” Powell said. “You can either settle down and cooperate, or I can just take you to jail for running a red light.”

It is quite irrelevant what the result is with the dying mother-in-law. This is awful, irresponsible, dumb, unthinking, robotic rule internalization. It deserves punishment whether she lives or dies. Unfortunately…

At one point during the stop, a nurse walked out from the hospital and talked to a guard.

The guard walked up to Powell and can be heard saying, “Hey, that’s the nurse, she said that the mom is dying right now. And she’s the one saying get him up there right now before she passes.”

On the video, Powell can be heard saying, “All right. OK, I’m almost done.”

Powell can be seen walking toward Moats and handing him the ticket.

“Attitude is everything, OK?” he is heard saying. “All you had to do was stop and tell me what was going on, more than likely, I would have let you go.”

By the time the 26-year-old NFL player received a ticket and a lecture from Powell, at least 13 minutes had passed.

When he and Collinsworth’s father entered the hospital, they learned she was dead, the Dallas Morning News reported in Thursday’s editions.

Let’s recap: Man is rushing to hospital. He sees a red light and slows down to be sure no traffic is coming. Thus, he has accomplished the point of the law concerning red lights: to prevent collisions. Note, this is after 1:30 a.m. After being sure of everyone’s safety, he runs the red light. An officer sees this and attempts to pull the man over. The man puts on his hazard lights, pulls into the parking lot of the hospital, and everyone explains, in plain language, what the situation is. At least two people ignore the police officer and run inside. The police officer does not chase these people, call for backup, or taken any action that indicates he believes anyone is trying to run from the police. A security officer and a nurse both explain to the officer why he is being such a fucking retard. He still finishes up his ticket. He then tells the man how he should behave. Woman dies while this happens.

At what point is this okay? Sure, give the guy the traffic ticket. A good case can be made that he achieved a high enough level of safety to run the light, but people aren’t infallible. So maybe he gets a ticket. But detaining him? The officer clearly did not think the other people in the vehicle were trying to escape. He didn’t even really try and make them stay. What good reason could he have for detaining the driver? Ah, right. “Attitude is everything.” The officer determined that it was in everyone’s best interest if he treated people like 3rd graders and taught them how to behave. Awesome.

Fuck this guy.


Let’s not forget this name: Officer Robert Powell.

Update: Oh, and he pulled a gun on the family.

Hubble Contest

The Hubble image contest has been completed. The winner, by a landslide, is the Interacting Galaxies. I can only presume, humbly, that it was my endorsement of this image that made it the winner.

Arp 274 is a pair of galaxies. Drawn together by their gravity, they are starting to interact. The spiral shapes of these galaxies are mostly intact, but evidence can be seen of the gravitational distortions they are creating within each other. When galaxies interact and merge together, the gas clouds inside them often form tremendous numbers of new stars.

More detailed images of Arp 274 (the winner) will be released soon. In the meantime, here’s another image of interacting galaxies (Arp 148).


Hubble image to be released between April 2 and 5

Come back to see the Hubble picture of Arp 274, released between April 2-5 during 100 Hours of Astronomy, a worldwide event focused on renewing interest in the night sky.

More cancer

I’ll be damned if I can find anything more than press releases about a new way to treat cancer, so that will have to do. Interestingly, one of the points being touted by various blogs and commentators is that this is a cure for cancer. It is not. It is a treatment.

Oscar’s recovery was extraordinary enough, but his case was unusual for another reason. Oscar is a Bichon Frise, who scientists reporting in Salt Lake City, Utah at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society on March 23 call “the Miracle Dog.” Joseph A. Bauer, Ph.D., and colleagues described promising results with a drug called nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl) in battling cancer in Oscar and three other canines without any negative side effects. While it gives profound hope to dog owners, NO-Cbl also points to a powerful new cancer treatment for humans — one that infiltrates cancer cells like a biological Trojan horse.

This is an ever-increasing technique in science that extends beyond just cancer treatment. It has been used to attack bacteria, HIV, and various genetic diseases (the latter of which naturally extends itself to cancer treatments). For this particular study, a drug known as nitrosylcobalamin (or NO-Cbl for those of us who hate those long drug names) was introduced into a dog with cancer. Attached to the nitric oxide (NO) in the drug is B12. B12 is needed for cell growth and replication. Get rid of it and you have problems. Since cancer cells apparently love 2nd grade math so much, they divide and multiply like crazy. As I hope you’ve already guessed, they need lots of B12 to do this. In fact, they have more receptors for B12 than normal cells. When they lay their pretty little eyes on all that introduced B12, they gobble it up. Unfortunately for the cancer cells, NO is toxic. It kills cells, mutated cancer cells no exception. Once inside the cells, it is released and the death of the cell occurs.

“This is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life,” says Bauer, the owner of a two-year old Beagle. “It gets boring working in the lab, but to see the fruits of your labor in a positive outcome like this and to know you’re responsible in some small way, that’s pretty cool.”

Love the passion.


I’ll post more on this later, but the jist of it is an improved way of treating cancer.

The team’s goal is to successfully treat 10 dogs with NO-Cbl and slingshot the drug into human use as soon as possible. Because of the genetic similarity between dogs and humans, Bauer says his approach should have a much better chance of getting through the FDA’s strict drug approval chain.

Whoa! “Genetic similarity”? Now, let’s back up this gravy train. It’s clear that dogs and humans were magically created at separate times, no lineages attached to their genes. Any similarities are pure coincidence. Afterall, science is conducted through dogmatic declaration, right?

Thank goodness creationism doesn’t drive medicine. We’d still be (uselessly) praying for an end to The Plague.

How inviting

I have been cordially invited to attend a viewing of Expelled at the University of Maine at Augusta campus on Tuesday, April 7 at 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. (You must be logged into Facebook to view.) Here is the event description.

We will be watching “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

The debate over evolution is confusing and to some, bewildering: “Wasn’t this all settled years ago?” The answer to that question is equally troubling: “Yes…and no.”

The truth is that a staggering amount of new scientific evidence has emerged since Darwin’s 150-year-old theory of life’s origins. Darwin had no concept of DNA, microbiology, The Big Bang, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or of the human genome.

Then after we will be hanging out and discussing it

For more information on this move check out http://www.expelledthemovie.com/aboutthemovie.php

Amazing. First, they still think evolution is up for debate. Creationist ignorance check point one. Next, they call it a theory of “life’s origins”. How does evolution imply that at all? Creationist ignorance check point two. Then, of course, we get unrelated theories in physics. That’s three. And they could have hit so many more. Where’s the second law of thermodynamics? The ‘natural selection if a tautology’ bs? Come on! Amateurs!

I’m rather undecided about attending this. I am certainly not going to see the movie. I saw it once and that was torture enough, but I will be on campus around the time they will be having their discussion (and by this I mean ‘spreading of disinformation’). Perhaps I can lend my voice to be sure they don’t think this somehow supports intelligent design. Yes, that’s right. The person with whom I originally saw the movie (a young creationist minister) said he “loved that there was a lot of great science”. Of course, there is no science behind intelligent design, but the movie doesn’t even make an attempt to discuss science. It’s wholly about how there’s a big, mean conspiracy to keep intelligent design advocates down and out because “Big Science” is so evil. Oh, and evolution caused the holocaust. Can’t forget that gem.

I’ll keep you updated.

The worst thing about creationism

Of all the things about creationism, perhaps the worst is simply its lack of beauty. It teaches – nay, encourages – people to be content with a small Universe. It teaches that it is okay, even good, to look up at that deep band of stars that comprise the Milky Way and to say, “Meh. What else is there?” This is what believers in special creation are taught. They believe, most arrogantly, that there is nothing greater out there than their concept of an ever-shrinking, ever-so-tiny god.

Reason, rationality, and science encourage one to sit outside on one of those warm summer nights, pure awe undaunted by the anonymous fears lurking in the dark. They say, Look! there’s so much to be known. Don’t ever be satisfied with the Universe you know. They teach, “Wow! What else is there?” They teach that it is not good but stupendously great to wonder – and it is even greater to tear that wonder asunder and leave it in shattered little pieces so to discover that, yes, there are still deeper wonders. That is the prize of knowledge. Creationism rejects this beauty.

Of course, none of this says whether one or the other is true. Reality dictates that (and reality has a strong bias toward the truths of science). What this does suggest, however, is that something so vile, empty, and ugly as creationism or petty, little humanoid gods has no place among the robust beauty of science and reason and rationality.


Stop it, Texas

From having a creationist-dentist on the Board of Education to churning out the likes of Dubya* (a prime example of why abortion should be legal) to being an all-around bag of assholes, Texas has a lot against it. State Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) is just another mook on the merry-go-round.

A Texas legislator is waging a war of biblical proportions against the science and education communities in the Lone Star State as he fights for a bill that would allow a private school that teaches creationism to grant a Master of Science degree in the subject.

State Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) proposed House Bill 2800 when he learned that The Institute for Creation Research (ICR), a private institution that specializes in the education and research of biblical creationism, was not able to receive a certificate of authority from Texas’ Higher Education Coordinating Board to grant Master of Science degrees.

Berman’s bill would allow private, non-profit educational institutions to be exempt from the board’s authority.

That’s exactly what creationists need to do. It’s sad, really. In order to grant their pretend-science degrees, they need to be exempt from any standards or realities. It’s the entire basis of the creationist life.

“I don’t believe I came from a salamander that crawled out of a swamp millions of years ago,” Berman told FOXNews.com. “I do believe in creationism. I do believe there are gaps in evolution.

Good, Leo. I don’t believe I came from a salamander either. But the reason – and it’s a real kicker – I don’t believe that is because I’m not fucking stupid.

“But when you ask someone who believes in evolution, if you ask one of the elitists who believes in evolution about the gaps, they’ll tell you that the debate is over, that there is no debate, evolution is the thing, it’s the only way to go.”

Still with this “elitist” stuff? It seems like that’s just code for “people who aren’t as dumb as Sarah Palin”. But ya know, maybe those silly conservatives are on to something. Who wants “elitists” around anyway? They make us feel inferior and force us to appreciate that there are people better at things and more knowledgable than we are. I say do away with all the elitists. The NBA? Get rid of Paul Pierce. The NHL? Get rid of Zdeno Chara. The NFL? Screw Tom Brady. The MLB doesn’t need David Ortiz. Do away with them all.** And in the colleges and universities? Same policy. I want my education to be as good as an over-40 league game of softball played on a rocky, unpainted field that has a ratty glove standing in for third base.

The ICR issued a statement affirming that it is a legitimate educational institute that employs credentialed Ph.D. scientists from around the country. It insisted that the “THECB [Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board] has acted discriminatorily against the ICR’s application both in process and in the substance of fact,” and it said “THECB allowed influence of evolution-biased lobbying efforts to influence process and outcome.”

Good. I like my education biased toward reality.

Berman sees the board’s decision to deny ICR certification as a double standard.

“If a school’s teaching all evolution, would that be a balanced education?” he asked. “So it’s the same thing on both ends of the stick.”

This presumes that teaching creationism qualifies as education. If it does, teaching Alice in Wonderland as fact qualifies as well.


*Yes, he was born in Connecticut.
**Yes, I have a Boston sports bias.