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.