Right-Wing Christians’ Hostility to Science Destroys Lives


science-vs-religion-walking

Right-Wing Christians’ Hostility to Science Destroys Lives

When a pilot program in Colorado offered teens state-of-the-art long acting contraceptives—IUD’s and implants—teen births plummeted by 40% [3], along with a drop in abortions [4]. The program saved the state 42.5 million dollars [5] in a single year, over five times what it cost. But rather than extending or expanding the program, some Colorado Republicans are trying to kill it—even if this stacks the odds against Colorado families. Why? Because they insist, wrongly, that IUD’s work by killing embryos, which they believe are sacred. This claim, which is based in bad faith and scientific ignorance, undermines fiscal prudence and flourishing families.

Excellent Family Planning Transforms Family Life

Research from around the world shows that children and families are more likely to thrive when women are able to delay, space, and limit childbearing. The benefits are enormous: healthier moms and babies, less infant mortality and special needs, more family prosperity, higher education, less domestic conflict and abuse—even lower crime rates. Whole communities gain as women (and men!) become more productive, creating a virtuous economic cycle. Public budgets become easier to balance, and more revenues can be invested into infrastructure instead of basic needs.

Despite mountains of evidence showing that family planning empowers family flourishing, early and unwanted pregnancy has been a tough pattern to change, even in the United States. Until very recently, half of U.S. pregnancies were unintended, with over a third of those ending in abortion. For single women under the age of 30, 70 percent of pregnancies are unintended. For teens that’s more than 80 percent. This pattern has many causes, but part of the problem is antiquated family planning technologies that are highly prone to human error. In any given year, 1 out of 11 [6] couples relying on the Pill will end up with a surprise pregnancy. For couples relying on condoms alone, this rises to 1 out of 6 [6]!

By contrast, state-of-the-art IUD’s and implants drop the pregnancy rate below 1 in 500 while allowing a prompt return to normal fertility when they are removed. With a modern IUD in place, a woman enjoys he same level of protection as with tubal sterilization. In other words, we now have the technology to make surprise pregnancy truly surprising. It is easy to understand why advocates for children like the American Academy of Pediatrics [7], and advocates for healthy families like the California Family Health Council [8] and CDC [9] are eager to see these top tier birth control methods become the new normal.

Ignorant Obstructionism

People who care about flourishing families, including those who see themselves compassionate conservatives, should be doing everything in their power to help facilitate a transition to these new technologies. Above all, compassion and prudence dictate that these tools should be available to young and poor women, who (along with their children) are most likely to be harmed by an unexpected pregnancy.

But opponents to modern contraception—led by conservative Catholics—are instead spreading misinformation, insisting that highly effective contraceptives are not actually contraceptives but instead are like “having an abortion mill in your body.” They further insist that each embryo is precious and merits the protections of “personhood.” Colorado has been a battleground in which fetal-rights advocates have repeatedly tried to pass legislation that gives legal standing to fertilized eggs and later embryonic stages of life.

Most recently these same conservative advocates and politicians have come out fighting against programs that would make IUD’s and implants available to young women, even those who already are teen moms, desperately trying to take care of the children they already have.

How Modern IUD’s Actually Work

In reality, all family planning methods [10] available in the U.S. today are true contraceptives: they prevent fertilization of an egg by a sperm.

Pregnancy can be stopped at four points: 1. preventing the production of gametes (eggs and sperm), 2. blocking fertilization (conception), 3. preventing implantation of a fertilized egg, or 4. aborting an implanted pregnancy. Modern IUD’s are designed to prevent fertilization:

§  A nonhormonal copper IUD releases copper ions that interfere with sperm motility. The presence of copper may also change the surface of the egg so that it is less easily penetrated by a sperm. In addition, inflammatory cells evoked in the uterine cavity in response to the IUD kill sperm before they can ascend to the fallopian tubes, where fertilization occurs. In this regard, one can view the copper IUD as in intrauterine spermicide.

§  A hormonal IUD releases a mostly local dose of Levonorgestrel, a hormone in many birth control pills. It causes the mucus at the opening to the cervix to thicken so that sperm can’t get through. Thus, this IUD can be considered a barrier contraceptive, like a cervical cap.

A modern IUD can be thought of as a drug delivery system which has the potential to deliver a variety of drugs to a small target: the cavity of the uterus. The primary and intended mechanism of existing copper and hormonal IUDs, by design, is to prevent conception, and that is what each of these does.

But What If . . . .

What if a sperm got past that mucus plug or despite the spermicidal effects of copper managed to swim up the fallopian tube? What if a sperm and egg did unite? Could the IUD interfere with implantation? Yes. However, since fertilization is rare with either modern IUD, a fertilized egg failing to implant and flushing out is also rare. By contrast, when a sexually active woman is not using contraception, she may flush out a fertilized egg most months until she gets pregnant. Best estimates suggest that 60-80 percent of fertilized eggs never become babies. All of this adds up to a counter-intuitive fact: women who are using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy kill fewer embryos than women who are trying to get pregnant, and the more effective the contraception is, the fewer embryos die.

Nature’s Reproductive Funnel

We now know that nature or nature’s god designed reproduction as a big funnel. More eggs and sperm get produced than will ever meet. More eggs get fertilized than will ever implant. More fertilized eggs implant than will be carried to term by a female body. Genetic recombination is a highly imperfect process, and nature compensates by rejecting most fertilized eggs.

In some animals, the mother’s body aborts or reabsorbs an embryo if her stress level is too high or her protein level is too low. Alternately, her body may hold the fertilized eggs in a sort of suspended animation until conditions improve. Human bodies also have several ways to reduce the number of unhealthy babies, by decreasing fertility and increasing spontaneous abortion under bad circumstances. But like genetic recombination, this process is imperfect. Perfectly healthy embryos flush out, while some with birth defects—even horrible defects—get through.

Since spontaneous abortion is a natural and common part of human reproduction—one could say that every fertile woman has an abortion mill in her body—contraceptives actually reduce the number of fertilized eggs that fail to become babies, and the more effective they are at preventing conception, the more embryonic death they prevent. IUD’s are some of the most effective contraceptives available, on par [11] with sterilization. A woman who believes that embryonic life is precious, either to her or to her god, should use the most effective contraceptive available.

Violating Their Own Values and Public Trust

Given these realities, Colorado politicians who undermine access to state of the art contraceptives are neither minimizing embryonic death nor promoting family values.

To reiterate, the research is global and clear: When women are forced to rely on less effective family planning methods, more spontaneous and therapeutic abortions result. So do more ill-timed and unhealthy births. More unhealthy infants suffer and die. A greater percent of children are born to single moms or unstable partnerships. Family conflict increases. More children suffer abuse or struggle with developmental disabilities. More families get mired in poverty. More youth engage in antisocial behavior, including early, indiscriminant childbearing. Public costs associated with teen pregnancy, maternal health, special education, poverty and criminal justice swell. State budgets become more difficult to balance.

This is what conservative Republicans who undermine family planning programs are putting in motion, despite the fact that all of these trends run directly counter to their expressed values.

Ins and Outs of Rabbit-Hole Reasoning

The upside-down priorities of some Colorado legislators illustrate how unquestionable, ideology-based beliefs coupled with motivated reasoning can lead even decent people to violate their own values, while still believing they are doing the right thing.

Republican legislators live in an information web that has been shaped by the Vatican’s opposition to family planning–now picked up and echoed by some conservative Protestant sects and repackaged as “religious freedom.” Another set of dogmas come from Neo-liberalism, for example the belief that the least government is the best government.

Once foundational assumptions like these take root, each acts as a filter, allowing in certain types of evidence and ideas, and excluding others. On Being Certain, by neurologist Robert Burton lays out this process in detail, and Michael Shermer’s book, Why Smart People Believe Weird Things,explains why intelligence provides painfully little protection against rabbit-hole reasoning.

All of us engage in processes known as confirmatory thinking and motivated reasoning to defend a priori positions. For true believers of any stripe, whether political or religious [12], contradictory information gets attacked by the ideology’s “immune system.” Social networks exaggerate this tendency by screening incoming information and identifying trusted messengers or sources, with any belief endorsed by a competing tribe automatically suspect. Oppositional thinking sets in: if my enemy thinks this is good; then it must be bad. And smart people caught in this spiral simply apply their intelligence to the task of defending what they already believe—or want to.

A Conservative Legislator Beats the Odds

Thanks to the power of ideology coupled with rabbit hole reasoning, the data about family planning and family flourishing create a huge challenge for some conservative legislators. Acknowledging that excellent family planning could help Colorado families to flourish (as it does everywhere else) puts an evidence-based Republican at odds with colleagues who are determined to shut down government programs or co-religionists who seek to prevent “artificial family planning.” By contrast, they may find themselves unexpectedly aligned with people they don’t much like. And so, instead of doing the hard work of questioning assumptions, some do the slightly less hard work of convincing themselves this isn’t necessary.

Fortunately, even tightly defended groups like fundamentalist sects or small countercultural cults or extreme political movements or ideologically motivated wings within political parties fail to completely close off inquiry, and individuals do buck the current. At the beginning of February, Colorado Representative Don Coram co-sponsored [13] a bill that would expand IUD access among low income women. Coram is fiscally conservative and opposed to abortion, and in public statements he cited both of these values in support of his bill. “If you are against abortions and you are a fiscal conservative, you better take a long hard look at this bill because that accomplishes both of those,” he said. Research with 10,000 women in St. Louis provides further confirmation [14] that he is right. Coram’s willingness to follow the evidence and buck party line for the sake of his constituents is something we could use more of on both sides of the aisle.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons [15]. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

 

‘This is just insanity’: four Nobel laureates let fly over Australian science funding


‘This is just insanity’: four Nobel laureates let fly over Australian science funding

Four of the nation’s most-renowned scientists have spoken to The Australian Financial Review about their concerns for Australian science and our ability to compete as an innovation economy.

What Nobel prize winners Elizabeth Blackburn, Brian Schmidt, Peter Doherty and Barry Marshall had to say about innovation funding in a nation historically responsible for a range of world-beating scientific advancements was often scathing.

Each holds fears for Australia’s global competitiveness. As stated by the AFR’s Anne Hyland, “When it comes to investment in science, Australia is in reverse as other countries floor the accelerator.”

Here’s a selection of quotes from the Nobel laureates about Australia’s investment in science and our economic future. For the full story, read: How ignoring science damns our economy at the AFR.

ELIZABETH BLACKBURN (joint Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2009)

Photo: Ken James

“How could Australia not think of investing heavily in science? This is just insanity. The fact that the natural resources boom is fading away – it’s foolishness.”

“I come back and have these marvellous science conversations and I talk to really, really bright people, but they’re under-used. They don’t groan. They just do the best they can.”

“Australia needs to invest in science. It’s a bigger picture than politics. Prime ministers come and go. National policies can be developed in a much less politicised way and be much more forward looking, whoever the prime minister happens to be.”

“There needs to be a very serious investment because you have all this scientific talent. If you look at the track record of countries that have invested in science, it’s obvious, it works.”

BRIAN SCHMIDT (joint Nobel prize in physics in 2011)

Photo: Rohan Thomson

“I’m scratching my head and losing sleep at night about that in a way that I haven’t before.”

“It’s unclear to me whether or not we will continue to be a great astronomy nation.”

“If we lose [our] advantage, are we going to replace that with something else? We damn well better be or we’re going backwards.”

“If we’re damaged it will take 20 years to fix ourselves. It only takes one year to cause 20 years of damage.”

PETER DOHERTY (joint Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 1996)

Photo: Arsineh Houspian

“The celebration of science in Australia is pretty thin.”

“Basic science is done through public funding. It can’t be left up to the magic of the market. It doesn’t work in innovation.”

“We still have high quality universities. If we keep cutting back on that sector we’re going to lose it. It’s sad.”

“Australia, because of its location and the fact it’s an open Western country, really has tremendous potential to be an innovation hub.”

BARRY MARSHALL (joint Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2005)

Photo: Philip Gostelow

“There’s a layer of administration and bureaucracy that sits on top of original scientific research that almost doubles the cost or more.”

“[There’s] not the priority given to academic and scientific pursuit in Australia by politicians and government”.

“We need to raise some political pressure and educate politicians.”

“[In Singapore] their resources are their people and they say: ‘What are they going to do? We want to give them something interesting to do and have them doing things that are going to be white-collar, high-value jobs with some product coming out of it.’ ”

Fairfax Media

Bill Nye: Creationism Is ‘Raising A Generation Of Young People Who Can’t Thin


Bill Nye: Creationism Is ‘Raising A Generation Of Young People Who Can’t Think’

The biggest danger creationism plays, according to Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” is that it is raising a generation of children who “can’t think” and who “will not be able to participate in the future in same way” as those who are taught evolution.

Speaking on MidPoint, Nye said he blames an older generation of evangelicals “who have very strong conservative views” and who are “reluctant to let kids learn about evolution.” Their presence on school boards leads to debates over curriculum, Nye argued, which further inhibits schools’ ability to teach facts.

“Religion is one thing. People get tremendous comfort and community with their religions,” Nye said. “But whatever you believe, whatever deity or higher power you might believe in, the Earth is not 6,000 years old.”

Nye, who has a new book out titled “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation,” recently participated in a debate with creationist Ken Ham, which some argued was a moment of embarrassment for the science community.

University of Chicago evolution professor Jerry A. Coyne called the debate “pointless and counterproductive.” The Guardian’s Pete Etchells wrote:

Scientific literacy is crucial for society to function effectively, which means that we can’t afford to be messing around with the way that it’s taught in the classroom or wasting our time with fruitless public debates.

Nye stood by the debate, however, saying he “stepped into the lion’s den” in order to spread awareness about the academic opportunities children are denied by being creationism.

“They will not have this fundamental idea that you can question things, that you can think critically, that you can use skeptical thought to learn about nature,” Nye told MidPoint. “These children have to suppress everything that they can see in nature to try to get a world view that’s compatible with the adults in who they trust and rely on for sustenance.”

H/T RawStory

Seth Andrews Interviews Richard Dawkins


Seth Andrews Interviews Richard Dawkins   

On September 24th, Richard Dawkins’ new book, “An Appetite For Wonder: the Making of a Scientist” released worldwide.

Four days later in Washington DC, Dawkins sat down for a one-hour conversation with Seth Andrews, host of the online community and radio show “The Thinking Atheist,” to talk about a variety of subjects…including childhood, music, evolution, apologist “fleas,” Christopher Hitchens and the memoir itself.

Thanks to The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science for making this interview possible.  (http://www.richarddawkins.net)

Art and Science: This Alkaline African Lake Turns Animals into Stone


This Alkaline African Lake Turns Animals into Stone

A calcified flamingo, preserved by the highly basic  waters of Tanzania’s Lake Natron and photographed by Nick Brandt. © Nick Brandt 2013, Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery,  NY

In 2011, when he was traveling to shoot photos for a new book on the  disappearing wildlife of East Africa, Across the Ravaged Land, photographer Nick Brandt came across a truly astounding place: A  natural lake that seemingly turns all sorts of animals into stone.

“When I saw those creatures for the first time alongside the lake, I was  completely blown away,” says Brandt. “The idea for me, instantly, was to take  portraits of them as if they were alive.”

A bat © Nick Brandt 2013, Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery,  NY

The ghastly Lake  Natron, in northern Tanzania, is a salt lake—meaning that water flows in, but doesn’t flow out,  so it can only escape by evaporation. Over time, as water evaporates, it leaves  behind high concentrations of salt and other minerals, like at the Dead Sea and  Utah’s Great Salt Lake.

Unlike those other lakes, though, Lake Natron is extremely alkaline, due to high amounts of the chemical natron (a mix of sodium carbonate and baking soda) in  the water. The water’s pH has been measured as high as 10.5—nearly as high as ammonia. “It’s so high that it would strip the  ink off my Kodak film boxes within a few seconds,” Brandt says.

A swallow © Nick Brandt 2013, Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery,  NY

As you might expect, few creatures live in the harsh waters, which can reach  140 degrees Fahreinheit—they’re home to just a single fish species (Alcolapia latilabris), some algae and a colony of  flamingos that feeds on the algae and breeds on the shore.

Frequently, though, migrating birds crash into the lake’s surface. Brandt  theorizes that the highly-reflective, chemical dense waters act like a glass  door, fooling birds into thinking they’re flying through empty space (not long  ago, a helicopter pilot tragically fell victim to the same illusion, and his  crashed aircraft was rapidly corroded by the lake’s waters). During dry season,  Brandt discovered, when the water recedes, the birds’ desiccated,  chemically-preserved carcasses wash up along the coastline.

“It was amazing. I saw entire flocks of dead birds all washed ashore  together, lemming-like,” he says. “You’d literally get, say, a hundred finches  washed ashore in a 50-yard stretch.”

A songbird © Nick Brandt 2013, Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery,  NY

Over the course of about three weeks, Brandt worked with locals to collect  some of the most finely-preserved specimens. “They thought I was absolutely  insane—some crazy white guy, coming along offering money for people to basically  go on a treasure hunt around the lake for dead birds,” he says. “When, one time,  someone showed up with an entire, well-preserved fish eagle, it was  extraordinary.”

Just coming into contact with the water was dangerous. “It’s so caustic, that  even if you’ve got the tiniest cut, it’s very painful,” he says. “Nobody would  ever swim in this—it’d be complete madness.”

A fish eagle © Nick Brandt 2013, Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery,  NY

For the series of photos, titled “The Calcified” and featured in this month’s  issue of New ScientistBrandt posed the carcasses in  life-like positions. “But the bodies themselves  are exactly the way the birds were found,” he insists. “All I  did was position them on the branches, feeding them through their stiff  talons.”

A dove © Nick Brandt 2013, Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery,  NY

Read more:  http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/artscience/2013/10/this-alkaline-african-lake-turns-animals-into-stone/#ixzz2gknYceuy Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Surely You Don’t Believe You Have Free Will?!


Surely You Don’t Believe You Have Free Will?!

Road Closed

Whether or not we have the degree of free will most of us like to believe we have, I don’t see how that would be a get-out-of-jail-free card. When it comes to being held responsible for our actions—however determined—we are.

Strict determinism, the kind that says everything we do is already set for us, would mean that if you go far enough back in time, or manage to obtain a “high” enough perspective to see every single pattern of actions unfolding from one to the next, then you have no free will, no way to make your own choices.

No one can get that kind of omniscient perspective, however, and that is clear to atheists. No God or gods, no supernatural being to set it all in motion or to direct it one way or another. The best science can do, for now, is trace an action back in time as far as possible in order to make good guesses as to all the predetermining factors that went into a particular decision by a particular person at a specific point in time. Both psychology, neuroscience, and physics are helpful in such lookings-back.

HOW WE DECIDE

Based on my own education in social psychology and human development, my philosophical views are grounded in humanism. The fact is that we all make decisions based on what we know at the time, what we believe to be true or the way our brains are habituated to come to conclusions. That resembles like a form of free will, though mitigated by all that we don’t know or that we misbelieve or a lack of imagination of options that might indeed be available to us at any turning point.

If we’re necessarily ignorant of many of the factors that have gone into any one of our choices, does that mean we’re blameless for our “mistakes,” for our actions that are deemed immoral by most other individuals? Sometimes I figure it doesn’t matter where we place actual blame, because, as a society, a group of people attempting to live peacefully with one another, the greatest good is to agree on a few major points of law and then to corral bad actors away from the rest of us.

DEFINITIONS

A good definition of free will is that we can imagine future courses of action, decide which one to pursue regardless of competing desires we may have, and that we make such decisions without unreasonable external or internal pressure. Such free will is not magical, nor does it depend on a soul or suchlike which is totally free of any physical process. Our decisions are not determined in such a way that they aren’t influenced by our conscious thoughts. We would hate to think that no matter what we try to do, our decisions are inevitable.

The findings of neuroscience suggest that our actions (little ones, like pressing a button) are caused by unconscious processes that don’t even enter our awareness until a bit later. That certain neural activity precedes “decisions” doesn’t mean you have no choice. But it may mean that we probably do have less free will than we think.

I particularly like the sophisticated comment someone (R.A.) posted on NYTimes.com:

I would argue that as we approach making a decision, we observe competing outcome scenarios predicted by subconscious processes. We then sense how we feel about these scenarios based on dopamine production. Our feelings can then influence the subconscious creating more nuanced outcome scenarios. All of this happens again and again in the nonlinear environment of the brain and is subjected to all kinds of butterfly effects. Eventually the decision happens and we act. Our recollection of how the scenarios changed based on our emotional responses makes some of us think we had complete control over the outcome.

YOU WILL READ THIS BOOK (OR NOT)

Free Will

A recent book showcases its stance by its title: Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (Lexington Books, 2013). It’s a compilation of 16 essays (all but one original for this volume), edited by Gregg D. Caruso, assistant professor of philosophy and chair of the humanities department at Corning Community College, SUNY. The contributors are an international array of philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists, many of them also professors and authors.

One of the issues explored in the volume is what is the responsibility of professionals in light of the way the mass media headlines the scientific claim that free will probably doesn’t exist. Will individuals and crowds run around doing horrible things (more than usual!)? Some worry about that possibility, while other essayists contend that our lives wouldn’t significantly change if we accepted a lack of free will.

The authors of one chapter that tackles a possible “dark side of believing in free will,” admits that the research thus far is “preliminary and messy,” but suggests that a belief in free will seems to correlate with a belief in right-wing authoritarianism, among other things.

The topic of moral responsibility is a huge and complicated one, and I relish the idea that academics and others are debating it. Can we agree that we should be held morally responsible even if we accept that our stance is based on non-philosophical reasons? I’d like to think so.

Creationists Butt Hurt By 19-Year Young Science Advocate!


How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana’s creationists
George Dvorsky

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists

For Zack Kopplin, it all started back in 2008 with the passing of the Louisiana Science Education Act. The bill made it considerably easier for teachers to introduce creationist textbooks into the classroom. Outraged, he wrote a research paper about it for a high school English class. Nearly five years later, the 19-year-old Kopplin has become one of the fiercest — and most feared — advocates for education reform in Louisiana. We recently spoke to him to learn more about how he’s making a difference.

Kopplin, who is studying history at Rice University, had good reason to be upset after the passing of the LSEA — an insidious piece of legislation that allows teachers to bring in their own supplemental materials when discussing politically controversial topics like evolution or climate change. Soon after the act was passed, some of his teachers began to not just supplement existing texts, but to rid the classroom of established science books altogether. It was during the process to adopt a new life science textbook in 2010 that creationists barraged Louisiana’s State Board of Education with complaints about the evidence-based science texts. Suddenly, it appeared that they were going to be successful in throwing out science textbooks.

A pivotal moment

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists

“This was a pivotal moment for me,” Kopplin told io9. “I had always been a shy kid and had never spoken out before — I found myself speaking at a meeting of an advisory committee to the State Board of Education and urging them to adopt good science textbooks — and we won.” The LSEA still stood, but at least the science books could stay.

No one was more surprised of his becoming a science advocate than Kopplin himself. In fact, after writing his English paper in 2008 — when he was just 14-years-old — he assumed that someone else would publicly take on the law. But no one did.

“I didn’t expect it to be me,” he said. “By my senior year though, I realized that no one was going to take on the law, so for my high school senior project I decided to get a repeal bill.”

Indeed, it was the ensuing coverage of the science textbook adoption issue that launched Kopplin as an activist. It also gave him the confidence to start the campaign to repeal the LSEA.

Encouraged by Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University — and a staunch critic of intelligent design and the Discovery Institute — Kopplin decided to write a letter that could be signed by Nobel laureate scientists in support of the repeal. To that end, he contacted Sir Harry Kroto, a British chemist who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. Kroto helped him to draft the letter — one that has now been signed by 78 Nobel laureates.

In addition, Kopplin has introduced two bills to repeal the LSEA, both of which have been sponsored by State Senator Karen Carter Peterson. He plans on producing a third bill later this spring. And along with the Nobel laureates, he has the support of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), New Orleans City Council, and many others.

But as the early results of his efforts have shown, it’s not going to be an easy battle.

“We’ve had gains over the last few years,” he says, “But our first attempt to repeal the LSEA was defeated 5-1 in committee, and in our second attempt we lost 2-1.” Kopplin is hoping to get out of committee this year.

He also has his eyes set on vouchers. After an Alternet story came out about a school in the Louisiana voucher program teaching that the Loch Ness Monster was real and disproved evolution, Kopplin looked deeper into the program and found that this wasn’t just one school, but at least 19 other schools, too.

School vouchers, he argues, unconstitutionally fund the teaching of creationism because many of the schools in these programs are private fundamentalist religious schools who are teaching creationism.

“These schools have every right to teach whatever they want — no matter how much I disagree with it — as long as they are fully private,” he says. “But when they take public money through vouchers, these schools need to be accountable to the public in the same way that public schools are and they must abide by the same rules.” Kopplin is hoping for more transparency in these programs so the public can see what is being taught with taxpayers’ money.

Facing opposition

His efforts, needless to say, have not gone unnoticed — particularly by his opponents. He’s been called the Anti-Christ, a stooge of “godless liberal college professors,” and was even accused of causing Hurricane Katrina. Kopplin cooly brushes these incidents aside, saying they’re just silly distractions.

But some of the most aggressive broadsides, he says, have come from state legislators.

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists
“I’m not talking threats or name calling, but they were really something to experience,” he says. [In addition to the video at left, Kopplin provided other examples that can be seen here and here)

“I don’t enjoy upsetting people, but you have to brush the attacks off,” he says. “I know that I’m fighting for a good cause — and I would be neglecting my duty if I stopped my campaign just because I felt uncomfortable about opposition.”

And perhaps not surprisingly, a number of people have refused to take Kopplin seriously on account of his age. “Oh, for sure — there have absolutely been people who have dismissed me because I’m still a kid,” he told us. Some of his opponents have even suggested that his parents are really the ones behind the campaign — an accusation he flatly denies.

“They have their own lives to live, and certainly don’t have time to run a public issue campaign,” he says.

“What disturbs me though, is when other kids are the ones to dismiss me based on age,” he told io9. “They see a 19 year old kid and can’t believe that I can actually go out and change the world. Too many of my peers have this attitude that they need to dress nicely, sit quietly, and wait until we are adults to change things. This attitude must change. My generation needs to speak out for what we believe.”

It’s simply not science

And indeed, Kopplin is a passionate defender of scientific inquiry, and vociferously rejects the notion that creationism and evolution should be taught side-by-side.

“Creationism is not science, and shouldn’t be in a public school science class — it’s that simple,” he says. “Often though, creationists do not, or are unwilling, to recognize this.” Science, he argues, is observable, naturalistic, testable, falsifiable, and expandable — everything that creationism is not.

But what also drives Kopplin is the inherent danger he sees in teaching creationism.

“Creationism confuses students about the nature of science,” he says. “If students don’t understand the scientific method, and are taught that creationism is science, they will not be prepared to do work in genuine fields, especially not the biological sciences. We are hurting the chances of our students having jobs in science, and making discoveries that will change the world.”

He worries that, if Louisiana (and Tennessee, which also has a similar law) insists on teaching students creationism, students will not be the ones discover the cure to AIDS or cancer. “We won’t be the ones to repair our own damaged wetlands and protect ourselves from more hurricanes like Katrina,” he says.

Moreover, he’s also concerned that teaching creationism will harm economic development.

“Just search creationism on Monster Jobs or Career Builder and tell me how many creationist jobs you find,” he asks. Kopplin tells us about how this past Spring, Kevin Carman, the former Dean of LSU’s College School of Science (now the Executive Vice President and Provost for the University of Nevada, Reno) testified in the Louisiana Senate Education Committee about how he had lost researchers and scientists to other states because of the Louisiana Science Education Act.

“But it also violates the separation of church and state,” he says. “Teaching Biblical creationism is promoting one very specific fundamentalist version of Christianity, and violating the rights of every other American citizen who doesn’t subscribe to those beliefs. So it would be stomping on the rights of Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Buddhists, Humanists, Muslims, Hindus, and every other religious group in the country.

These creationists, he argues, would be horrified to see the Vedas being taught in science class. “And they would have every right to be,” he says, “That’s how the separation of church and state works and it’s the foundation of our country.”

Changes needed

Kopplin is also concerned about the future, and how unprepared the United States has become.

“We don’t just deny evolution,” he says, “We are denying climate change and vaccines and other mainstream science. I’m calling for a Second Giant Leap to change the perception of science in the world.”

To that end, Kopplin would like to see $1 trillion of new science funding and an end to denialist science legislation. He wants to see the American public become more aware and better educated about science.

“My generation is going to have to face major challenges to our way of living — and the way to overcome them is through rapid scientific advancement,” he says. “But as as of right now, America has a science problem.”

Images: Baton Rouge Advocate, The Moderate Voice.

How to Think Like a Scientist


How to Think Like a Scientist
Posted by Chad Orzel
Thrilling legal documents

Thrilling legal documents

I have made allusions to a work-in-progress at various points recently, but my general policy is not to reveal any details until things become official. Well, as you can see from the above photo of signed contracts, it’s official: I sold the work-in-progress to Basic Books, my publisher for How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog. The contract calls for 70,000 words (which most likely means the first draft will clock in at 110,000…) of a work tentatively titled How to Think Like a Scientist (because I’m only allowed to publish books with “How to…” in the title…).

So, what is this? Well, like my other books, it’s grown out of stuff I’ve written on the blog, particularly Science Is What Makes Us Human, Science Is Our Human Heritage, and especially Everybody Thinks Scientifically. It’s not a talking-physics-to-the-dog book (Emmy is disappointed, and sulking…), but a big-picture book on science in a broader sense.

The core argument, as in those blog posts, is that the process of science– looking at the world, thinking of possible explanations for how it works, testing those models by experiment, and telling everyone the results– is an essential human activity, something every human is capable of. And, in fact, every human does make use of this process, in a wide range of everyday activities. Millions of people who don’t think of themselves as scientists are, in fact, thinking like scientists every day, in pursuit of hobbies and other activities they enjoy.

The plan is to lay out that basic process, then illustrate it with a bunch of examples, taking some everyday hobby activity, showing how it relies on some aspect of scientific thinking, and showing how a historical scientific discovery relied on a process analogous to what is used in that hobby. Draft chapters compare playing bidding card games like bridge to the Rutherford, Marsden, and Geiger experiment that discovered the structure of the atom, doing crossword puzzles to piecing together the improbable structure of quantum physics, and playing basketball to precision timekeeping. I’m currently working on something using On the Origin of Species to argue that Rutherford’s “physics and stamp collecting” quote maybe ought to be considered less as a dig at biologists than as a compliment to stamp collectors.

This is, obviously, rather different than anything else I’ve written, and it’s going to be a bit of a challenge in a number of ways. It’s going to have some more personal anecdotes in it (meaning I’ll have to walk the line between including enough to be charming while not including so much as to seem egotistical), it’s going to involve a lot of historical anecdotes (meaning a lot of time chasing references on the Internet and in the library), and it’s going to involve talking about science outside my own area of expertise (meaning I’ll need beta readers– I’m already lining up biologists to correct my egregious errors about Darwin). and, of course, I’m trying to do this while serving as department chair, and with two little kids in the house.

It’s going to be a ton of work in the next year (delivery date is Jan 1, 2014), but I think it’ll also be a lot of fun, for really geeky values of “fun.” It will undoubtedly take a toll on the blog, though– most of my non-work-related writing time will need to be spent on the book, not here. Some bits and pieces that get cut out of the book are sure to end up on the blog, though, which I hope will whet people’s appetites for the eventual book.

So, anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to, and what I’ll be up to. And, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go read some more Darwin.

Five common biology myths (or “Science in the service of the anthropocentric patriarchy”)


Five common biology myths (or “Science in the service of the anthropocentric patriarchy”)

Posted by sedeer

In these “enlightened” times, people often try to use science to justify their social, political or ideological positions. While the influence of scientific research on our world view is commonly recognized, the converse dynamic gets far less attention. Cultural factors shape the sort of questions we ask and how we choose to interpret the answers; for example, despite the claim that the idea of evolution has radically altered our view of ourselves, it also often serves to reinforce existing social and cultural norms. Here are five commonly accepted biological “facts” which are untrue but are used to justify our conception of ourselves and our place in the world.

MYTH: Humans evolved from chimps. FACT: Humans evolved alongside chimps.

It may seem like semantic nit-picking, but the difference is crucial — and it both shapes and is shaped by our conception of ourselves and our closest relatives. The statement that humans evolved from chimps isn’t correct at all, not even in a vague approximate kind of way. Humans did not evolve from chimps; humans, chimpanzees and gorillas have all evolved from a common ancestor which we shared sometime around 8-10 million years ago. At the moment, the most likely candidate for this common ancestor is the Nakali ape (Nakalipithecus nakayamai), which is known from a recent fossil found in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

Some people might try to cling to a sliver of truth by arguing that humans should be considered different from other great apes because we look very different from them. In fact, chimps, gorillas and orang-utans also look quite different from one another; the only reason we lump them all together is that they have fur and we don’t. Hairless chimpanzees like Cinder or Ashes don’t really look that different from humans. Given that, there’s really no justification for distinguishing humans simply based on our hairlessness (which may have been an adaptation to help us keep cool while running long distances).

Besides, looks aren’t everything. A recent study poses another challenge to our naïve view that humans have “evolved more” than other apes: chimpanzees seem to have undergone more directional selection than humans since we split. Of course, there’s a lot more to evolution than just directional selection, but the point remains. Humans are apes; we evolved alongside chimps, gorillas and orang-utans, not from them.

MYTH: Humans are different from animals. FACT: Humans are animals.

This is wrong in two ways, one simple and the other subtle. The simple mistake is failing to recognize that humans are animals. There’s no need to belabour this point: humans are animals, pure and simple.

The subtle mistake is to think that this mess can be corrected by the additional word “other” to get “Humans are different from other animals”. While this statement is without a doubt true, it’s also trivial and misleading. Any species of animal could be described as “different from other animals” (and the same could be said of plants); it would be a mistake to be misled by this into thinking that humans are somehow exceptional. Although there is certainly a good deal of value in trying to identify and understand traits that are unique to humans, it’s important to realize that the same could be done from any other perspective. To quote Richard Dawkins, if elephants were researching evolution, they might be obsessed with finding species which ‘have crossed the nasal rubicon and taken the final leap to full proboscitude.’ While there are certainly several traits that are unique to our lineage, we shouldn’t allow that to tempt us into thinking we are somehow exceptional. Like every other kind of life on Earth, we may be unique but we are not special.

It’s also important to remember that we keep discovering that traits which we thought were uniquely human turn out to be more widespread. One example which I recently described is ravens’ use of referential gestures; others include evidence of empathy in elephants, cultural transmission in dolphins and learning in ants.

MYTH: Higher organisms evolved from bacteria. FACT: There’s no such thing as evolutionary progress; we’re all just running in place.

We often use metaphors when describing the course of evolution or the relationship between different organisms. While it’s fair to say there’s a difference in complexity between multi-cellular and unicellular creatures, loaded terminology like “primitive” and “higher” introduces value judgements. There’s nothing at all primitive about any bacteria you might run into — they’re all thoroughly modern creatures, having evolved continuously for the last few billion years. Similarly, there isn’t any sense in describing specific types of mammal as “higher” and “lower” mammals; it’s also ridiculous to call mammals “higher” (or “more evolved”) than reptiles or amphibians. Evolution doesn’t have a direction, a goal or a hierarchy.

The metric we use to judge which creatures are “higher” and “lower” says a lot about the true relevance of this scale: the more closely a group resembles humans, the “higher” it is. This sort of attitude, which is all too common even among biologists, simply reflects our own age-old arrogance; it’s really just the scala naturae ported to a biological framework.

the_great_chain_of_being (Image from evolutie.blog.com)Ladder of Evolution (Image from Evolve or Die)The mistake here is to think that something that evolved earlier is more primitive, which isn’t true.  The fact that bacteria arose earlier during the history of life on Earth doesn’t make them somehow less complex or primitive.  All the species alive today have evolved and adapted to find its way through the world long enough to produce offspring; all are “equally evolved”.  In the context of biology, newer isn’t necessarily better; evolution isn’t a process of gradual refinement towards an improved version, but rather a question of stumbling along just well enough to make it into the next generation.

The view that evolution somehow involves progress is as profoundly incorrect as it is common. There is no such thing as “evolutionary progress”; evolution is more like an arms race than march of progress. An excellent analogy used by some biologists is the Red Queen (from Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass): we’re all running as fast as we can just to stay in place.

MYTH: You are a distinct, coherent individual. FACT: Your individuality comprises an ecosystem.

We like to think of ourselves as coherent individuals, but this isn’t necessarily true. Of course, one problem with this is the old “Delphic boat” paradox — we replace most of the cells in our body during the course of our life (and also undergo huge psychological changes), so how can we be the same individual? That’s an entertaining and intriguing philosophical quandary, but I actually want to make a different point based on our biology.

Your skin, gut and mouth (and that of every other human) are teeming with thousands of different kinds of bacteria. In fact, there are ten times more microbe cells than human cells in the average adult body. In other words, when measured by number of cells, the human body is 90% microbial cells and only about 10% animal (human) cells. These microbes also represent a vast source of genetic information. The Human Microbiome Project has identified over 29,000 novel, unique proteins from only 178 species so far; by comparison, the human genome only has about 23,000 genes. While some of these critters seem to play an important role in our health and well-being, the truth is that we simply don’t know what (if anything) most of them do, besides making a comfortable living in or on our bodies without doing enough harm to cause a ruckus. Of course, it’s probably a bit more complicated than that; for example, Helicobacter pylori, a gut bacteria known to cause gastric ulcers, has recently been found to protect against allergy-induced asthma. The importance of our gut flora is an exciting and active field of research at the moment, with a recent study suggesting that our microbiota may impact aspects of our health ranging from obesity to immune response.

It’s been said that “no man is an island”, but now we have to contend with the fact that we are not even individuals, but rather landscapes supporting a vast ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and viruses.  A “landscape” probably is the best description since, strictly speaking, your gut, lungs, etc are exterior surfaces of your body.

MYTH: Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. FACT: Men are from Earth; women are from Earth. Deal with it.

This seems like such an obvious, resonant truth, doesn’t it? Of course, it’s important to remember that stereotypes aren’t always true…but bearing that in mind, men certainly do seem to think about sex more, don’t they? Women tend to be more choosy than men, who sleep around a lot more. Sure, some part of this might be due to social conditioning…but men and women are still basically different, right? After all, it makes sense: millions of years of evolution shaped men into horny creatures that will scatter their sperm everywhere and women into choosy creatures with an instinct to nurture and nurse their young. Right?

Wrong. The logic seems sound, but unfortunately it isn’t based in facts. Men and women don’t actually seem to have any significant differences in sexual attitudes or activity. Here’s the table of conclusions from the study by Conley:

Conclusions from ConleyTo expand on the first few points just a bit:

  • Gender preferences for partners disappeared when they considered actual or current partners, rather than an ideal.
  • On average, men reported a preference for more partners, but this turned out to be because of a few men who wanted lots of partners, skewing the average; when you look at the median preference (or central tendency) for each group, the difference disappears.
  • Men report having more sexual partners than women. However, this difference disappears when they are connected to a (fake) polygraph — men seem to exaggerate about how many partners they’ve had, perhaps to meet some social expectation.
  • Men tend to think about sex more often than women, but they also think about food and sleep more often. In other words, men think about their personal needs more often than women do, perhaps because they are socialized to be “agentic and self-focused”.

Greg Laden has also written an excellent blog post about the origins of gender and sexual orientation. I particularly like his point that a (simplified) combination of N factors influencing gender would lead to 2N possible genders. As he put it:

The interesting thing about this is that a cursory examination of potential human gender diversity from a purely biological point of view suggests that there are at least dozens of “genders” but the vast majority of cultures define (or even allow) only a few. Perhaps culture, in this case, is more restrictive than biology. Which, to a behavioral biologist, is not much of a shock, though it might be if considered from a broader social science perspective.

Men and women are different because we choose (consciously or not) to raise them differently. We show different expectations and provide different role models for them; we reward and chastise them differently. I can’t resist the opportunity for a quick digression about how we dress children. Our modern habit of dressing boys in blue and girls in pink actually dates from around the baby boomer generation; before then, the tendency was the opposite (or just plain white clothes for infants). Here’s a quote from an early 20th century publication:

“The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” — Infants’ Department, 1918

It was also common for young boys to wear a dress for the first few years (until they were “breeched“). Here’s a photo from the Smithsonian showing Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was about 3 years old:

Franklin Roosevelt around 3 years old (Image from Smithsonian)

I’d like to stress that my main point isn’t actually about whether or not men and women are identical.  Although I have certainly argued against the idea that gender roles are the results of significant and relevant biological factors (i.e., that gender roles are “natural”), my main point is that this is a particularly striking example of an area where preconceptions can and do have a strong effect on what kind of research is done and how we evaluate and respond to the results.  It’s far to easy to gild our social choices with wishy-washy science (in this case, evolutionary sociobiology) in an attempt to justify them.  The very act of asking certain questions instead of others requires decisions that will inevitably reflect the social, political and ideological dynamic of the humans involved.

My Own Bias

Given that this post is supposed to highlight the relationship between science and socio-cultural factors, it would be remiss to ignore my own bias.  The decision to write about the interaction between science and society is, clearly, a political decision.  In choosing which “myths” to present, I inevitably project my own views about the world (or how it could/should be).  I might have chosen to address any range of subjects, but I wrote about some things that matter to me (for whatever reason).  We like to think that science provides some kind of objective truths, but which questions we ask and how we report and interpret the results will always be affected by our social, cultural and political filters. The scientific endeavour, though a profound and valiant undertaking, is nevertheless a quintessentially human one.

New Theory on Why Men Love Breasts


New Theory on Why Men Love Breasts
Posted by Natalie Wolchover
Men are programmed to like breasts, but it isn't for the reasons scientists once thought.          
                        Men are programmed to like breasts, but it isn’t for the reasons scientists once thought. CREDIT: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported | Gytha

Why do straight men devote so much headspace to those big, bulbous bags of fat drooping from women’s chests? Scientists have never satisfactorily explained men’s curious breast fixation, but now, a neuroscientist has struck upon an explanation that he says “just makes a lot of sense.”

Larry Young, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University who studies the neurological basis of complex social behaviors, thinks human evolution has harnessed an ancient neural circuit that originally evolved to strengthen the mother-infant bond during breast-feeding, and now uses this brain circuitry to strengthen the bond between couples as well. The result? Men, like babies, love breasts.

When a woman’s nipples are stimulated during breast-feeding, the neurochemical oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love drug,” floods her brain, helping to focus her attention and affection on her baby. But research over the past few years has shown that in humans, this circuitry isn’t reserved for exclusive use by infants.

Recent studies have found that nipple stimulation enhances sexual arousal in the great majority of women, and it activates the same brain areas as vaginal and clitoral stimulation. When a sexual partner touches, massages or nibbles a woman’s breasts, Young said, this triggers the release of oxytocin in the woman’s brain, just like what happens when a baby nurses. But in this context, the oxytocin focuses the woman’s attention on her sexual partner, strengthening her desire to bond with this person.

In other words, men can make themselves more desirable by stimulating a woman’s breasts during foreplay and sex. Evolution has, in a sense, made men want to do this.

Attraction to breasts “is a brain organization effect that occurs in straight males when they go through puberty,” Young told Life’s Little Mysteries. “Evolution has selected for this brain organization in men that makes them attracted to the breasts in a sexual context, because the outcome is that it activates the female bonding circuit, making women feel more bonded with him. It’s a behavior that males have evolved in order to stimulate the female’s maternal bonding circuitry.” [Why Do Men Have Nipples?]

So, why did this evolutionary change happen in humans, and not in other breast-feeding mammals? Young thinks it’s because we form monogamous relationships, whereas 97 percent of mammals do not. “Secondly, it might have to do with the fact that we are upright and have face-to-face sex, which provides more opportunity for nipple stimulation during sex. In monogamous voles, for example, the nipples are hanging toward the ground and the voles mate from behind, so this didn’t evolve,” he said. “So, maybe the nature of our sexuality has allowed greater access to the breasts.”

Young said competing theories of men’s breast fixation don’t stand up to scrutiny. For example, the argument that men tend to select full-breasted women because they think these women’s breast fat will make them better at nourishing babies falls short when one considers that “sperm is cheap” compared with eggs, and men don’t need to be choosy.

But Young’s new theory will face scrutiny of its own. Commenting on the theory, Rutgers University anthropologist Fran Mascia-Lees, who has written extensively about the evolutionary role of breasts, said one concern is that not all men are attracted to them. “Always important whenever evolutionary biologists suggest a universal reason for a behavior and emotion: how about the cultural differences?” Mascia-Lees wrote in an email. In some African cultures, for example, women don’t cover their breasts, and men don’t seem to find them so, shall we say, titillating.

Young says that just because breasts aren’t covered in these cultures “doesn’t mean that massaging them and stimulating them is not part of the foreplay in these cultures. As of yet, there are not very many studies that look at [breast stimulation during foreplay] in an anthropological context,” he said.

Young elaborates on his theory of breast love, and other neurological aspects of human sexuality, in a new book, “The Chemistry Between Us” (Current Hardcover, 2012), co-authored by Brian Alexander.

Vampire on The Prowl! Villagers Claim to Fear a Vampire


Villagers Claim to Fear a Vampire
Posted by Robert Roy Britt
bela lugosi as dracula          
                        Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula has influenced how many people picture vampires.

Depending on which version of “history” you subscribe to, vampires originated in Egypt, China or, most infamously, Romania, where the real Romanian prince Vlad Tepes (1431-1476) is thought to have been at least a partial model for the decidedly fictional Dracula of Bram Stoker’s imagination.

Or, if you’re to believe officials in the village of Zarozje, Dracula is alive and well in Serbia. Yes, fear is said to be spreading.

The fears revolve around Serbian vampire Sava Savanovic who is, it should be noted, acknowledged locally to be a fairy tale character. Still, villagers are packing around hawthorn stakes and garlic and putting holy crosses up over doorways.

“People are very worried. Everybody knows the legend of this vampire and the thought that he is now homeless and looking for somewhere else and possibly other victims is terrifying people,” Miodrag Vujetic, local municipal assembly member, told ABC News. “We are all frightened.”

Might it all be just a ploy to generate tourism? Maybe, or maybe not, ABC reports. Many people in the region “still believe in vampires and take them quite seriously,” said Balkan historian James Lyon.

In general, belief in vampires is rooted in the human propensity for superstition and false assumptions in olden times about what happens to buried bodies, writes LiveScience columnist Benjamin Radford, author of “Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries.” For example, if a grave were dug up, people might’ve mistaken ordinary decomposition processes — such as a body being surprisingly preserved for long periods if buried in winter — for supernatural phenomena.

Republican Ignoramuses | Grand Old Planet


Grand Old Planet

By

Earlier this week, GQ magazine published an interview with Senator Marco Rubio, whom many consider a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, in which Mr. Rubio was asked how old the earth is. After declaring “I’m not a scientist, man,” the senator went into desperate evasive action, ending with the declaration that “it’s one of the great mysteries.”

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

It’s funny stuff, and conservatives would like us to forget about it as soon as possible. Hey, they say, he was just pandering to likely voters in the 2016 Republican primaries — a claim that for some reason is supposed to comfort us.

But we shouldn’t let go that easily. Reading Mr. Rubio’s interview is like driving through a deeply eroded canyon; all at once, you can clearly see what lies below the superficial landscape. Like striated rock beds that speak of deep time, his inability to acknowledge scientific evidence speaks of the anti-rational mind-set that has taken over his political party.

By the way, that question didn’t come out of the blue. As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Rubio provided powerful aid to creationists trying to water down science education. In one interview, he compared the teaching of evolution to Communist indoctrination tactics — although he graciously added that “I’m not equating the evolution people with Fidel Castro.” Gee, thanks.

What was Mr. Rubio’s complaint about science teaching? That it might undermine children’s faith in what their parents told them to believe. And right there you have the modern G.O.P.’s attitude, not just toward biology, but toward everything: If evidence seems to contradict faith, suppress the evidence.

The most obvious example other than evolution is man-made climate change. As the evidence for a warming planet becomes ever stronger — and ever scarier — the G.O.P. has buried deeper into denial, into assertions that the whole thing is a hoax concocted by a vast conspiracy of scientists. And this denial has been accompanied by frantic efforts to silence and punish anyone reporting the inconvenient facts.

But the same phenomenon is visible in many other fields. The most recent demonstration came in the matter of election polls. Coming into the recent election, state-level polling clearly pointed to an Obama victory — yet more or less the whole Republican Party refused to acknowledge this reality. Instead, pundits and politicians alike fiercely denied the numbers and personally attacked anyone pointing out the obvious; the demonizing of The Times’s Nate Silver, in particular, was remarkable to behold.

What accounts for this pattern of denial? Earlier this year, the science writer Chris Mooney published “The Republican Brain,” which was not, as you might think, a partisan screed. It was, instead, a survey of the now-extensive research linking political views to personality types. As Mr. Mooney showed, modern American conservatism is highly correlated with authoritarian inclinations — and authoritarians are strongly inclined to reject any evidence contradicting their prior beliefs. Today’s Republicans cocoon themselves in an alternate reality defined by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and only on rare occasions — like on election night — encounter any hint that what they believe might not be true.

And, no, it’s not symmetric. Liberals, being human, often give in to wishful thinking — but not in the same systematic, all-encompassing way.

Coming back to the age of the earth: Does it matter? No, says Mr. Rubio, pronouncing it “a dispute amongst theologians” — what about the geologists? — that has “has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States.” But he couldn’t be more wrong.

We are, after all, living in an era when science plays a crucial economic role. How are we going to search effectively for natural resources if schools trying to teach modern geology must give equal time to claims that the world is only 6.000 years old? How are we going to stay competitive in biotechnology if biology classes avoid any material that might offend creationists?

And then there’s the matter of using evidence to shape economic policy. You may have read about the recent study from the Congressional Research Service finding no empirical support for the dogma that cutting taxes on the wealthy leads to higher economic growth. How did Republicans respond? By suppressing the report. On economics, as in hard science, modern conservatives don’t want to hear anything challenging their preconceptions — and they don’t want anyone else to hear about it, either.

So don’t shrug off Mr. Rubio’s awkward moment. His inability to deal with geological evidence was symptomatic of a much broader problem — one that may, in the end, set America on a path of inexorable decline

Iceman Mummy Found | Science News


FROZEN FARMER The 5,300-year-old Iceman mummy found in the Alps was part of a wave of immigrants that moved into Europe as agriculture spread from the Middle East, a new genetic analysis finds.          more >>
© South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, EURAC, Samadelli, Staschitz

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  • MALIGNANT GROWTH A glioblastoma tumor (green) formed in a mouse’s brain after scientists tweaked two cancer-related genes in a small number of brain cells called astrocytes (red). more >>
    Image courtesy of Eric Bushong
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  • NEW ORLEANS — Fearful associations can be knocked back during sleep, research in mice shows. After receiving an injection of a drug, a nasty link between a scent and a painful foot shock faded as the mice slumbered. 10.18.12 | more >>

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  • Astronomers searching for Earthlike worlds need look no further than Alpha Centauri, the stellar system next door. 10.16.12 | more >>

  • Carbon dioxide has been vilified for decades as a driver of global warming. A new study finds signs that CO2, exhaled in every breath, can exert an equally worrisome threat — impaired cognition — in nearly every energy-efficient classroom, meeting hall or office space. 10.16.12 | more >>

  • Despite what the fashion magazines tell you, 40 isn’t the new 30. Seventy is. 10.15.12 | more >>

  • The oft-maligned teenage brain is getting some reputation rehab. When offered the incentive of a modest reward in a recent experiment, teens took more time than adults to make a thoughtful, reasoned decision. 10.15.12 | more >>

  • One of the most exciting physics discoveries in recent years may not be a discovery after all. Reports of “supersolidity,” in which solid helium flows through itself without friction, may turn out be something far more ordinary: the everyday stiffening of a material. 10.12.12 | more >>

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  • Men with high blood levels of lycopene — the compound that makes tomatoes red — are about half as likely to have a stroke as those low on lycopene, researchers in Finland report October 9 in Neurology. 10.11.12 | more >>

  • Genetically engineered embryonic stem cells in the lab turn on a developmental program similar to the one thyroid glands go through in the body, Francesco Antonica of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium and colleagues report online October 10 in Nature. Cells following this thyroid development program form hollow, hormone-producing spheres like those found in a normal thyroid gland. 10.11.12 | more >>

  • Rusty red stains on the head of a fossilized segmented creature found in southwestern China are a paleontological record-breaker: They are the remains of the oldest arthropod brain ever found. The imprint of the 520-million-year-old critter’s three-part brain indicates that complex nervous systems evolved fairly early in animal evolution, among the ancestors of insects, centipedes and crustaceans. 10.10.12 | more >>

  • As detective stories go, the Mystery of the Missing Xenon may not have the catchiest title. But scientists in Germany say they might have cracked this long-standing enigma. 10.10.12 | more >>

  • Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University in Durham, N.C., and Brian Kobilka of Stanford University will share the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry for work on molecules that help cells communicate with the outside world. 10.10.12 | more >>

  • Evil geniuses, commence drooling. Scientists have figured out how to remotely control a cell’s self-destruction. Magnets that guide the behavior of tiny metal beads can be used to flip on a cell’s death switch, kick-starting the cell’s demolition. The approach might one day be used to kill cancer cells or orchestrate other cellular events without drugs or incisions. 10.09.12 | more >>

  • A dollop of living yellow ooze has aced a test of navigation, showing that you don’t really need a mind to make spatial memories. 10.09.12 | more >>

  • Two scientists have won the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics for their pioneering work in quantum optics, a field that manipulates light and matter to measure very precise properties of single particles. 10.09.12 | more >>

  • For pregnant women, diets rich in fish can offer their babies protection against  developing behaviors associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a new study finds. Yet for most Americans, fish consumption is the leading source of exposure to mercury — a potent neurotoxic pollutant that has been linked to a host of health problems, including delays in neural development. 10.08.12 | more >>

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Miracle Mongering Catholic Fascists Persecute Freethinker


FIR against rationalist for questioning ‘miracle’

Man files complaint against Sanal Edamaruku who dismissed water dripping from Jesus statue as due to capillary action, saying he had made statements against the Church

Jyoti Punwani

Mumbai was the birthplace of the Indian   Rationalist Association (IRA), founded in 1930 by Mumbaikar R P Paranjpe.   Almost a century later, it has also become the first city to have an FIR filed against the President of the IRA.

The FIR has been filed by another Mumbaikar, Agnelo Fernandes, President of the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum.

CR 61/2012, Juhu Police Station, has been filed against miracle-buster Sanal Edamaruku, who is also founder-president of the Rationalist International,   which has scientists such as Richard Dawkins in it.

The FIR has been filed under IPC Sec 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. The offence is cognizable and non-bailable.

The whole story began on March 5, when during a TV programme in Delhi, Sanal  dismissed reports that the “dripping cross” outside Vile Parle’s Velankanni   church was a miracle. TV-9 asked him to investigate and flew him down on   March 10. Sanal visited the spot and took pictures.

Born to rationalist parents, Sanal has, for the last 30 years, travelled across the country demonstrating the science behind supposed miracles. He has exposed the man-made nature of the ‘divine flame’ at Sabarimala, and successfully challenged Hindu godmen on TV.

Later on March 10, Sanal attributed the water dripping from the Jesus statue   to capillary action of underground water near the cross. His photographs,   displayed on TV-9, showed seepage on the wall behind the cross and on the   ground near its base. “I removed one of the stones covering a canal for dirty   water nearby, and found that water had been blocked there. Once water is   blocked, it will find an outlet, if not downwards, then upwards. Every student knows that trees get water through capillary action.’’

Sanal said that when he reached the spot, a priest was leading a prayer on the road near the cross; water from the cross had been collected in a bucket   and was being distributed to those gathered there. He was given a photograph of the statue dripping water with the word ‘miracle’ written on it. He said   he was not allowed to take a sample of the water for chemical analysis.

During the subsequent TV discussions in Delhi and Mumbai, Sanal accused the Catholic Church of “miracle mongering’’. Interestingly, in Mumbai, Archbishop Agnelo Gracias, who joined the discussion, categorically stated that the   Church had not described the event as a miracle and would do so only after   conducting investigations. The Archbishop also claimed that the Church was not anti-science and, in fact, it had established the Pontifical Academy of   Sciences, of which Galileo had been a member.

At that point, Sanal pointed out that the Church had imprisoned Galileo, and burnt scientist Giordano Bruno at the stake, and Pope John Paul II had even apologised for it. He also asked the Archbishop what he had to say about the   Vatican indulging in exorcism, to which the Archbishop replied that though he   had not come across any case of “possession’’, he could not rule it out.

All through the discussion, the other panelists kept warning Sanal that they would file FIRs against him if he didn’t apologise for his allegations against the Church.

The discussion ended with Sanal declaring that the Church’s intolerance had resulted in the Dark Ages in Europe. “Don’t try to bring the Dark Ages to India,” he said.

Fernandes lodged a complaint against Sanal at Juhu Police Station on April 10. Another complaint was lodged at the MIDC Police Station. In his complaint, Fernandes states that statements made against the Church and the   Pope by Sanal had hurt his religious feelings.

Sanal, who lives in Delhi, said, “The Indian Constitution enjoins me to develop scientific temper. Let them arrest me, I’m not going to stop doing my fundamental duty.’’

A Sanal Edamuruku Defence Committee has been convened by lawyer N D Pancholi.   Meanwhile, Mumbai police have called him here for questioning.

Support the Sanal Edamaruku Defence Fund with your donation.

SCIENCE NEWS


Skulls from Triceratops (bottom) and Torosaurus (top) have revealed old and young individuals in both species, challenging the claim that one dinosaur is merely the younger version of the other. Full Story N. Longrich

seperator

Measuring the leap of a lizard Creatures use their tails to balance during complex maneuvers Vying for the title of World’s Fastest Cell Scientists film 58 kinds of mobile cells to study movement Back to the moon’s future Orbiter scouts oldest spots on the lunar surface for prospective landing sites

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Latest Science News

This composite image captured by the Hubble shows the positions of the dark matter core (blue), galaxies (orange) and gas (green) in the train wreck cluster, formed by colliding galaxies. Full Story NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee/UC Davis, A. Mahdavi/San Francisco State Univ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

seperator

Measuring the leap of a lizard Creatures use their tails to balance during complex maneuvers Vying for the title of World’s Fastest Cell Scientists film 58 kinds of mobile cells to study movement Back to the moon’s future Orbiter scouts oldest spots on the lunar surface for prospective landing sites
Plants’ reproductive weaponry unfurled

        3.5.12        –        Botanical tricks include adhesion and bubbles to spread their spores        Found in: Life and Matter & Energy

Are Floating Homes The Future?


Floating Homes Are The Future

Floating HomeMany people are aware of problems such as glacial melt and overpopulation, yet when it comes to how these will impact the way we live on this planet in the future, most people don’t know where to start. The fact is, issues such as these will cause many toxic problems throughout the world, the worst by far being the fact that land will likely become inhabitable. While this would’ve likely meant the end of civilization in the past, the constant advancement of technology ensures that we will one day be able to expand to the waters of the world.

Since most people live in brick and mortar, wood or aluminum homes that exist on land, the world would have to go through a massive shift in ideals, as society would be forced to move to the water. This, however, would not have to be a negative change, as new homes and communities could be built to exist solely on the oceans and seas of the world. While it would likely begin as small homes being crafted to float on the water, many people believe that entire floating cities will find their way into existence in the future; cities that would be clean, affordable, and “green” in every way possible.

While the technology for this isn’t necessarily one-hundred percent there yet, it is certainly getting there. Jacque Fresco, mastermind behind The Venus Project, is a huge proponent of what he calls “memory metal,” metal that can be bent into whatever shape or form one would like and – when contacted with a certain heat – will return to its original state. Fresco believes that memory metal will be used to create floating structures in the future, as it can be easily transported, broken down and rebuilt with the simple application of heat. Those who are proponents of movements like The Venus Project believe that floating homes and cities are inevitable because of the way mankind has treated the planet thus far. Rises in crime, population and global warming all point to a wasteful future if nothing is done, and chances are the land will one day become completely nonviable. Since the planet is mostly water, however, the Earth is ripe with opportunity to create floating, sustainable communities for people to live, work and thrive upon.

As work continues to be done to support the advancement of technology necessary to turning these ideals into a reality, people the world over are on board with the possibility of floating cities in the future. While Fresco’s work may seem entirely futuristic and possibly even far-fetched to some, it is representative of a shift in consciousness that must occur if human beings are to continue living on this planet. His view of communities built out of reusable, sustainable materials is in stark contrast to the way most of the world operates today. The future of floating homes depends on those working to advance technology.  The more that get on board, the faster it will happen.

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What to expect from a Rick Perry administration: active suppression of science


What to expect from a Rick Perry administration: active suppression of science

Regular readers know I am no fan of Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry. The reasons for this are legion, including his stance on evolution and global warming.

Now there’s evidence it’s even worse than I thought: The Guardian is reporting that Governor Rick Perry’s administration in Texas is actively suppressing science. A report about the environmental impact of global warming on Texas was apparently edited by officials, “… deleting references to climate change, sea-level rise and wetlands destruction.”

This action smacks of scientific suppression and censorship. And before you accuse me of overreacting, the scientists involved in writing the report felt this editing was so bad that the original authors of the report asked for their names to be removed from the final version. Yegads.

This story was originally reported in the Houston Chronical, and Mother Jones has an example of the changes made. It’s starting to pop up in other venues as well like Climate Progress and Climate Science Watch.

Looking it all over, the charges that science is being suppressed hold up pretty well. John Anderson is a researcher at Rice University, and author of a chapter of the report heavily redacted by the agency in question, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). His opinion is clear:

That state of denial percolated down to the leadership of the [TCEQ]. The agency chief, who was appointed by Perry, is known to doubt the science of climate change. “The current chair of the commission, Bryan Shaw, commonly talks about how human-induced climate change is a hoax,” said Anderson.

Terrific. I’m not terribly surprised by this; after all, Perry nominated creationists to head up the Texas State Board of Education not just once, but three times. Putting a climate change denier in charge of an environmental commission is par for his course.

When Bush was President, science suppression was rampant when it disagreed with political ideology (which was very, very common). If Perry is elected, we can expect more of the same. I’m very glad to see Perry sinking in the polls right now, but as far as science goes, the other options aren’t much better.

As I’ve said before, if you’re a Republican and you support science, you need to make your voice heard. It’s now long-since become de rigeur for GOP candidates to deny all manners of science if they want to get elected. It may not be too late. Speak up… or forever be denied your peace.

via:- http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/10/18/what-to-expect-from-a-rick-perry-administration-active-suppression-of-science/

The Lunatic Ravings Of Religious Right Crazy John Hagee


Harry Potter Teaching Kids Witchcraft Because America Bows To Pagan God

by David Badash on September 16, 2011

Post image for Harry Potter Teaching Kids Witchcraft Because America Bows To Pagan God

Harry Potter is teaching kids witchcraft and America now bows to a Pagan god, warns Pastor John Hagee in his TV special, (apparently not from New York,) “Faith Under Fire.” And what is that “Pagan god?” Why, it’s called secular humanism, and it’s the scourge of the earth, evidently. Hagee, who is a Texas megachurch founder and author of the recent book, Can America Survive? Updated Edition: Startling Revelations and Promises of Hope, (actually, the author of a lot of books,) says that we can blame rape, spousal abuse, drugs, divorce and crime all on secular Humanism. Good Lord!

Thanks to Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch for this transcript and for the video:

Secular humanism is a pagan god and America is bowing at the shrine. It has filled our drug rehab centers, it has filled the divorce courts, it has filled the shelter for battered wives, it has filled the rape crisis centers, it has filled the mental hospitals and single bars, it has filled the penitentiaries and the roster guests for the brain-​dead television shows you see from New York.

Think about that, we’re in a moral free fall where your children can be taught witchcraft by Harry Potter; that Heather has two mommies; you can substitute Christmas for a midwinter holiday, call it anything you want to but don’t call it Christmas, kick God out of the Christmas event; you can let your daughter go to school and she can get an abortion without your permission or without your knowledge but she cannot get an aspirin without your knowledge.

Something is dreadfully wrong when you as the parent cannot control the destiny of your own child. America has turned its back from the God of the Bible and it is time for the church of Jesus Christ to stand up and speak up and say we have a right to the destiny of our own children!

Before you go dismissing crazies like Hagee, know this (Via Wikipedia):

Hagee is the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television ministry carried in the United States on 160 TV stations, 50 radio stations, and eight networks, including The Inspiration Network (INSP), Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and Inspiration Now TV. The ministries can be seen and heard weekly in 99 million homes. John Hagee Ministries is in Canada on the Miracle Channel and CTS and can be seen inAfrica, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and in most Third World nations.

In 2007, Hagee stated that he does not believe in global warming, and he also said that he sees the Kyoto Protocol as a conspiracy aimed at manipulating the U.S. economy. Also, Hagee has condemned the Evangelical Climate Initiative, an initiative “signed by 86 evangelical leaders acknowledging the seriousness of global warming and pledging to press for legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions.”

Hagee denounces abortion, and stopped giving money to Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center when it began performing the procedure.

He has spoken out against homosexuality, linking its presence in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina as an act of divine retribution. He said in 2006, “I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are — were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.” However, on April 25, 2008, Hagee clarified his comments regarding Hurricane Katrina by saying, “But ultimately neither I nor any other person can know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina. I should not have suggested otherwise.”

Want to know what really scares Hagee? Why, it’s secular Humanism. Here’s why (via Wikipedia):

Secular Humanism is a comprehensive life stance that focuses on the way human beings can lead happy and functional lives. Though it posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or God, it neither assumes humans to be inherently or innately good, nor presents humans as “above nature” or superior to it. Rather, the Humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of Secular Humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology — be it religious or political — must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of Secular Humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy.

(All emphases mine.)

Frankly, I’ve never understood why anyone would need to believe in or pray to God to know right from wrong. Perhaps secular Humanism isn’t the problem, perhaps it’s the answer.

Ann Coulter – Basking In Her Own (Self-Confessed) Ignorance of Science


More Coulter Stupidity on Evolution

by Ed Brayton

Not content to show her complete ignorance of evolutionary biology once, Ann Coulter doubles down with yet another screed that would get her flunked by a competent high school science teacher. She begins with this unintentionally amusing statement:

More people know the precepts of kabala than know the basic elements of Darwinism.

And then she proves it by displaying her own ignorance of the subject.

Darwin’s theory was that a process of random mutation, sex and death, allowing the “fittest” to survive and reproduce, and the less fit to die without reproducing, would, over the course of billions of years, produce millions of species out of inert, primordial goo.The vast majority of mutations are deleterious to the organism, so if the mutations were really random, then for every mutation that was desirable, there ought to be a staggering number that are undesirable.

Actually, most mutations are neutral. Coulter, and all of us, have hundreds of mutations in our DNA at the very least, and the overwhelming majority of the time they affect us hardly at all. In some cases, they cause serious disease. And in other cases they can aid in survival. This is not even remotely controversial. We see it happen in both the lab and the wild literally every day.

If we sequence a genome and compare it to earlier versions of the same genome, we can identify the specific mutations. Richard Lenski has done exactly that with a population of bacteria, which are particularly useful for such experiments because they reproduce so quickly. Not only can we see the specific mutations and their effects, we can watch a particular trait evolve over time as new mutations pile up on top of the old ones and create new pathways and new molecular structures.

We also ought to find a colossal number of transitional organisms in the fossil record – for example, a squirrel on its way to becoming a bat, or a bear becoming a whale. (Those are actual Darwinian claims.)But that’s not what the fossil record shows. We don’t have fossils for any intermediate creatures in the process of evolving into something better. This is why the late Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard referred to the absence of transitional fossils as the “trade secret” of paleontology. (Lots of real scientific theories have “secrets.”)

Ah, another dishonest quote mine. This one irritated Gould himself, who addressed the question head on when he wrote:

Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists — whether though design or stupidity, I do not know — as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups. The punctuations occur at the level of species; directional trends (on the staircase model) are rife at the higher level of transitions within major groups.

And indeed they are. In fact, Gould himself wrote a good deal about one of the transitions that Coulter questions, the evolution of whales from land mammals (not from bears but from Artiodactyls). Paleontologists have now found numerous transitional forms from land mammals to modern whales and they form a fairly complete series. Gould wrote in 1994:

“If you had given me a blank piece of paper and a blank check, I could not have drawn you a theoretical intermediate any better or more convincing than Ambulocetus. Those dogmatists who by verbal trickery can make white black, and black white, will never be convinced of anything, but Ambulocetus is the very animal that they proclaimed impossible in theory.”

Coulter continues:

If you get your news from the American news media, it will come as a surprise to learn that when Darwin first published “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, his most virulent opponents were not fundamentalist Christians, but paleontologists.

Another lie. It’s certainly true that there were scientific critics of Darwin’s theory, but the primary opposition came from the church. Thus, the famous debate between Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce. What Coulter conveniently leaves out is that Darwin’s theory gained very rapid acceptance among scientists quite quickly because it explained such a wide range of data extremely well. And that continues to this day. Coulter doesn’t know any of this because she is as ignorant of the scientific literature on evolution as I am of auto mechanics. Unlike her, however, I don’t go around declaring that all auto mechanics don’t know a thing about how to fix a car or that the internal combustion engine couldn’t possibly work.

But things have only gotten worse for Darwin.Thirty years ago (before it was illegal to question Darwinism), Dr. David Raup, a geologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, said that despite the vast expansion of the fossil record: “The situation hasn’t changed much.”

To the contrary, fossil discoveries since Darwin’s time have forced paleontologists to take back evidence of evolution. “Some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record,” Raup said, “such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information.”

Another dishonest quote mine. What a shock that new evidence would alter explanations. This is, of course, one of the great strengths of science — and one of the great weaknesses of religion. More detailed information should modify our explanations, and in science they do.

The rest is more of the same, rote regurgitation of long-discredited creationist arguments. Ironically, the very man she quoted in her last ignorant diatribe on the subject, Michael Behe, accepts common descent and agrees that the fossil record clearly supports it. He just gives God a divine assist at the molecular level.

Evolution is a Jewish Conspiracy


Evolution is a Jewish conspiracy

by PZ Myers

The essay starts off stupidly enough.

In 1867 Karl Marx dedicated DasKapital to Charles Darwin.

Actually, no, he didn’t. It’s a fairly common lie in creationist circles, though, just like the others sprinkled throughout the story.

Modern creation science is led by an array of top-flight Ph.D. scientists, including biochemists, paleontologists, astronomers and geologists. It presents a formidable battery of evidence now knocking hundreds of holes in traditional evolutionary arguments. As never before, scientific creationism debunks the contrived “evidence” that evolutionary theory has fed on since Darwin.

No, it isn’t. Creation science is led by a gang of ignorant clods who can’t read a paper without mangling it.

But OK, so far this is just your standard modus operandi for creationists. The really weird stuff is shouted out in the title: JEWISH SUPREMACISTS USE EVOLUTION TO CORRUPT MANKIND. Did you know that evolution is a Jewish conspiracy to corrupt Western civilization?

Why doesn’t the scientific community abandon Darwin’s failed hypotheses? Simple: The Jewish-dominated media and educational establishment are determined that, like unconditional support of Israel, Holocaust mythology, hate laws, and “civil rights” favoritism, there will be no end to the relentless force-feeding of evolution. Belief in evolution is a prerequisite for Jewish supremacism‘s new-world order.

Yet anti-Zionist leadership on the right remains oblivious to the fact that evolution is the largest, ugliest, most aggressive tentacle of the Jewish revolutionary octopus. Anti-Zionists are often evolutionists, claiming that Jews evolved in a way that makes them inherently degenerate, subversive, and corruptive. They make the most Luciferian, dehumanizing fable ever invented by pseudo-science into a pillar of their thinking!

The Reverend Ted Pike is kind of obsessed with Jews. They’re behind everything.

You see, the degenerate Jews promote evolution, which led the Nazis to kill Jews, and we must organize resistance to the Jewish agenda and the Judaic threat, and we absolutely must support Israel without question. Every paragraph drips with anti-semitic bigotry, but at the same time he rants against the wicked anti-Zionists.

I’ve seen this often in fundamentalist Christians. Jews aren’t really people; they’re just props in the script of their eschatology. We have to keep them around because the True Final Solution is for Jesus to exterminate most of them and convert the survivors, and if we jump the gun and kill them all now, why, that would invalidate the Bible, which would be wicked.

The problem we face today originates in Jewish rebellion to Christ. It is primarily a moral issue which cannot be addressed by dehumanizing Jews or violence. It must be met with reason and persuasion, even love. The Bible presents Jewish apostasy as part of a long-range scenario that will ultimately result in anti-Christ world rule but also redemption of a remnant of Jews out of great tribulation at Christ’s second coming. The problem of Jewish supremacism ultimately is Christ’s problem, to be resolved by Him, not military or persecutive measures.

This is why Adolf Hitler and the Nazis must be damned. Not because they killed people, but because they lead us into “anti-biblical, evolutionary, racist errors”. We must support Israel because it’s a kind of holding pen for the Jews, where they will be annihilated in Armageddon, and you’re a bad, bad person if you begin the slaughter prematurely.

Despite the fact that I don’t have any evidence of any Jewish background in my lineage, I do have to cop to being an ugly evolutionary tentacle, and there are most certainly Jews in my readership. Does it make you feel all warm and happy and safe to peek into the minds of some of the most ardent Christian supporters of Israel?

Scientists find evidence for ‘chronesthesia,’ or mental time travel


Researchers have found evidence for “chronesthesia,” which is the brain’s ability to be aware of the past and future, and to mentally travel in subjective time. They found that activity in different brain regions is related to chronesthetic states when a person thinks about the same content during the past, present, or future.

http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-chronesthesia-mental.html

Ancient Humans Interbred With Us


22 December 2010 Last updated at 18:03 GMT


Ancient humans, dubbed ‘Denisovans’, interbred with us By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News

 

Professor Chris Stringer: “It’s nothing short of sensational – we didn’t know how ancient people in China related to these other humans”

Scientists say an entirely separate type of human identified from bones in Siberia co-existed and interbred with our own species.

The ancient humans have been dubbed Denisovans after the caves in Siberia where their remains were found.

There is also evidence that this group was widespread in Eurasia.

A study in Nature journal shows that Denisovans co-existed with Neanderthals and interbred with our species – perhaps around 50,000 years ago.

An international group of researchers sequenced a complete genome from one of the ancient hominins (human-like creatures), based on nuclear DNA extracted from a finger bone.

‘Sensational’ find

According to the researchers, this provides confirmation there were at least four distinct types of human in existence when anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) first left their African homeland.

Denisovan tooth
DNA from a tooth (pictured) and a finger bone show the Denisovans were a distinct group

Along with modern humans, scientists knew about the Neanderthals and a dwarf human species found on the Indonesian island of Flores nicknamed The Hobbit. To this list, experts must now add the Denisovans.

The implications of the finding have been described by Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London as “nothing short of sensational”.

Scientists were able to analyse DNA from a tooth and from a finger bone excavated in the Denisova cave in southern Siberia. The individuals belonged to a genetically distinct group of humans that were distantly related to Neanderthals but even more distantly related to us.

The finding adds weight to the theory that a different kind of human could have existed in Eurasia at the same time as our species.

Infographic

Researchers have had enigmatic fossil evidence to support this view but now they have some firm evidence from the genetic study carried out by Professor Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany.

“A species of early human living in Europe evolved,” according to Professor Paabo.

“There was a western form that was the Neanderthal and an eastern form, the Denisovans.”

The study shows that Denisovans interbred with the ancestors of the present day people of the Melanesian region north and north-east of Australia. Melanesian DNA comprises between 4% and 6% Denisovan DNA.

David Reich from the Harvard Medical School, who worked with Svante Paabo on the study, says that the fact that Denisovan genes ended up so far south suggests they were widespread across Eurasia: “These populations must have been spread across thousands and thousands of miles,” he told BBC News.

One mystery is why the Denisovan genes are unique in modern Melanesians and are not found in other Eurasian groups that have so far been sampled.

‘Fleeting encounter’

Professor Stringer believes it is because there may have been only a fleeting encounter as modern humans migrated through South-East Asia and then on to Melanesia.

Denisova cave The remains were excavated at a cave site in southern Siberia

“It could be just 50 Denisovans interbreeding with a thousand modern humans. That would be enough to produce this 5% of those archaic genes being transferred,” he said.

“So the impact is there but the number of interbreeding events might have been quite small and quite rare.”

No one knows when or how these humans disappeared but, according to Professor Paabo, it is very likely something to do with modern people because all the “archaic” humans, like Denisovans and Neanderthals disappeared sometime after Homo sapiens sapiens appeared on the scene.

“It is fascinating to see direct evidence that these archaic species did exist (alongside us) and it’s only for the last few tens of thousands of years that is unique in our history that we are alone on this planet and we have no close relatives with us anymore,” he said.

The study follows a paper published earlier this year by Professor Paabo and colleagues that showed there was interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals as they emerged from Africa 60,000 years ago.

Cannibal Mouse: The MythBusters Episode You Never Saw


 

Co-host Adam Savage tells – in grizzly detail – why Discovery Channel banned a compelling installment of their show. Presented at Maker Faire Bay Area 2010. [Click for full version of Adam’s talk]

Credit: FORA.tv

Iron Man Suit for Future Soldiers


CNNTech reports on comic book fiction becoming reality!

Raytheon is designing in real life what comic books and Hollywood have promised for years, a real life Iron Man-like suit. Raytheon is designing in real life what comic books and Hollywood have promised for years, a real life Iron Man-like suit. A lunchtime crowd is gathering beside the parking lot at Raytheon Sarcos, the defense contractor, on a recent day in Salt Lake City. White-collar workers from nearby office parks stand with their yogurt cups and sandwiches, watching with quiet awe as a man in a metal suit — sort of half-man, half-robot — performs superhuman feats of strength. This may be the closest these people will get to a real-life “Iron Man,” the character from the comic books and hit movies.

  • Raytheon is designing in real life what comic books and Hollywood have promised for years, a real life Iron Man-like suit.
    Raytheon is designing in real life what comic books and Hollywood have promised for years, a real life Iron Man-like suit.