Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Yanoconodon Deniers

No surprise, but creationists are denying that there's anything interesting about the ear of Yanoconodon. The (w)hol[l]y (ignorant) people at Creation Safari were quick to issue a denial, based on nothing more than they don't believe it.

In more hopeful news, a school board in Oregon fired a part-time biology teacher for injecting the Bible and creationism into the classroom (read the article, because the headline makes it seem as if all he did was mention the Bible; he did more than that).

Monday, March 19, 2007


The Heavy - and Unqualified - Hand of Philip Cooney

Henry Waxman's (D-CA) Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a memorandum today documenting hundreds of anti-science edits made by a Bush Administration official to the Administration's Strategic Plan of the Climate Change Science, the EPA's Report on the Environment, and the annual report to Congress, Our Changing Planet.

According to the memo, at least 181 edits were made to the Strategic Plan to exaggerate scientific uncertainties; an additional 113 edits deemphasized the human role in global warming.

Were these edits made by climate change scientists concerned with scientific accuracy? No. Most of them were made by Philip Cooney, formerly Bush's Chief of Staff of the Council on Environmental Quality. Cooney was (and is - he now works for ExxonMobil) an energy lobbyist. He isn't a trained scientist; his undergraduate degree is in economics, and he has a law degree. Mostly, he's an industry lackey, putting the short-term profits of energy companies above the welfare of the rest of humanity (if he possesses humanity).


Noted Paleoanthropologist Dies

F. Clark Howell, an important University of California at Berkeley Professor of Paleoanthropology, died on March 10, 2007, at his home is Berkeley.

Dr. Howell is credited with facilitating the modern development of paleoanthropology by integrating "...archeology, geology, biological anthropology, ecology, evolutionary biology, primatology, and ethography," according to anthropologist Tim White.

Howell's most important dig was in the Omo basin in Ethiopa, where his team discovered fossils and tools that dated Australopithecoids to four million years ago.

Professor Howell was born in 1925, and received his graduate degree from the University of Chicago.


Free Speech

David Frum, of the American Enterprise Institute, has a post up about a group of Republican students who are under investigation by San Francisco State University for "attempts to incite violence" and "creating a hostile environment."

The students had trampled paper copies of the Hamas and Hezbollah flags.

If the facts are as they were reported by Frum, he's quite right to be angry with the university. The actions of the students are a protected form of free speech.


Want to Evolve? Move North!

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have determined that speciation (and extinction) occurs more quickly in temperate climates than in the tropics - contrary to what has long been assumed.

"Our analysis shows that new species actually evolve faster as we move towards the poles. It would take one species in the tropics three to four million years to evolve into two distinct species, whereas at 60 degrees latititude, it could take as little as one million years." However, species go extinct at a faster clip closer to the poles, so there are more species in the tropics than there are in temperate zones.

Make sense, doesn't it? There are more environmental challenges confronting species in temperate zones ( for example, temperature and rainfall variations, which create more niche opportunities within ecosystems), so the possibilities of genetic mutations being selected for (and against, since extinction also occurs at a faster rate) increase.

Classic example of evolution in action!


Chrisitianity in Public

Jerry Falwell has a post in which he says "...secularists and civil libertarians...want to purge Christianity from the public square..."

Who does? I've never read or heard anyone say that. "Secularists" and "civil libertarians" oppose the government expression of religion, but any individual can be as religious as he or she wants in public.

This is just demogoguery - red meat for people who don't think or read for themselves.

As an aside, I personally like the notion that religion should be taught in public schools - as history and literature. Of course, more than Christianity will need to be taught (and by teachers capable of refraining from pushing their personal beliefs). A scholarly analysis of religion is needed if people are actually going to make intelligent choices about religion and politics.

Of course, that won't fly, because people like Falwell only want their personal religion taught.

Friday, March 16, 2007


McCain is Stupid on HIV

HIV/AIDS is at least as important as the Iraq War, and HIV/AIDS has been in the news a lot longer. But Senator John McCain didn't "know" his position on HIV, condoms, etc. When asked if contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV, McCain responded, "You've stumped me."

This is a guy who wants us to give him the authority to make all kinds of decisions about health care for us.

I don't think so.

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