… . PDF excerpt form Genie’s classic book.
I heard her speak in a presentation from the NCSE where one of the people she discussed was our old friend, Gov Rick Perry.
Eugenie Scott has spent 26 years helping teachers do what’s right for their students in the name of science. And while the need to defend the teaching of evolution and climate change certainly hasn’t disappeared, Scott announced today that she is stepping down later this year as the founding CEO and “the public face” of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).
“I think all nonprofits hope someday to put themselves out of business,” says Scott, now 67. “But I guess I found a sinecure,” she adds with a laugh.
Her leadership skills will be sorely missed, says Kenneth Miller, a biology professor at Brown University. “She’s incomparable, irreplaceable, and indispensable,” says Miller, who was a key figure in one of the center’s most decisive victories, a 2005 court case that blunted an attack on evolution by the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district. Scott was masterful at building the coalition needed to win the case, he adds.
The proposed Next Generation Science Standards—a set of voluntary teaching standards being developed by a coalition of states—offer strong support for teaching both evolution and climate change, she says. But that is also likely to mean more pushback from groups opposed to those subjects in the states that eventually adopt the standards. “So we anticipate that teachers will be looking for help,” Scott says. “And it will be up to NCSE and others to figure out ways to help them do what they are supposed to do.”
But uh, appointees of Rick Perry led efforts to block their implementation in Texas.
Already, though, earlier drafts of the plan were already rejected outright by the Texas State Board of Education, despite the fact that some teachers from that state were among the 41-member drafting committee for the new standards.
Because ya know, he and his supporters have other plans for education in Texas.
“I hear your mom was asking about evolution and, you know, it’s a theory that’s out there,” Perry told the boy. “It’s got some gaps in it, but in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”
School funding in Texas is in turmoil. State lawmakers slashed more than $4 billion from education this school year — one of the largest cuts in state history — and more than 12,000 teachers and support staff have been laid off.
Academic programs and transportation have been cut to the bone. Promising reforms are on hold or on the chopping block. Next year, the cuts could go even deeper.
These were on top of the huge reductions made when he refused stimulus funds in 2009.
About half of the education funds cut in the 2011 Texas Legislative session (it only meets every 2 years) has been restored. But that still leaves over $4B in 2009 dollars that have been cut leaving over 12,000 statewide teachers and other staff that need to be rehired in a state whose school age population has exploded over the last few years. The over worked and under paid educators in Texas have failed to deliver on standardized testing and moral has plummeted. As a result, Texas State Public school children have suffered but since those suffering the most are Hispanic, the Texas politics ignore it since they don’t vote for them anyway.
MOST Westerners think of Neanderthals as stumbling, bumbling, mumbling fools who aimlessly wandered the landscape eking out a miserable, forlorn existence. Yet Neanderthals lived longer in Europe than modern humans have, by several hundred thousand years, and survived good and bad times.
The “Neanderthals are inferior” attitude traces back to their earliest descriptions in the mid-1800s when the first Neanderthal was labeled as “freak” or an “idiot” or “incapable of moral and religious conception.” For many, the discoveries after 1865 confirmed these labels. Even the majority of human paleontologists supported this view.
But in the last 10 years there has been a major reassessment of the Neanderthals, and it turns out they share a lot of the behavior and capabilities of people in Europe today. This revolution in the way academics think about Neanderthals arises from discoveries in archaeology, re-evaluations of their anatomy and revelations about their genetic makeup.
The most amazing is the extraction of nuclear DNA sequences from Neanderthal remains, which show that Europeans derive up to 4 percent of their genes uniquely from Neanderthals. Some 80 gene sequences come directly from Neanderthals and include regulators of smell, vision, cell division, sperm integrity and smooth muscle contraction.
One gene we share with Neanderthals is FOXP2, part of the gene complex associated with language production. We know variants of this gene in modern people cause language dysfunction and it was long assumed Neanderthals had a nonmodern form. This was partly based on the general assumption that Neanderthals were not like us — and some argued that Neanderthals lacked the ability to produce the essential vowels of language — “a,” “e” and “u.”
New anatomical work refutes this, and the evidence from FOXP2 shows that Neanderthals had the exact genetic sequence found in fully vocal moderns.
HuffPo and YouGov are teaming up to take daily polls of Americans’ views on a diversity of issues. The latest one, described here, reveals a depressing fact: more than one-third of Americans would favor (either strongly or mildly) the establishment of Christianity as a state religion. 37% of Americans think that the U.S. has gone too far in separating church and state, 42% either believe that states are allowed by the U.S. Constitution to establish state religions (they are not so allowed), and 32% favor a Constitutional amendment making Christianity the official U.S. religion.
I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.
I don’t expect to die anytime soon. But it could happen this moment, while I am writing. I was talking the other day with Jim Toback, a friend of 35 years, and the conversation turned to our deaths, as it always does. “Ask someone how they feel about death,” he said, “and they’ll tell you everyone’s gonna die. Ask them, In the next 30 seconds? No, no, no, that’s not gonna happen. How about this afternoon? No. What you’re really asking them to admit is, Oh my God, I don’t really exist. I might be gone at any given second.”
Me too, but I hope not. I have plans. Still, illness led me resolutely toward the contemplation of death. That led me to the subject of evolution, that most consoling of all the sciences, and I became engulfed on my blog in unforeseen discussions about God, the afterlife, religion, theory of evolution, intelligent design, reincarnation, the nature of reality, what came before the big bang, what waits after the end, the nature of intelligence, the reality of the self, death, death, death.
More: I Do Not Fear Death
Sources are cited below. Please don’t comment on the following two points, because I’ll answer them here:
1) I know the lottery winning check in the video is made out to Andrew Whittaker, and I call him Jack Whittacker. In the time it takes you to point this out in the comments section, you could google the name and see why.
2) Yes, the story of the German bomber was true. My father survived, but the man standing next to him was killed. Whether or not the pilot spent a few seconds waving goodbye to a girlfriend I don’t know, but if he had dropped his bombs just a split second earlier, the outcome might have been very different.
3) It’s not clear whether VenomFangX runs the Horsewillbe channel. But the Horsewillbe video was the one that was nominated. Whatever he wants to call himself on YouTube, he’s still the same guy.
4) Thanks to all those who told me VenomFangX/Horsewillbe was not home-schooled by creationist parents. So my calculation of the chances of him reading a primary school textbook is based on fatuous information. Actually, I wasn’t serious.
If anybody’s interested here’s a link to the official webpage for Richard Lenski’s e-coli long term evolution experiment, the one I mentioned a few days ago. The project’s wikipedia page provides a good explanation for laymen.
This ongoing 25 year experiment shows not only that evolution by natural selection occurs, but that it is observable.
Basically, Linski started the experiment in 1988 by taking a specific strain of e coli and then preparing an alternate version of the same strain that was able to grow on Arabinose. Arabinose was not present in the growth medium, the difference between the two strains was simply included as a genetic marker intended to help identify any cross contamination that might occur during the daily procedures required by the experiment. He then took six identical cells from each strain, making twelve different populations, and put one each into a separate test tube filled with a mixed growth medium and placed them into an agitating incubator. In addition to glucose, the DM25 liquid growth medium contained citrate (citric acid.)
Note also that E. coli cannot use citrate to support growth; it serves only as a chelating agent in this medium.
Each day a small sample (about 1% by volume) is taken from each of the twelve populations, alternating between Arabicose and - populations to help identify any potential mistakes in procedure, and placed separately into a new test tube with fresh growth medium. The populations average 6.64 cell divisions per day, and the number of generations at this point now exceeds 56,000. Every 500 generations a long term sample is frozen from each population, providing the ability to go back and test the populations for genetic changes and to repeat any evolutionary steps observed from an earlier, genetically pure sample.
Between generation 30,000 and 30,500 something amazing happened in just one of the twelve populations, some of the e coli cells within it had evolved the ability to feed on the citrate. The inability of wild e coli to feed on citrate is considered a hallmark of the species, it’s one of the standard tests biological laboratories use to distinguish it from salmonella. The citrate eating mutants immediately thrived, and being able to metabolize a food source normal e coli cannot were able to outcompete their parent population, quickly becoming the dominant form within that culture line.
What’s interesting is that the researchers were able to not only prove via genetic testing that the evolution was not the result of any contamination, but were able to revive cells from the previously frozen long term samples from the population in question and watch the final evolutionary step occur again, though it occurred only on the order of one in a trillion cell divisions.
The source material has more detailed information and links to papers. The researchers believe that at least three different mutations were required for the evolution to citrate eating e coli, including at least one potentiating mutation that deteriorated the normal DNA repair mechanisms of the e coli cell, itself not adaptive but increasing the rate of mutation.
In his latest Worldnutdaily column, Ray Comfort takes dead aim at evolution and, predictably, completely misses the mark. It’s a weak effort even from a creationist, really. It’s nothing more than a bunch of ignorant blather and an attempt to shift the burden of proof.
Nothing is observable without the believer having to exercise faith. When hearing such a thought, the devout devotee rushes to his evolution site to cut and paste what he believes to be facts. Then he presents them en masse with the zeal of a fundamentalist religious zealot. He has faith in what he believes is evidence - what he hears about old bones, ideas and dating processes.
Isn’t it interesting how a fundamentalist religious zealot uses that very term as a criticism, indeed an insult? And yes, there are certainly plenty of people who accept evolution without really understanding it well and who cut and paste when arguing with a creationist without really knowing the evidence behind what they’re using. But so what? The same is true of the overwhelming majority of creationists participating in such arguments and that is not an argument for or against either evolution or creationism.
And this is also a rather anachronistic use of the term “faith.” Faith, as his Bible tells us, is believing without evidence. But the evidence for evolution is available for all to look at, analyze and evaluate. There are tens of thousands of scientists working in fields for which evolution is the single unifying theory that explains the data, and they publish their research for both their colleagues and laypeople to read and examine. One does not need faith to accept that evidence, one merely has to look at it and logically evaluate it.
Creationism on the other hand is observable. The Book of Genesis tells us that male and female were created in all the “kinds,” and in nature we see that except for a few hermaphroditic lowlifes, everything has male and female. Horses, cows, dogs, cats, elephants, giraffes, fleas, fish, kangaroos, polar bears and people all have male and female. That’s what the Bible says, and that’s what we observe in nature and in the fossil record.
A few hermaphroditic lowlifes? He’s making a moral judgment about animals he has likely never even heard of? There are, in fact, lots of species that are hermaphroditic in very fascinating ways. There are sequential hermaphrodites, which are born one gender and change to another later in life (several species of teleost fish and gastropods). Some of them change from male to female (clownfish, for instance), some from female to male, and some in both directions (different species of reef fish do both of those last two).
* Music Trivia: Jo Allen, the singer in the video, never achieved great fame but besides penning this great song he also created “Jealous” which was later charted by Robert Palmer. Jo Allen (Alan Powell) is a drummer by trade, and the drummer filling in for this video later formed his own band and had a regional hit “Don’t Get Mad, Just get Even”
We have dreamed about it for so long. We’ve told stories, made movies, imagined what it would be like when we humans have our first “close encounter” with an intelligent alien, a creature about our size, who can gaze back, talk (even if we can’t understand what’s being said) who can scare us, thrill us, make us feel its mind. Who wouldn’t want a moment like the one in E.T., when the little alien puts out his finger? But that’s the movies.
We now know how big the universe is, how far the stars are from each other. Just as I was getting used to the idea that even if there’s intelligent life out there, there’s no way we’ll ever be able to find the light years to get together, I opened Chip Walter’s new book, Last Ape Standing, and discovered — it’s already happened.
The truth of evolution is more fun than the silly creationists can imagine. And I give thanks to God for that reality :)
Saying students are getting only one side of the debate, a state senator wants to free teachers to tell students why some believe there is no such thing as human-caused “global warming.”
More specifically, SB 1213 says school boards and officials cannot prohibit a teacher from helping students analyze and review the “strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories,” which means teachers would be free to tell students not only that they believe global warming is a myth, but would open the door for teachers to argue for the scientific validity of “intelligent design” as an alternative to evolution.
The proposal by Sen. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, says school boards must create an environment “that encourages pupils to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.”
The bill has all the markings of model legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative business-backed organization, to suppress certain issues like global warming, he said.
Burges said she did not get the language from the Legislative Exchange Council, saying it came from Tennessee. But she made it clear she believes only the environmentalists’ viewpoint is being presented.
“I just feel that our students are being inundated with things in classrooms,” she said. “Students should be given all sides of the story,” Burges said, something they may not be getting now.
“It actually says in the textbooks that if you don’t believe in global change that you’re very misinformed,” Burges said.
‘Skull Valley’, heh.