Conflict Frame to play out in Minneapolis…tomorrow

When I saw Chris Mooney in NY this week, the first thing he did was throw a blow — he punched me in the shoulder. Oh, he said stuff like “hello” and “good to see you,” but I think that was just to throw me off my guard. And then we threatened to buy each other beer — in Mooney’s case, bad beer — so you know this is going to be a ferocious grudge match. You’ll want to be there. Here’s the announcement:

Speaking Science 2.0: New Directions in Science Communications
Friday, September 28, 2007
7:30 p.m.
Bell Museum Auditorium
$5 Suggested Donation

Seed magazine writers and influential science bloggers gather to discuss new directions in science communication. This lively panel discussion will cover a range of topics, including science and culture, public engagement with science, the role of scientists in the public discussion of science, and communication via the Internet, film, museums and other media. Author and journalist Chris Mooney, American University communications professor Matthew Nisbet, and University of Minnesota anthropologist Greg Laden will join moderator Jessica Marshall, a U of M science journalism professor. A reception in Dinkytown will follow the event. Co-sponsored by the Bell Museum of Natural History; Seed Magazine/ScienceBlogs; The Humphrey Institute’s Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy; and the Minnesota Journalism Center.

Shanai Matteson, the organizer, sent along some other useful information to go along with this announcement:

  • The Bell Museum is on the University of Minnesota campus at 17th and

  • You can take a #3, #6, #16, or #50 to get there…it’s very accessible by
    bike too!

  • There may or may not be a mud pit.

  • There WILL be a lot to talk about.

  • The reception will be at a place called Kafe 421, which is within walking
    distance of the museum and serves wine and beer and really great
    mediterranean appetizers.

  • You don’t need a ticket, but you can reserve a seat ahead of time by
    calling the Bell Museum registrations office at 612.624.9050

I don’t know about you, but I wish to hear more about this mud pit. I know Chris and Matt are very pretty, but I’m not going to wrassle anyone in a mud pit unless they are even prettier and don’t have that manly stubble Mooney always has.

Uh-oh. I just noticed what was up top on Mooney’s page. No! We are not going to resolve the conflicts this way.

Evil Catholic propaganda

What a charming representative for Christianity! A Catholic archbishop is claiming that condoms and retroviral drugs have been intentionally spiked with HIV. That’s getting down and dirty with best evangelical strategy: lie, smear, and promote evil ignorance.

Archbishop Chimoio told our reporter that abstention, not condoms, was the best way to fight HIV/Aids.

“Condoms are not sure because I know that there are two countries in Europe, they are making condoms with the virus on purpose,” he alleged, refusing to name the countries.

“They want to finish with the African people. This is the programme. They want to colonise until up to now. If we are not careful we will finish in one century’s time.”

Please, Archbishop Chimoio, tell me of these amazing human societies where abstinence actually works.

I wonder if those mysterious unnamed countries are also where Ruloff’s mysterious unnamed researchers live.

He said he knew researchers, whom he would not name, who had studied cellular mechanisms and made findings “riddled with metaphysical implications” and suggestive of an intelligent designer. But they are afraid to report them, he said.

Liars for Jesus all begin to sound alike after a while, don’t they?

Oh, well. Ruloff is only trying to keep people stupid. Chimoio is trying to kill them.

He seemed like such a smart fellow

I met Thomas Martin the other day in NY — he’s the fellow who wrote the winning essay in the Seed science writing contest. I had no idea he was a flaming creationist! At least, you’d get the impression that his essay was ID-friendly from the assessment of Uncommon Descent.

Of course, what the essay actually says is that science works because “it compels smart people to incessantly try to disprove the ideas generated by other smart people,” and that one goal of science is to “find those ideas that can withstand the long and hard barrage of evidence-based argument.” I don’t think Martin was being at all kind to ID, because I’m afraid ID withers before the evidence.

It is interesting, though, that the first response of the creationists to an essay on science literacy is to quote-mine it.

Spiegel gets into the act, too

That movie Expelled is acquiring an international reputation: Spiegel reports on Unfreiwillige Kreationisten-PR: Forscher fühlen sich von Filmemachern missbraucht (if you’d rather, here’s the google translation). By the time the film opens, what it will be best known for is that they had to lie to get their interviews.

(They quote me. They get my name wrong. Oh, well, it’s part of my grand plan: from now on, every scientist with a weird name you’ve never heard of before? Just assume it’s me. I shall be ubiquitously mysterious.)

Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention

And it’s in an article by Cornelia Dean, one of their best science people. I have to single out this short summary of the argument as a good example of the right way to handle the “controversy”.

The growing furor over the movie, visible in blogs, on Web sites and in conversations among scientists, is the latest episode in the long-running conflict between science and advocates of intelligent design, who assert that the theory of evolution has obvious scientific flaws and that students should learn that intelligent design, a creationist idea, is an alternative approach.

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.”

I’ve emphasized that last paragraph because it is so good to see: instead of the usual dreadful “he said, she said” nonsense that passes for balance, Dean plainly states the scientific position, which does not include the supernatural. But on to the premise of the film, and the dishonest protestations of its makers:

[Read more…]

Another review of Pivar’s Lifecode

Denyse O’Leary finds another review of Lifecode … and reveals again her own lack of discrimination. It’s by Jerry Bergman, a deranged young earth creationist who works for the Institute of Creation Research. Why??? This is a man with disreputable credentials afflicted with a ridiculous position on science — it’s like writing down the ramblings of some addled wino, and has just as much credibility.

It’s a tepid review that does not endorse Pivar’s work at all (not good enough for Jerry Bergman—that’s got to sting.) But mainly what we learn is that Bergman doesn’t know any biology.

All cells and embryos assume the toroidal shape. How they respond to this initial shape determines their adult morphology. The details of how this shape guides development and morphogenesis in general were, in my opinion, not very well defended in this work. This theory may explain certain aspects of the external morphology of a life form, but how much else does it explain?

No, Pivar’s theory explains nothing, because cells and embryos do not assume this hypothetical toroidal shape. The reason the work fails is that it ignores and contradicts basic observations of developmental processes — the kind of stuff undergraduates can routinely observe.

Bergman also whines a little bit; I can understand why he’d sympathize with crackpottery, since he’s one himself. But this claim is bogus:

In the meantime, the comments on Amazon and various Web sites leave me wondering why there is such an emotional and vociferous reaction to a new theory of evolution. Part of the reaction is that any theory that proposes to replace Darwinism produces a knee-jerk reaction of uncalled-for invective. This attitude hardly encourages new ideas.

You can read my reviews of Lifecode and it’s second version. My gripes were that it was fantasy, not science, and that it ignored the evidence.

There is no “knee-jerk”. There is a recognition that people like Pivar and Bergman are unqualified kooks who make stuff up, and act as if they’re knowledgeable. It is well-considered, measured, and deserved invective.

An Open Letter to New Orleans Quarter Back, Drew Brees.

Dear Drew Brees,
As your fantasy football owner and a concerned fan, I respectfully request that you stop sucking. Your very manhood may depend on it. According to evolutionary psychologist David M, Buss, it is a well-documented phenomenon that testosterone levels in males fluctuate with the outcome of sporting events. Winners experience a boost of testosterone and mood while losers of athletic competition experience a decrease of testosterone. No wonder you feel like this:

So you’re now 0-3, you threw about four too many interceptions Monday night, and let’s be honest. That fumble in the fourth quarter? You just dropped it didn’t you. It looks like you’ve had a lot of testosterone-dropping moments this season, and I have to warn you: If you continue on this painful trajectory, you could wake up one morning to find you’ve developed female secondary characteristics. You’ll never be able to enter a locker room again! Ok… I’m kidding about the breasts, but if you won’t step it up for you, do it for your fans. Studies show that male sports fans experience similar drops in testosterone after their team suffers a loss. Hasn’t New Orleans suffered enough loss in Hurricane Katrina? It’s time to play some really football.

A Friend.