The perfect date for the grand opening would be April First

Pam Spaulding reports that Ken Ham’s clown palace of a ‘museum’ will be opening in April. I am so tempted to make a road trip this summer to see it and mock it…but no, I don’t really want to put one penny in his coffers. I did think this was funny, though:

According to Ham, the museum is already receiving worldwide attention. “The international press are getting very, very interested in this,” he says, “and it’s going to be not just a national event here in America. It’s going to be an international event when it opens in April 2007.”

I’m sure it is getting lots of international attention. It’s a colossal joke and an embarrassment to this country.

Developmental Biology 4181: Week 2

This week, my students are thinking about SIDS,
aging,
Christiane Nusslein-Volhard,
oncogenes,
hunger,
individuality,
worm movies,
obesity,
sunscreen, and whether to
divide or die. A fairly typical set of undergraduate concerns, right?

They’ve all also been reading chapters 3 and 4 of Carroll’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and their summaries are here: α,
β,
γ,
δ,
ε, and
ζ.

If you missed it, here’s Last week’s digest and a brief explanation of what it’s all about.

Patterning the nervous system with Bmp

I’m a little surprised at the convergence of interest in this news report of a conserved mechanism of organizing the nervous system—I’ve gotten a half-dozen requests to explain what it all means. Is there a rising consciousness about evo-devo issues? What’s caused the sudden focus on this one paper?

It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. It’s an interesting observation about how both arthropods and vertebrates seem to partition regions along the dorso-ventral axis of the nervous system using exactly the same set of molecules, a remarkable degree of similarity that supports the idea of a common origin. Gradients of a molecule called Bmp may be the primitive mechanism for establishing dorso-ventral polarity in animals.

[Read more…]

This is just not right

Stop it! Some misguided people are killing stingrays in apparent retribution for the death of Steve Irwin.

A fisheries department official says up to ten of the normally docile fish have been found dead and mutilated on Australia’s eastern coast since Steve Irwin was killed by one last week. At least two had their tails lopped off.

As the article goes on to say, this is the antithesis of what a conservationist like Irwin would have wanted.

Five years of dishonor

There was some kind of anniversary yesterday, to which I did not and will not refer—I think the tragedy of that day has been overwhelmed and lost by the ongoing catastrophe of the criminal response by our government, and while a single day is trivial to memorialize, five years of disgrace is surprisingly easy for many to gloss over. About the only appropriate response I’ve seen is Neddie Jingo’s, which points out the discordancy of the pattern we’re making.

Move on. Look at what we’re doing now, at the waste and foolishness and cacaphony and corruption and outright evil we’re perpetrating in the name of our affronted national honor—honor that’s little more than a tattered ragmop anymore, that we slosh around in the blood and pain of innocents, that we use to smear over the words of the law.

Our memorial isn’t tall and shining. It’s a dark, slimy pit into which we’ve thrown our sense and self-respect.

How to end religious strife

Give all the fundamentalist Christians a copy of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, then sit back and wait for them to kill each other. I’m amused that the article calls it a “theological argument”: the guy gets upset at the movie, sees his wife, calls her evil, and tries to strangle her. Yep, that’s a “theological argument” in a nutshell.

(via Andrew Brown)

At Ken Miller’s request

He has asked me to post this section of his book to show that he had not suggested that human origins and the Cambrian explosion might have been a miracle.

To the nonbeliever, there is no spiritual reality, and hence no miracles. To a person of faith, miracles display the greater purposes of God, giving them a meaning that transcends physical reality.

If this is true, why shouldn’t we allow that the creation of our species was a miracle? Or why not agree that the sudden explosion of life in the Cambrian might have been a miracle. Both might have been. In 1900, we could easily have said that the sun’s fire was a miracle. Unable to explain the biological basis of immunity, we could have chalked that up to God, too. And for good measure, we could have told our students that the interior heat of the earth might be the work of the devil.

We are now far enough along in the development of science to appreciate that its track record suggests that ultimately it will find natural causes for natural phenomena.

Did he say it might have been a miracle? Well, sort of. Did he say natural causes are sufficient? Well, sort of. Miracles, no miracles, you can read into it what you want. This is an objection I have to this entire section of the book—in theology, anything goes. I dug a little deeper to see what he means by “miracle.”

By definition, the miraculous is beyond explanation, beyond our understanding, beyond science. This does not mean that miracles do not occur. A key doctrine in my own faith is that Jesus was born of a virgin, even though it makes no scientific sense—there is the matter of Jesus’s Y-chromosome to account for. But that is the point. Miracles, by definition, do not have to make scientific sense.

That’s a very handy excuse—they don’t need to make sense!

Job opportunity!

Look, everyone! The Lehigh University biology department is hiring! I wonder if they’re searching for a “design theorist” to complement their eminent Professor Behe…

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR

Evolutionary Biology

The Department of Biological Sciences seeks candidates with outstanding research that employs modern analytical methods in the study of fundamental aspects of the evolutionary process. Areas of specialization may include field and/or laboratory studies on molecular aspects of population genetics, molecular mechanisms of phenotypic expression, cell division, asexual or sexual development, neural/endocrine processes, genome conservation, or phylogeny. The successful candidate for this TENURE-TRACK position will have the potential or demonstrated ability to generate extramural funding and have a commitment to instructional excellence at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh is especially interested in qualified candidates who can contribute, through their research, teaching, and/or service, to the diversity and excellence of the academic community. Applications should be directed to: Professor M. Itzkowitz, Chair, Evolutionary Biology Search Committee. E-mail: inbios@lehigh.edu Send curriculum vitae, representative publications, description of research and teaching interests, and four letters of reference to the Search Committee Chair electronically or to: Department of Biological Sciences, 111 Research Drive, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015 Deadline for submission is December 1, 2006.

Lehigh University is an Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action Employer and is committed to recruiting and retaining women and minorities.

…Nope, guess not. They’re a sensible university, not insane. It is a rather wide-open call for applicants, though—it’s like they’re saying all they want is someone with solid standing in almost any aspect of evolutionary biology.

Reason #3,221 for opposing faith-based charity

Because their priorities are screwed up.

Benedict—on the second day of a visit to his native
Bavaria—said that spreading the word of Jesus Christ
was more important than all the emergency and development
aid that rich churches like those in Germany gave to poor
countries.

Don’t even get me started on his complaints that science is scaring away the gullible, tithing rubes.

(via Hank Fox)