Developmental Biology 4181: Week 1

I’m teaching a course in developmental biology this term, and as part of the coursework, I’m making students blog. The idea is to force them to ferret out instances of development in popular culture, in their personal experience, and/or in their reading—I’m not asking for treatises, but simply short articles that let me know their eyes are open. This year I’m also encouraging outsiders to take a look at and comment on what they’re saying, so every week I’ll be posting a round-up of links to the developmental biology blog…and here they are:

Feel free to comment on any of them if the mood strikes you, but I am going to be particularly protective of my students, so I insist on only constructive comments. I will ruthlessly delete anything abusive or irrelevant or otherwise distracting.

One other thing we’re doing in the class is working through Carroll’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and before each discussion I ask the students to write up short summaries of the reading. Tomorrow, we’re going over chapter 1 and 2, and there are six different summaries up on the site right now:

E, and
F (no, those are most definitely not the grades!). I’ll usually have these things linked up a little earlier before the class, but I gave the students extra slack this time since it was a holiday week. Comments and questions there are also appreciated—if there’s something you think the students ought to bring up in the discussion, let ’em know!

Write letters!

One after the other, I got two requests to promote some worthy causes which need letter-writers to help out. Here they are:

Save wilderness:

Over the strong objections of Native people, wildlife biologists, sportsmen’s groups, and the general public, the Bureau of Land Management remains intent on leasing one of the most remarkable wetlands complexes on the planet. The place is the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), the largest single block of wild public land left in the United States.

Save minds:

On Monday, the Ohio Board of Education will hold its first fall meeting. Creationists on the board are hoping to introduce a Controversial Issues Template, which would not only allow for the teaching of intelligent design in science classrooms, but demand that teachers question global warming and highlight the religious right’s opposition to stem cell research.

Don’t just sit there! Do something!

Save the Gay Sheep!

Since we biologists were just bizarrely accused of being like a bunch of animal rights activists, I am surprised that when I read that PETA opposes experiments on gay sheep, I find myself opposing PETA and thinking that the experiments sound cool and interesting and informative. I’m also a little disgusted with the way PETA finds it necessary to lie in their criticisms.

The Next Hurrah has a thorough take-down of PETA. Particularly amusing is the statistic that the research involves 18 sheep a year, while meat-packers butcher 4 million per year…so which one do the kooky extremists of the animal rights movement go after? There is an entirely appropriate quote from Mark Twain that applies here: “To create man was a fine and original idea; but to add the sheep was a tautology.” Research that studies cute little lambs and can be tied to homosexual shibboleths of both the right and the left sounds like the perfect scapegoat to lead more people to contribute to their cause; damning lamb chops and mutton just doesn’t push the right buttons.


Just in case my wife happens to check out the internets this afternoon, I’m sure she’ll be interested in seeing the state of her yard.


The plumbing crew came out this morning to repair our broken water main, and apparently to also plant a dead pagan king in a nice barrow outside our bathroom window, and imprint the rest of the lawn with interesting trackways. Oh, well, at least we now have fully restored water pressure.

I must also thank the kind reader who sent us the disaster preparedness and cleanup manuals. They’ll come in handy—as you might guess, there’s now a musty odor rising from our basement, and I don’t think it’s from the moldering dead king. His generosity was only exceeded by Governor Kathleen Blanco, who’s flying up from New Orleans to give us some advice tonight.