Where are the spineless?

Hey! I’m supposed to host the Circus of the Spineless next week (I think on 29 January), and I’ve only received one submission so far! Someone must have written something somewhere about invertebrates, right? There is a set of rules for submissions, but it’s going to be simple: I’ll accept anything about any organisms outside the class Vertebrata.

I’ll spell it out. You can write about the phyla Acanthocephala, Acoelomorpha, Annelida, Arthropoda, Brachiopoda, Bryozoa, Chaetognatha, Cnidaria, Ctenophora, Cycliophora, Echinodermata, Echiura, Entoprocta, Gastrotricha, Gnathostomulida, Hemichordata, Kinorhyncha, Loricifera, Micrognathozoa, Mollusca, Myxozoa, Nematoda, Nematomorpha, Nemertea, Onychophora, Orthonectida, Phoronida, Placozoa, Platyhelminthes, Pogonophora, Porifera, Priapulida, Rhombozoa, Rotifera, Sipuncula, Symplasma, or Tardigrada, and that’s fine. You can even write about the Urochordata, the Cephalochordata, and the Myxini within the phylum Chordata. The overwhelming majority of animal species are fair game, so there is absolutely no excuse if anyone tries to send me a picture of their cat. Understand? Fish, frogs, lizards, birds, mammals, dinosaurs, and your baby pictures are right out.

I’m also going to accept multiple submissions, if you’ve been manic about documenting the breadth of biodiversity. We shall do our best to overcome the bias of the blogosphere for kitties and other furred and feathered and scaled beasties.

Although the tagline for the circus says it is a monthly celebration of “most anything else that wiggles”, I’m also going to break the shackles of metazoan chauvinism, so if you want to send in something about protists, lichens, fungi, plants, whatever, anything but things with a spinal column, I’ll accept them and put them in an honored category of their own.

Open Thread

Open Thread

I’m doing some traveling and touristy things with grrlscientist today, on top of somehow coping with the first week of classes (physiology and our freshman seminar in biological principles), and attending Drinking Liberally at the 331 Club tonight. I also have to get tickets to the Prairie Home Companion show that will be taped here at UMM on 11 February…it all adds up to me being a little scattered and distracted and otherwise occupied for much of today. You all are just going to have to fend for yourselves for a bit.

Here is a short list of things I should write about, but won’t get to today.

I do have some Science!!! to write about, but first I have to clear up some time in an overloaded schedule.

Why stay in NY when you can visit Morris?

You wouldn’t know it to see it, but we aim to make Morris, Minnesota the Mecca of science blogging. How else to explain how we could draw Grrlscientist away from that boring dump of a town, New York, to visit our lovely prairie village for a week? It’s true: a whole two of us ScienceBlogs people are chattering away from this lonely outpost in the rural wilderness.

Any other science bloggers who want to stop on by, feel free. We’ve got a roomy house with a zippy wireless connection, and who needs anything more? Jay Manifold has been here, Radagast once drove by within a few hundred miles, and now we’re hosting Living the Scientific Life…I think that’s enough to qualify as a Mecca, right?

Anyway, we’re planning to cruise into Minneapolis tomorrow, see the Big City, and check out Drinking Liberally at the 331 Club around about 6—somebody alert the Power Liberal, Tild, and the Wege…we got some tough-talkin’, crazed scientists planning to crash their party.

We’re also hosting an event of our own here at Chez Myers on Friday, with the first
SOFA (Something On Friday Afternoon, a Morris tradition) of the semester at our place. If anyone wants to crash our party, just come on by.

Discovery Institute uses immense clout, kills Intelligent Design course

That school in California that tried to teach a creationist “philosophy” course was chewed out by Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute. Luskin’s statement consisted of the usual folderol, but the outright fraud of several statements leapt out at me.

My name is Casey Luskin and I am an attorney representing the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is a think tank based out of Seattle, Washington that represents a large number of scientists who do scientific research into intelligent design.

A “large number of scientists”? How many?

Scientists “who do scientific research into intelligent design”? Name them. Tell us exactly where they are doing their research and what specific questions they are trying to answer.

But if you do not cancel this course, and if you let this lawsuit go forward, you are going to lose and there will be a dangerous legal precedent set which could threaten the teaching of intelligent design on the national level. Such a decision would also threaten the scientific research of many scientists who support intelligent design.

See questions above. What scientists? What research?

I’m really fed up with this phony baloney the DI keeps pushing. There are darned few scientists backing Intelligent Design, and those few don’t do any research, nor can they tell anyone else what research could be done.

Because of the young earth creationist history of this course, this course is not legally defensible and it should be cancelled. Thank you.

Casey Luskin got his wish. The course has been cancelled. Not without a final irony, though:

Sharon Lemburg, a social studies teacher and soccer coach who was teaching “Philosophy of Design,” defended the course in a letter to the weekly Mountain Enterprise.

“I believe this is the class that the Lord wanted me to teach,” she wrote.

This is really going to mess with Minnesota’s reputation

Jonathon The Impaler (our Minnesota vampire running for governor) is interviewed on the City Pages Blotter. I’m still not voting for him.

It’s interesting that his source of income is selling cloaks to covens. It’s also distressing that he needs that income because his wife got fired from her job after The Impaler gave a press conference, and her employer admitted it was because of her religious preference—she wasn’t a good “role model”.

Flame war in the Durango Herald!

A while back, a reader mentioned that my name (or some permutation thereof) was being taken in vain in the letters pages of the Durango Herald. Nothing new there, it’s just the usual half-truths of the Discovery Institute being disseminated.

Challenges to evolution met with scorn

I find that some of the brightest people in the world today (as with some of the brightest people throughout history) disbelieve the theory of evolution.

As Paul Bynum correctly noted in his letter (Herald, Nov. 20), it is true that folks who dare to challenge some of evolution’s claims are, indeed, often ridiculed and maligned. Note the remarks of University of Minnesota biology P.Z. Meyers: that opponents of Darwinism need to be subject to “some form of righteous fury, much butt kicking and the firing and humiliation of some teachers, many school board members and vast numbers of sleazy far right politicians.”

Gary Andersen, Durango

There was more in the letter; the usual protestation that “Darwinists” are afraid, that there are “volumes of evidence of design all around us” (backed up by mentioning that birds fly and cats take naps), and that chance is a “dreary thought.” I responded with a short note pointing out that my quote was taken out of context, and that I’m not against challenging evolution, but am against incompetent teaching.

Creationists weaken science teaching

In a letter by Gary Andersen on 1 Jan 2006, I was quoted misleadingly, in a way that the Discovery Institute has consciously propagated. Yes, I have called for the firing of teachers and politicians, but not because they are “opponents of Darwinism”–but for incompetence. If a science teacher cannot grasp basic concepts of biology, he or she has no place teaching our children in the classroom. We are not afraid of Intelligent Design creationists, but we are getting increasingly angry at the disservice they are doing to our kids by weakening the science curricula in our high schools.

Mr Andersen claims there are weaknesses in the theory of evolution. Yes, there are, but the fact of evolution is not in doubt; there is active argument and research on specific details and mechanisms. Intelligent Design creationists are not participants in that work, and are actively promoting discredited ideas that are not supported by any evidence. Science class is not a place for garbled anecdotes and wishful thinking, yet that is all Mr Andersen has to offer—I think we can do better by our children.

Oh, and the name is Myers. One “e”. It’s bad enough to be misrepresented by the likes of the Discovery Institute and their minions, but they could at least spell the name correctly.

I am amused to see that the Durango Herald has published a reply. It shows the same level of incomprehension as the first letter.

Reaction shows evolutionists scared

In his letter (“Creationists weaken science teaching, Herald, Jan. 10) associate professor P.Z. Myers of Morris, Minn., suggested that anyone believing God created the universe “has no place teaching science in our classrooms.”

What an arrogant statement! Statements such as this reinforce the feeling that evolutionists are indeed quivering in fear.

Paul Bynum, Durango

Of course there is more ranting. I’m accused of “indoctrination and propaganda, and told that “All tyrants, Hitler, Stalin, etc., approve of and use this type of ‘education.'”

I think his argument is greatly weakened by the blatant quote mining of his very first sentence. You can rummage through the entire archive of my site, you can chase down every word I’ve ever said, and you can give me a Vulcan mind-meld and probe all of my thoughts, and you will not find me expressing or thinking that ridiculous sentiment anywhere. But of course, readers of the Durango Herald are most unlikely to even open up a week-old copy of their paper to assess the accuracy of the creationist’s claims. The creationists know their lies can spread faster than the truth, and they will continue to spout that kind of dishonesty shamelessly.

At least they learned how to spell my name properly.