Whose side are you on, Flatow?

I’ve been listening to Bethell vs. Mooney on Science Friday, and I’ve come to one conclusion: I really need to slap Ira Flatow. Repeatedly. And maybe kick him a few times, too.

He was playing right into Bethell’s hands. Bethell was rambling and vague, and he went on and on, and Flatow fed into it. Mooney had to interrupt several times and demand a chance to rebut (and good for him—he was on the attack, as he needed to be), and at least once Flatow stopped Mooney for a commercial and then asked Bethell to follow up afterwards.

Worse, Flatow wouldn’t allow any depth. They’d start getting into HIV and Bethell’s denial, and just as Mooney was getting into it, he’d say, “Now we need to talk about global warming!” Come on, FOCUS. The strengths of science come into play when we have a chance to dig deep and actually grapple with the issues; Bethell is a superficial flibbertigibbet who knows nothing, and this show gave him a forum for his usual unsupported pronouncements of doubt.

Grrr. Mooney was appropriately assertive, but it sounds like we need to go to new levels of aggression: next interview, bring duct tape and a clothesline. Shut the interviewer up, and charge right into the data. I can’t believe Flatow let Bethell get away with that crap.

So, um, Dembski is a mathematician?

He must be one of those very abstract types who never looks at data, doesn’t understand statistics, and has never heard of the word “normalized.” In a post that is a microcosmic analog of the whole Intelligent Design paradigm, Dembski completely bungles an analysis of Google searches to conclude that “international interest in ID is growing.” Andrea Bottaro shows that he screwed up thoroughly, and the conclusion is actually the reverse.

I wonder if Dembski will acknowledge the correction, and admit that international interest in ID is negligible or declining? Or will his mistake mysteriously disappear from his web page? Anyone want to place any bets?

Polar lobes and trefoil embryos in the Precambrian



The diagram above shows the early cleavages of the embryo of the scaphopod mollusc, Dentalium. You may notice a few peculiarities: the first cleavage is asymmetric, producing a cell called AB and a larger sister cell, CD. Before the second division, CD makes a large bulge, called a polar lobe, and it almost looks like it’s a three-cell stage—this is called a trefoil embryo, and can look a bit like Mickey Mouse. The second division produces an A, a B, a C, and a D cell, and there’s that polar lobe, about as large as the regular cells, so that it now resembles a 5-cell embryo. What’s going on in these animals?

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Maternal effect genes


Maternal effect genes are a special class of genes that have their effect in the reproductive organs of the mutant; they are interesting because the mutant organism may appear phenotypically normal, and it is the progeny that express detectable differences, and they do so whether the progeny have inherited the mutant gene or not. That sounds a little confusing, but it really isn’t that complex. I’ll explain it using one canonical example of a maternal effect gene, bicoid.

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Don’t delay, donate!

We have received most excellent news from Seed: notice that challenge bar to the left, where I (and many other science bloggers) are asking you to donate to public education? We’re doing great—my challenge has gathered over a thousand dollars so far, all to help out teachers and schoolkids—but now Seed has announced that they will match the total donations, up to $10,000. Double your money!

I’ve set a goal of raising $2000 for teachers, but I’ve got a dozen projects listed, and they’re going to need more than that if all are to be fully funded. If I hit the goal, don’t stop—you can keep contributing. Janet has a list of the other participants, too, so if you want to spread the joy around some more, check out the others.

Oh, and everyone should shout out, “Yay, Seed!” right now. It’s the right thing to do, even if it startles other people in the office or coffee shop.

It must be a universal property of creationists

Maybe I was too hard on Harun Yahya. As Wesley writes, plagiarism and theft are common practices among creationists—it’s even encouraged.

Authors such as George Macready Price and Henry M. Morris assembled many of the arguments together in various books. And, as I said, nobody cares if you steal it. In fact, others will be confused if you provide complete references and trace back claims to sources. That just isn’t done as a matter of course in this field, and, of course, it pays to pick up the social gestalt of your new career.

When among knaves and fools, do as they do.