Worst. Question. Ever.

I’ve been reluctant to answer the latest question from the Head Office, because it sucks. Nothing personal, but it just doesn’t work for me.

Assuming that time and money were not obstacles, what area of scientific research, outside of your own discipline, would you most like to explore? Why?

I’m sorry, but there is no interesting scientific research outside of my discipline. The evo and the devo are the way to go. If I were starting over, there are things I would do differently and skill sets I’d try to acquire that would give me a better handle on the research, but do something else? What? This is where the exciting questions are!

I suppose if I were cast out of Eden and forced to do something else, I’d…aw, heck. Nothing comes to mind. My father wanted me to do an apprenticeship in refrigerator repair, so I might as well do that. Good money, reasonable hours, paid vacations…I could use my free time after work to read the journals and sigh.

I thank the Great Old Ones that I am not a lawyer

Because this letter from a lawyer complaining about the decision to have the anti-evolution sticker removed from textbooks makes my brain bleed. This was the sticker that said,

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

That sticker was nothing but sneaky creationist propaganda—it strangely singles out evolution for critical thought, it implies an inappropriate meaning to the word “theory” (that it is the opposite of a fact), and it’s clearly an attempt to sow uncertainty and doubt in the minds of schoolchildren in an area where there shouldn’t be any. It was thrown out by a judge, but this creationist lawyer is now trying to say that decision was wrong.

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Evolution and homosexuality

Seed has an interview with Joan Roughgarden, somewhat controversial evolutionary biologist and author of Evolution’s Rainbow : Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Here’s the short summary of her basic thesis:

Joan Roughgarden thinks Charles Darwin made a terrible mistake. Not about natural selection–she’s no bible-toting creationist—but about his other great theory of evolution: sexual selection. According to Roughgarden, sexual selection can’t explain the homosexuality that’s been documented in over 450 different vertebrate species. This means that same-sex sexuality—long disparaged as a quirk of human culture—is a normal, and probably necessary, fact of life. By neglecting all those gay animals, she says, Darwin misunderstood the basic nature of heterosexuality.

Roughgarden is an awkward case that provokes a difficult split in people’s opinions. She is 100% right that homosexuality is common and that its prevalence ought to be regarded more seriously as an indication of an interesting and enlightening phenomenon in evolution. However, she’s completely wrong in rejecting sexual selection: in rejecting a simplistically heterosexual view of nature she swings too far the other way, adopting a simplistically homosexual view instead of a messy, complex, and almost certainly more correct mixed view. She’s rather superficial in her treatment of Darwin. And most annoyingly, she has a bad habit of playing the transgender card and accusing her critics of disagreeing with her because of some LGBT bias.

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Francis, I’m very disappointed in you

Francis Collins is a very smart, very disciplined, very hardworking man. He was the head of the Human Genome Project, and now he has written a book, The Language of God : A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), and I have to tell you, it doesn’t look promising.

He talks about his ideas in an interview. It’s the usual dreary stuff we get from the god-botherers, and it’s clear that this is a subject on which he willingly turns his intellect to off.

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Home again!

We left Las Vegas on a 12:30am flight to Des Moines, IA, had an hour and a half layover, got into Minneapolis sometime around 7:30, made the 3 hour drive from there to Morris, and now I sit here a little shell-shocked and worn out. Give me a little time to bounce back and Pharyngula will be chugging along with fresh material again.

Now…coffee, or nap?