Queensland goes Bush league

If you’ve been following the Australian lungfish saga, there’s a new development, and it’s an ugly one. As the Noosa Journal reports (they don’t seem to have a web accessible archive, so this issue may vanish soon; here’s a screenshot), the Queensland government is actively suppressing scientific information that highlights the environmental costs of building the damaging dams.

The Beattie Government has ordered the shredding of a vital report used to list the unique Queensland lungfish under Federal environmental laws, according to a world authority on the species, Macquarie University’s Professor Jean Joss. The shredding order follows suppression of the report shortly after it was published, she said.

If the order is carried out, a vital piece of evidence will have been destroyed to support a challenge to the Mary River Dam under Federal Environmental laws.

The suppressed study analyzed the effects of a small weir that was put on the Burnett River, showing that it had a drastic effect on lungfish breeding and recruitment, and predicted that the greater effect of a dam would “reduce recruitment to a Critically Endangered level, at which extinction is assured.”

You know the other side is completely in the wrong when they’re reduced to hiding reality. The Queensland government seems to have adopted the American Republican style of policy making.

You do want some letters after your name, don’t you?

The Friends of Charles Darwin website update I mentioned yesterday is complete (I toasted it with a latte instead of a whiskey, I’m afraid). You do know that if you join, you are then entitled to put an official “FCD” after your name, which looks very distinguished and high-falutin’ (I just refrain because I’m shy about bragging about my honors.) The FCD requires just about as much work and more intelligence than the Ph.D. that Kent Hovind has after his name, so it’s worth going for.

More info for my developmental biology students

The syllabus for Biol 4181, Developmental Biology is now online. Start reading! It looks like I’ll have you reading 50-100 pages of Wolpert and Carroll or Zimmer a week.

I want you all to know this is something of a miracle—I usually finish my syllabus the night before the class starts, so I’m very proud of myself for getting it done a whole four days ahead of time. Of course, the reason it’s early is that I’ve got a stack of extra-curricular writing that needs to be done in the next couple of days…

Holocaust ≠ natural selection

Aaron Kinney makes a good point about claims that the Holocaust was Darwin-inspired:

I would argue that even if Hitler really did use Darwin’s theory as inspiration for the mass-murder of Jews, he got it wrong. Throwing millions of Jews into death camps is, in my opinion, artificial selection! It is stacking the decks, not proving the superior adaptability of a breed of human.

Exactly so. There are a lot of mistaken ideas about how an individual demonstrates a natural superiority to other individuals, and foremost among them is this belief that it always involves being “red in tooth and claw” and exterminating the competition (secondmost: that it is always those who have the most babies who win). Simple-minded aggression and heedless procreation actually seem to be very poor strategies for human beings, who are more the slow and deliberate type of replicator, dependent on conspecific cooperation. The kind of social Darwinism/eugenics that Hitler favored was not evolution or Darwinism—it owes more to farming folk knowledge than to the complexity of evolutionary theory.

Not that that will matter to the people peddling the Darwin-Hitler link. I think they’d have a better case if they were arguing for a pigeon fancier-Hitler link.

The Republican War on Science


Chris Mooney is trying to kill me.

It’s true. He sent me this book, The Republican War on Science(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) (now available in a new paperback edition!), that he knew would send my blood pressure skyrocketing, give me apoplexy, and cause me to stroke out and die, gasping, clawing in futile spasms at the floor. Fortunately, I’ve been inoculating myself for the past few years by reading his weblog (now also in a new edition!), so I managed to survive, although there were a few chest-clutching moments and one or two life-flashing-past-my-eyes experiences, which will be handy if I ever write a memoir.

[Read more…]