That godly perspective

I haven’t mentioned the Clergy Letter Project or Evolution Sunday events before. They’re nice ideas—it’s an effort to get clergy to acknowledge good science, and encourage discussions about the subject on Darwin’s birthday, this Sunday—but I have to admit it’s rather orthogonal to my point of view. While I appreciate the sentiment and think it’s a positive step on the road to reason, I prefer to cut to the chase and jettison all the old religious baggage altogether.

I may have to take a more positive view towards it, though, since I ran across this weird wingnut site (well, maybe not too weird…he fits in well with a lot of Christians.) The author is greatly incensed at the temerity of these radical pastors.

Beginning with the Bible, it is simply impossible to arrive at evolution.

I have to agree with him on that. I’d counter it by noting that beginning with the world, evolution is simply inevitable and inescapable.

These 10,200 pastors arrogantly or ignorantly deviate from Christian tradition and orthodoxy by claiming their opinions trump the thousands of years of tradition and the plain reading of the Bible. The relativistic language, “forms of truth,” confirms that this is an appeal to pastors duped by the cultural influence of tolerance.

Heh. I’ve rarely seen anyone admit that they oppose tolerance, but there you go.

On the 197th anniversary of the birthday of Charles Darwin (February 12), 412 churches in 49 states will celebrate “Evolution Sunday.” Created in the imagination of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professor Michael Zimmerman, “Evolution Sunday” celebrates the “harmony of evolutionary science and faith”. Dismissing the Biblical accounts of creation as “beloved stories found in the Bible,” and as, “a different order than scientific truth,” Zimmerman and these churches proclaim that when science contradict the Bible, science wins.

Why, yes. Yes it does. The physical world does seem to trump religious delusions most effectively, doesn’t it?

After reading that twisted rant, I find myself viewing Zimmerman’s project much more charitably.

Guanlong wucaii

a, b, Cranial reconstruction in left lateral (a; shaded area indicates the unpreserved portion) and dorsal (b) views. adc, anterodorsal concavity; al, anterior lamina; an, angular; aof, antorbital fenestra; d, dentary; dg, dentary groove; emf, external mandibular fenestra; en, external naris; if, infratemporal fenestra; isf, foramen on ischium; j, jugal; jp, pneumatic jugal foramen; l, lacrimal; m, maxilla; mc I–IV, metacarpals I–IV; mo, maxillary opening; mt I–V, metatarsals I–V; mvc, median vertical crest; nc, nasal crest; obf, obturator foramen; orb, orbit; pf, prefrontal; pfe, pneumatic fenestra; pl, posterior lamina; pm, premaxilla; po, postorbital; pr, pneumatic recess; qj, quadratojugal; ri, right ilium; ris, right ischium; rp, right pubis; sa, surangular; sac, sacrum; sc, sagittal crest; sec, semilunate carpal; sq, squamosal; tp, tubercle on pubis; tr, transverse ridge. Scale bar: 5 cm

Well, I was going to put together more about this beautiful new basal tyrannosauroid from the Jurassic of China, Guanlong wucaii, but Carl Zimmer beat me to it. I’ll just show you that lovely crested skull, and below the fold, a picture of the fossil in situ, and let Carl do the hard work of explaining it all.

[Read more…]

Evolution of a polyphenism

Here’s some very cool news: scientists have directly observed the evolution of a complex, polygenic, polyphenic trait by genetic assimilation and accommodation in the laboratory. This is important, because it is simultaneously yet another demonstration of the fact of evolution, and an exploration of mechanisms of evolution—showing that evolution is more sophisticated than changes in the coding sequences of individual genes spreading through a population, but is also a consequence of the accumulation of masked variation, synergistic interactions between different alleles and the environment, and perhaps most importantly, changes in gene regulation.

Unfortunately, it’s also an example of some extremely rarefied terminology that is very precisely used in genetic and developmental labs everywhere, but probably makes most people’s eyes glaze over and wonder what the fuss is all about. I’ll try to give a simple introduction to those peculiar words, and explain why the evolution of a polyphenic pigment pattern in a caterpillar is a fascinating and significant result.

[Read more…]

Ugh…I’m against it

In Wisconsin, a bill has been proposed to ban intelligent design from science courses.

Two Democratic lawmakers introduced a plan Tuesday that would ban public schools from teaching intelligent design as science, saying “pseudo-science” should have no place in the classroom.
The proposal is the first of its kind in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and comes as a debate over how to teach the origins of human life rages in local school districts.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, acknowledged the measure faced an uphill fight in a Legislature where Republicans control both houses.
The measure would force material included in science curriculums to describe only natural processes. The material also would need to follow the definitions of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.

Noooooooo! This isn’t how to do it!

Legislators need to keep their hands off science and science teaching, no matter what side they are taking. Promoting good science is OK; suggesting to school boards that they follow guidelines set by the major scientific ideas is so obvious that it shouldn’t need to be said; picking and choosing and saying which specific ideas ought to be taught and making them part of law is just plain wrong.

This is one case where I’d side with the Republicans. This is too much interference.

A good day to get a day pass

There are several items of note at Salon today, so if you don’t subscribe, watch the little commercial, you’ll get some good bang for the buck.

Reich gets reamed

My response to this odious essay by Dale Reich was, well, terse. He wrote a very silly editorial in which he claimed to have doffed the mantle of his faith to see what the life of an atheist was like, and found it empty and hateful…and his conclusion was to insist that we atheists need to start living up to our philosophy and be mean and brutal and cruel.

The heartening thing is that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where it was published, now has an editorial in reply and a set of letters from readers that unanimously condemn Reich’s ignorance. It’s good to see reason winning a popularity contest.

Hate mail

I was asked to show some of my hate mail, but I’m afraid I’m not going to dig through all the ancient, musty piles of old email to find it—I have a hard enough time wading through the new stuff! Here’s the most recent, though, which arrived just this evening, although I think it is in response to a post I wrote about a year and a half ago, Is Mike S. Adams a fool?. This stuff just keeps dribbling in.

Mike Adams is god. This statement of truth, however, leads me to another question. Simply put, are you a) a eunuch, b) a hairy-armed white female feminazi type with no discernible talent or c) one of those kool-aid democrats our children are taught to avoid? I would be interested in some typological clarification on this point as you seem like a very perverse bundle of mistaken beliefs and psychological neuroses.

It’s a little more coherent than the usual babble I get, but it says more about him than me, anyway. Note that the original post was about Adams’ anti-evolutionist views, yet somehow it’s been distorted into something about my views on sexuality. I guess that’s not terribly surprising, given Adams’ own insecurities on the subject.

Dawkins for Pope

By Neddie Jingo! This is my ideal messenger:

I’ve banged on about this before, and others have said it as well: in a Breughel landscape of insanity, bad faith, desperately knotted thinking and crazed cupidity, Dawkins shines out of the darkness like a Bodhisattva, a pillar of mental health in a vortex of madness.

In the current climate of deadly foolish nonsense, I don’t know why we consider any kind of religiosity a virtue in any endeavor, let alone science.