Good news for Minnesota education

Dave Eaton, Mouth of Yecke, public advocate of poor education, creationist pest, has given up the fight.

On Tuesday, January 31, School Board member Dave Eaton resigned from the Minnetonka School Board. Noting personal reasons, he informed the Board that he is no longer able to continue his service. Mr. Eaton had served on the School Board since being appointed on June 4, 2002.

The School Board is expected to act on Mr. Eaton’s resignation at its Regular Meeting on Thursday, February 2, 2006. The Board will discuss a process for filling the vacancy at a scheduled work session on February 7 at Noon. Complete details of the process the Board will use to fill the Board vacancy will be released following the February 7th work session.

I hope that all is well with Mr Eaton and that he is retiring to a pleasant and productive life, but it is good news that he is going to be meddling with education less. This is also, I hope, a promising sign: as wonderful as the Dover decision was, a better prospect for the future would be to see more pro-science activists displacing creationists from local school boards. That’s one place where it is important to see this phony conflict resolved.

Darwin Day approaches

It’s almost Darwin Day!

I just learned that Cornell is going all out: 5 days of events celebrating Darwin’s birthday, on February 9-13. That’s darned good.

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is doing something slightly smaller in scale on Friday, 10 February, in an afternoon event sponsored by the Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists. I don’t have all the details yet, other than the rather important fact (to me, at least) that I’m one of the speakers. I’m planning to talk on “What Darwin Didn’t Know,” giving a brief overview of some examples of the kind of evidence uncovered in the last 25 years that has greatly strengthened evolutionary theory. I’ll put up a schedule here as I learn more.

We aren’t having a specific Darwin Day event here at UMM…well, other than the traditional cake and ice cream I’m planning to have with the family on that Sunday. However, the Cafe Scientifique Morris for February is going to be me, talking about evolution and creationism. That’s also imprecisely scheduled at this point—we’re going to try out a new venue, I hope, and one of the things I have to do this week is run around and work that out.

I know, I know—Darwin Day is over a week away, and you just can’t wait. If you’re in the Twin Cities, here’s something to whet your whistle: a talk tonight on creationism.

7:00 pm – James Curtsinger – Ten things to know about creationism
James Curtsinger will give a presentation on “Ten Things to Know about Creationism”.

From the presentation: Creationists fall into young-earth and old-earth camps. The former include biblical literalists who believe that the geologic column was formed by a Noachian Flood. Their “scientific creationism” suffered major setbacks in the 1980’s. “Intelligent design”, conceived as a movement in the 1990’s, is smarter, better educated, old-earth creationism. I.D. has popular support, but is soundly rejected by professionals, and was embarrassed in the recent Dover trial. The important battleground for these issues is the public high school science classroom. Surveys show that 20% of MN public high school science teachers teach creationism. Evangelical atheists worsen the general problem. Universities house technical and scientific expertise, but do not generally cultivate the kind of outreach needed to address this issue.
Coffman Student Union Room 323

I’d love to attend myself, but I’m feeling that exhausted sensation that comes from the first few frantic weeks of classes, and I don’t think I can push another long drive to Minneapolis on my workload right now. If any of my readers go—send me a report! It sounds fun!

Texas isn’t all bad

There’s always Austin.

Check out the nice and lucid op-ed against Intelligent Design creationism published down there: it points out that ID is on a fool’s errand that will always allow it to be defeated in a scientific argument.

ID will be trapped in a morass of implausible and unscientific rationalizations, trying to explain why a designer did this or that, whereas evolution does not ascribe purpose to the process called “natural selection.” As Gould emphasized in his final public appearance here (in February 2002), it is unscientific and self-centered to think that our species—perhaps 160,000 years old, after 3.8 billion years of mostly microscopic unicellular life—represents the goal of evolution.

Server trial by fire

Now we’ll really get to see how well this new server provided by Seed holds up. Pharyngula just get linked by Slashdot, and I’ve seen a thousand hits come roaring in in 5 minutes. My lovely old Mac G5 server would have been screaming and shaking at this point, and you wouldn’t be reading this article, that’s for sure.

If ever you were curious about it, here’s a snapshot of the slashdot effect, taken at about 11:00 in the evening. This is just today’s traffic.


The other astounding part of the phenomenon was that the average IQ of my commenters was cut in half (data not shown). I’m hoping the dumb ones won’t be able to find me again once the link scrolls off the /. page, and I’ll trust that the new clever readers will be willing to come back.

Just a thought…I hope a few of the slashdotters felt a mysterious compulsion to buy a Subaru.

Behe: spanked again

Behe’s ideas have been rejected by his colleagues; it seems those ideas were also the subject of a public forum at his university, with essays on the issue available online.

During the fall semester, a Chaplain’s Forum held on campus to offer differing perspectives on the contentious issue drew a standing-room-only crowd. The six faculty members who participated addressed the implications of intelligent design for science and for religion. This series of essays, which grew out of the Lehigh forum, is intended to shed light on an issue that all too often engenders only heat.

Behe’s essay is the only one that defends ID, and it’s more of the usual nonsense from the Church of the Butt Propellor*, an argument from incredulity in which he brings up both Paley’s watch and the bacterial “outboard motor”. (Does he think if he calls the flagellum an “outboard motor” enough, he’ll fool everyone into thinking it was manufactured by Evinrude?)

The other five all dismiss it, even the one from the university’s chaplain.

(via A Concerned Scientist)

*“Church of the Butt Propellor” is my new favorite name for the Discovery Institute and their minions (here’s the source).