Posted by: Dan | September 29, 2006

Friday tidbits

Some thoughts on evolution, as the week draws to a close…

First, Joan Bushwell has a plethora of equally good comebacks to a recent comment from Jonathan Wells, who criticizes the journal Science for its “pro-Darwin” stance.

“…the pro-Darwin magazine Science”

I really did laugh out loud at this one, struck as I was by the analagous image of a one-time comsology buff gone fundagelical hunched over a keyboard and indignantly typing away about “the pro-heliocentic-solar-system magazine Astronomy” or a PhD microbiologist complaining in all sincerity about “the pro-germ-theory publication Nature.” Yes, it’s that bad; as bad as a Baptist preacher railing about “the pro-Christ New Testament.”

And the other link of note today comes from the Lancelet, where I was alerted to an interesting issue of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, which looks like some very interesting reading indeed.

Oh, but there’s more. Other bits that I’ve noticed recently and would pass on include:

Have links of your own that you’d like to advertise? Post them in the comments!



  1. Bt crystal toxin may be effective against hookworms

    Bacillus Thuringiensis produces a natural insecticide which has been sprayed or dusted on crops for that purpose for a long time. Some of the “GMO” crops have a gene for Bt toxin insterted into their genome so that it will be produced when the leaves are eaten by insect pests. The toxin is hamless to humans and other vertebrates because the conditions in their guts are not suitable. Here’s a summary of how it works. Anyway, I don’t know who thought up the idea of using it on nematodes, but it seems to work. The specific toxin used was Cry5B.

  2. Mike the Mad Biologist, as always, has a perspective that I wish more people heard in politics. On the attack on Habeus Corpus in Congress, and the Bush Administration in general, he quotes Sinclair Lewis:

    “When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

    But what stirred Mike was Bora on A Blog Around the Clock, who notes that we’re now officially in a dictatorship, where Congress has officially signed over the ability of the Legislature and the Judicial branches to oversee the Executive branch. Bush and the authoritarian Right can now do whatever they want, without checks, balances, or the approval of the citizenry.

    What they miss is that the country worked fine before without torture and with FISA. Now we have nothing, just the foundation for dictatorship. We’ve seen this all before too, as Bora notes – from Julius Caesar to Slobodan Milosevic, history is ripe with examples.

    And I’m not just talking about a “hysterical left-wing conspiricy,” I’m talking about a well-documented phenomenon of authoritarianism that Bush and Rove refer to as their Republican base. John Dean has an exceptional book out called Conservatives Without Conscience.

    The rant could go on and on about empirialism, nationalism, fascism, etc… but you get the point.

  3. Similarly, PZ has belated thoughts on Randy Olson’s movie Flock of Dodos, including a call to end complacency that is building up post-Kitzmiller:

    Where are our education initiatives? Is anyone telling the NSF and NIH that they damn well better start supporting training in education and the media? Are our universities being encouraged to reach out to community schools to correct the structural flaws in science education that are handicapping the general public? Are biology departments calling up the schools of education in their own institutions and telling them what the future science teachers must know if they are to be qualified?

    Sadly, we new it would return to complacency immediately following the release of the Kitzmiller decision. We live in a nation where complacency is the norm.

    So instead of pursuing initiatives that would get us somewhere, as PZ mentions a few options, we’re attacking creationist legislation across the country piecemeal. To my knowledge, Richard Dawkins, with his new Foundation for Reason and Science, is the sole voice of action for good science. Others? Ha!… the National Center for Science Education is the epitome of piecemeal political action; the Union for Concerned Scientists focues on energy and the environment, important though they are; and the burgeoning Scientists and Engineers for America has only just been launched.

    Where is the next generation of science and biology populizers?


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