Daniel Dennett, known for having previously explained thinking, religion, and consciousness, recently spoke at the Royal Institution where he did a most excellent job of explaining memes [1-hour video].
Troubles in Paradise is a review of the history and arguments of the creationism/intelligent design movement, written by James Downard.
The cosmos is also within us, we're made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos, to know itself.
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is a thirteen-part television series of one hour shows written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter, that was aired at the tail end of 1980 and was - at the time - the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. It is best introduced by an audio excerpt of one of his books, The Pale Blue Dot. Inside is a complete annotated collection of the series. [more inside]
Affirmed evolution (and anti-intelligent design) biologist Francisco Ayala has won the 2010 Templeton Prize. In 1981, Ayala was a pivotal expert in overturning an Arkansas law that required the side-by-side teaching of creationism and evolution. Besides his nationally recognized work in evolution and genetics, the former Catholic priest has sought to reconcile evolution with religious belief, noting that science and religion are not mutually exclusive. [more inside]
November 24th marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Ray Comfort released plans to distribute thousands of free copies to students of the "50 top U.S. universities" on November 19th. His edition includes a 54 page introduction (PDF) written by Comfort. Apparently to thwart protest distribution was moved to today (according to the comments). The National Council for Science and the Environment has set up the website dontdissdarwin.com to counter Comfort's claims. via. previously. [more inside]
The Producer Cites Religious Controversy. The Director points to a recessionary trend against "serious" movies. A new film about Charles Darwin's life ("Creation") is reportedly having difficulty finding a US distributor. ( Creation: IMDB / Official Site / Trailer / Spoiler-laden review from Roger Ebert / LA Times review // Darwin: Previously on MeFi).
Genesis Revisited scientifically summarises the scientific field of Creation Science (warning: science) [transcript]
On April Fools Day 2009, the James Randi Educational Foundation announced the Pigasus Awards for 2008 for the worst in pseudoscientific irrationality. The Scientist award was given to Dr. Colin A. Ross for his claims that he can shoot electromagnetic energy beams from his eyes. The Funding Organization award went to Walt Ruloff and his co-producers for bankrolling the Intelligent Design documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The Media award went to cable channels such as Comedy Central that still run ads for Enzyte even though the company's owner is now serving a 25-year sentence for fraud. The Perfomer award was typically awarded in the past to cheesy psychics such as Uri Geller or Sylvia Browne, but this year the (dis)honor goes to actress/spokesmodel Jenny McCarthy for her antivaccination activism, a stance that inspired the Jenny McCarthy Body Count. Finally, a new award for "most persistent refusal to face reality" was presented to infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau, who continues selling his books on "natural cures" despite a judge slapping him with a $37 million fine for false claims.
Teach the Controversy. Because we know that the earth sits on giant elephants which in turn ride an even gianter turtle. [more inside]
Stupid Design Neil deGrasse Tyson gives a short view from the other side of the coin. (SLYT)
16% of US science teachers believe human beings have been created by God within the last 10,000 years. 25% of science teachers spend some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design. 12.5% teach it as a "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species". 2% say they do not cover evolution at all. Teachers who have taken more science courses themselves devote more time to evolution - "This may be because better-prepared teachers are more confident in dealing with students' questions about a sensitive subject."
Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a pro-Intelligent Design, anti-evolution polemic, arrived in theaters Friday to overwhelmingly negative reviews and anemic ticket sales. In response to the claims made in the film comes Expelled Exposed, a website which seeks to "show you why this movie is not a documentary at all, but anti-science propaganda aimed at creating the appearance of controversy where there is none."
The National Academies release their new book Science, Evolution, and Creationism, targeted at the public, which summarizes the "scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom." Download the 89-page book free in PDF format (you will be asked for your e-mail address, location, and employment sector first). Other resources on evolution from the National Academies, including other free online books (previously on MetaFilter). There's a brief NYT story about it as well.
Parentists, the dogmatic believers that parents alone are the source of Christmas presents, may have new reason to believe, with the scientific approach of External Delivery. Of course, some skeptics have opined that External Delivery is just Santa Clausism with a pseudoscientific veneer. Other commentators are more forgiving, and point out the great strides that ED has made in the study of Yuleogy.
Dinosaurs preach Young Earth creationism. "The Fossil Finders are a group of eight homeschooled children on a search for the [Biblical] truth on fossils." (This shorter excerpt cuts to the main argument, involving the discovery of flexible T. Rex tissue. Scientists remain interested in the find.) The video was produced by World's Biggest Dinosaurs, the people who now own the roadside landmark, Cabazon Dinosaurs -- and have turned it into a creation museum. [Previously]
The Inner Life of an Intelligently Designed Cell? Remember The Inner Life of a Cell animation (discussed here)? Apparently the Discovery Institute (recently discussed here) is showing it in presentations with a new title and narration, and without attribution.
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. Tonight on NOVA, a documentary on the six-week trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover. [Full transcripts of trial] The court's decision [PDF] by Judge John E. Jones III, chastised the defense's dishonesty and the "breathtaking inanity" of the Dover School Board's policy. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education recounts the the trial here. According to Salon, the Discovery Institute is not quitting -- preferring now to "teach the controversy," as part of their ongoing attack on naturalism. [Previously 1 2]
"Imagine, if you will, a load of horseshit." John Scalzi with everything you need to know about the $27 million Creation Museum.
"In the first room of the Creation Museum tour there’s a display of two paleontologists unearthing a raptor skeleton. One of them, a rather avuncular fellow, explains that he and the other paleontologist are both doing the same work, but that they start off from different premises: He starts off from the Bible and the other fellow (who does not get to comment, naturally) starts off from “man’s reason,” and really, that’s the only difference between them: “different starting points, same facts,” is the mantra for the first portion of the museum."Don't forget the photo tour. [previously]
Sex Ratio Theory, Ancient and Modern - An 18th Century Debate about Intelligent Design and the Development of Models in Evolutionary Biology [pdf file]. The design argument for the existence of God took a probabilistic turn in the 17th and 18th centuries. Earlier versions, such as Thomas Aquinas’ 5th way, usually embraced the premise that goal-directed systems (things that “act for an end” or have a function) must have been created by an intelligent designer. This idea – which we might express by the slogan “no design without a designer” – survived into the 17th and 18th centuries, and it is with us still in the writings of many creationists. The new version of the argument, inspired by the emerging mathematical theory of probability, removed the premise of necessity. It begins with the thought that goal-directed systems might have arisen by intelligent design or by chance; the problem is to discern which hypothesis is more plausible. From Professor Elliott Sober.
Ben Stein, actor, game show host, economist and White House speechwriter has embarked upon a heroic and, at times, shocking journey in the new documentary Expelled to confront the world’s top scientists, educators and philosophers, regarding their 'persecution' of the academics who support the non-science that is Intelligent Design. Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers amongst others claim they were duped into appearing in the film believing it to be a film that was to be titled Crossroads (no not that Crossroads, nor this one) that would be a debate about creationism versus Darwinism. No wonder Ferris took a day off from school with this guy as his teacher (NSFW).
Guess who's censoring references to evolution out of David Attenborough documentaries? That's right, the Dutch. See the differences; here's a detailed write-up by a Dutch biologist and documentary enthusiast comparing the two versions side-by-side (in Dutch).
Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon as a soundtrack to its album art. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (YouTube). For another painstakingly minimalist (though livelier) tribute, Kenny G's Intelligent Design show on WFMU recently featured Nick the Bard's a cappella rendition of the entire album. Playlist & link to audio archive here.
Another black eye for ID (youtube link): Zoologist Dan-Eric Nilsson of the University of Lund in Sweden explains how the complex human eye could have evolved gradually from a primitive light-sensitive eye-spot. Via Swift.
Ten things evolutionists can do to improve communication. Speaking as a battle-scarred survivor of a few battles over evolution on teh Interweb, I plead guilty to ignorance of a few of these rules. But I wonder, too, what good any of these would do in the grand scheme of things: could we expect Creationists to act as honorably, or as honestly? And what would the Flying Spaghetti Monster think?
Science is better: An enormous scientific study has conclusively demonstrated that "diet had no effect" on rates of women getting cancer or heart disease. Because the study investigated the efficacy of overall low fat diets, rather than the more recently developed hypothesis that saturated fats are the only pernicious kind, some leading medical researchers accept these findings but still think there MAY be a direct link between certain diets and major health problems in women, but (and here's the money shot) "if they did a study like that and it was negative, then I'd have to give up my cherished hypotheses for data." Now that, my friends, is a heartwarming example of one of the pinnacles of human creativity, the scientific method, which is under so much attack these days. . .
Before the class, Crocker had told me that she was going to teach "the strengths and weaknesses of evolution." Afterward, I asked her whether she was going to discuss the evidence for evolution in another class. She said no.A "Biology 101" class turns into a gripe session for creationists at a state school, the Northern Virginia Community College. The lecturer then whines about being discriminated against when she fails to teach the subject she's hired to teach.
"Who's afraid of evolutionary biology?" (I've linked Bede before, but this piece bears a much more important message to Christians who feel it their biblical duty to get hot and bothered over evolution and origin-of-life issues.) Also see a Christian response to "Young Earth" apologetics, and the Young Earth Argument Index, both from "Old Earth" Creationists who disagree with 6-Day biblical literalism. (Note that Old Earthers may still be Intelligent Design advocates. Heaping spoonsful of salt all around.) If that's still too "Christian" for you, Talk.Origins has a summary of other Genesis interpretations.
BBC News: British unconvinced on evolution "More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey. Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons." Nice to know that the maxim for the UK being five years behind the US still holds true, more or less.
The Clergy Letter Project has completed acquiring 10,000 signatures from clergy around the country. Their stated goal: For too long, the misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict has created unnecessary division and confusion, especially concerning the teaching of evolution. I wanted to let the public know that numerous clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith. They've declared February 12, 2006 as Evolution Sunday, a day when "hundreds of Christian churches from all portions of the country and a host of denominations will come together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science."
A conservative Metafilter loves to hate weighs in on the issue of intelligent design being incorporated into the classroom. Some of Orson Scott Card's views have been linked to before (see here; here; and most notably here.) This time, he seems to be less reactionary and more thoughtful. This is related to many prior Mefi threads on this issue some of which include this; this; and this.
Decision in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District:
The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from "creation" to "intelligent design" occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court's important Edwards decision. This compelling evidence strongly supports Plaintiffs' assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled.
Incompetent Design is yet another entry in the battle regarding the origin of humans.
"If God does not exist, and if religion is an illusion that the majority of men cannot live without...let men believe in the lies of religion since they cannot do without them, and let then a handful of sages, who know the truth and can live with it, keep it among themselves. Men are then divided into the wise and the foolish, the philosophers and the common men, and atheism becomes a guarded, esoteric doctrine--for if the illusions of religion were to be discredited, there is no telling with what madness men would be seized, with what uncontrollable anguish."
Why SETI's search for intelligent extraterrestrial life is different from the work of proponents of Intelligent Design. An interesting bit of argumentation regarding the distinction between the simple signals searched for by SETI and the complex signals used in arguments for ID.
Intelligent Design on trial! The ACLU of PA is blogging the current trial in Dover, PA between the parents of students and the local school board which wants to teach students Intelligent Design. Over at The Panda's Thumb, they're also keeping track of the goings on. The main ACLU website has statements from most of the plaintiff's experts in the case, including this long, well-supported pdf from philsopher Barbara Forrest, whose testimony is being used to dismantle the canard that ID is not Creationism. Over at the Legal Affairs Debate Club Beckwith and Laylock argued, last week, about whether teaching ID is legal. For background: this 2002 special report from Natural History Magazine on Intelligent Design Creationism.
And the Lord God said, “Let there be light,” and lo, there was light. But then the Lord God said, “Wait, what if I make it a sort of rosy, sunset-at-the-beach, filtered half-light, so that everything else I design will look younger?" Another take on intelligent design.
Live next week in a Harrisburg, PA federal courtroom: the ACLU and a coterie of concerned parents fight the ongoing defenestration of empiricism.
In a recent poll nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.
Did the discovery of evolution lead to Darwin's agnosticism, as claimed? Carl Zimmer wonders. More importantly, can evolution be reconciled with Christianity?
Bush comes out in favor of teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in American schools. Is this the latest evidence of the White House willing to champion worthy but controversial ideas that have been sidelined by liberal bias, or strictly from Paul Krugman's theoretical headline, "Shape of Earth: Views Differ"? [Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Lone Star State, Texas educators ignite brouhaha by adding Bible study to the public-school curriculum].
Reason #48713 for teaching the Bible in schools: "The classics of British and American literature are filled with biblical allusions that would be lost on a reader without basic knowledge of the Bible"
Why "Intelligent Design" Isn't. The New Yorker takes an informative look at the "factual" basis for so-called "Intelligent Design" theory, while an all too infrequent victory is won in Georgia.
"Set your irony meters on maximum." All this week, a three-member subcommittee of the Kansas State Board of Education is holding hearings on how to teach science. [background] Creationists, er, advocates of "intelligent design," are using it to bootstrap their claim that evolution through natural selection and creationism are two sides of a story. While many scientists are boycotting what one newspaper is calling "Barnum on steroids," IDers have brought out the big guns -- including one Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish, Muslim, newspaper columnist with a Masters in history and a close associaton with a group that presents evolution "as a conspiracy of the Jewish and American imperialists to promote new world order and fascist motives." Get your official scorecard to the Scopes Trial II here!
Creationism in our schools may be more a product of liberal relativism than of Christian Fundamentalism. "But even on a seemingly clear-cut issue such as creationism, the division is not so sharp. Liberals have often been at the forefront of questioning the authority of science. It is liberals who have argued that science education should respect cultural differences and that the curriculum should be immediately relevant to everyday life of students. Creationists have leapt at the opportunity presented by educational theories to put the knowledge of pupils on the same level as that as scientists, by putting forward the demand to 'teach the controversy'." Previous (and very different) MetaFilter discussion of ID here. Current FPP about the dangers of PC liberalism here.
The evolution of the antibody-based immune system. And a few predictions about ID and evolutionary immunology for 2005.
"The lawsuits are coming," school board member Angie Yingling said. "It's like being on the Titanic. Everyone seems to see the iceberg, but no one is steering away." The ACLU sued the Dover (Pennsylvania) Area School District today to prevent the district from enacting their recent controversial decision to teach "intelligent design" in the classroom.
Noted British atheist Antony Flew has changed his mind, persuaded by scientific evidence that God exists and that "intelligence must have been involved" in the origin of life. As Professor Emeritus in Philosophy at the University of Reading and the author of several influential books on the subject of atheism, Flew was once one of rationalism's leading lights. He now compares his beliefs with the predominantly American concept of Intelligent Design. "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads," he says.
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