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The Panda's Thumb is the virtual pub of the University of Ediacara. The patrons gather to discuss evolutionary theory, critique the claims of the antievolution movement, defend the integrity of both science and science education, and share good conversation. Movable Type Pro 4.381
Updated: 6 days 54 min ago
By David MacMillan. 8. New perspective. I think there are several different varieties of creationism activists. Some are obsessed with the presumed negative effects of evolution and secular humanism. Some are driven by suspicion for science and the certainty that a conspiracy must be afoot. Some use creationist apologetics to make themselves feel smarter and better-informed than the general public. Some are genuinely interested in science and want to know the truth. I’d be lying... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Photograph by Al Denelsbeck. Photography contest, Winner. Our congratulations to Al Denelsbeck, the winner of the latest Panda’s Thumb photography contest with his remarkable photograph “Parasitized moth larva.” “Flightless cormorant,” by Dan Moore, was second. We will award Mr. Deneslbeck a book generously supplied by NCSE. Acharia stimulea – saddleback caterpillar moth larva, which has been parasitized by a species of Braconid wasp, of the superfamily Ichneumonoidea. Mr. Denelsbeck writes, “Darwin, of course, made a... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Because of the cognitive dissonance required to buy into pseudoscientific beliefs, it’s not surprising when an adherent of one pseudoscience is sucked into believing another one. For example, there is considerable overlap between advocates of 9/11 Truth beliefs and advocates of anti-Semitic causes, or between young-earth creationists and climate change deniers. The Discovery Institute has been engaging in climate-change denial for some time (see here and here, for example), so it’s really not surprising... Dave Thomas http://www.nmsr.org
By David MacMillan. 7. The religion of evolution. The final set of creationist misconceptions about evolution surrounds its supposed religious, moral, and ethical implications. These objections prove difficult to address, simply because they have little or no objective basis and are almost purely philosophical or religious. This section will concentrate mostly on explaining the relationships and connections between these arguments, as systematically refuting them would delve deep into philosophy and theology and is far beyond... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Michael Zimmerman reports today in the Huffington Post that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has declined to endorse the Clergy Letter Project and declare the second Sunday in February to be Evolution Sunday. Specifically, Reverend John Shuck, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and his congregation are longtime supporters of the Clergy Letter, and Reverend Shuck proposed that the General Assembly of the church vote to support Evolution Sunday. A subcommittee voted the... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Photograph by Helena Insko. Opposable thumb. Ms. Insko submits this photograph of a fully opposable thumb as evidence of evolution and writes, “My mom and I have been voting in the photo contest as long as I can remember (I’m 10). When my mom told me the theme was how we know evolution is correct, this is my answer (and my hand).”... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
While searching for the source of this cartoon, I ran across the website of Samuel Varg, a Swedish magician and skeptic. Mr. Varg has posted an interview with Kenneth Miller on YouTube and promises interviews with Candida Moss and John Safran. Mr. Varg and his colleague Anders Hesselbom were unusually well prepared. Professor Miller, in turn, was an excellent spokesperson for theistic evolution, though I had to take issue with his claim that the universe... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
This cartoon Ken Ham, The Lie: Evolution, illustrations by Steve Cardno (Master Books, 1987). See also here. was shown as part of an otherwise innocuous PowerPoint presentation to a freshman biology class at Grady High School in Atlanta and caused a bit of a flap, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The teacher and the district science coordinator apparently refused interviews, but the student newspaper reports, based on interviews with students, that the teacher did not... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
By David MacMillan. 6. Genetic evidence. Revised July 4, 2014. Perhaps one of the clearest and most obvious confirmations of evolution is the convergence between the evolutionary paths of descent determined by fossil evidence and the phylogenetic tree generated by algorithms analyzing genetic information. Because the tree of universal common descent is real, not invented, it leaves the same fingerprint in every part of nature that life touches. Matching trees can be found in global... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
A follow-up on the Nye-Ham debate in the Reports of the National Center for Science Education: Andrew J. Petto said it wasn’t a real debate, which is sort of true, but the most interesting observations, to me, were those made by John W. Patterson. Prof. Patterson, an engineering professor, correctly gives Ken Ham credit for not obfuscating, for not pretending that creationism is based on anything but his interpretation of the Bible. He thinks that... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Here are the finalists of the 2014 photography contest. We received approximately 24 photographs from 10 photographers, somewhat fewer than in previous years. Most of the pictures were excellent, and we had to enlist our wife to help narrow the number of finalists to 5. To choose the finalists, we considered what we thought were the scientific and pictorial qualities of the photographs, and also attempted to represent as many photographers and present as much... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
You may get an idea how science really works from an article by Boston science writer Kate Becker in today’s Boulder Daily Camera. (I think the column is exclusive to the Daily Camera.) Becker describes the Bicep2 experiment, which looked for evidence of cosmic inflation by examining the polarization of the cosmic background radiation. The authors of the paper announced its conclusion before the paper had been submitted for review; since then, others have criticized... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
By David MacMillan. 5. Evolution of evolution. Most creationists believe that the theory of evolution was developed out of an ideological commitment to explaining life apart from God. Explanations of the history of evolutionary theory often point out personal struggles in the lives of prominent scientists – Darwin most often, of course – in support of this belief. “Secular scientists wanted a way of explaining a world that didn’t require God, so they invented this... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
John Freshwater’s petition for a writ of certiorari has been placed on the SCOTUS docket for a September 29, 2014, conference.... Richard B. Hoppe
Photograph by Gerry L. Photography contest, Honorable Mention. Pan troglodytes – common chimpanzee.... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
By David MacMillan. 4. Transitional fossils. One of the most common and most frustrating creationist objections to evolution is the claim that there are no “missing links” or “transitional fossils” required by evolution. This claim is made without qualification, particularly in presentations to lay or church audiences. As unthinkable as it might seem, creationists really do believe that transitional fossils simply do not exist. On this basis, they conclude that evolution must be false. They... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
A report this morning on NPR asks, “Is collecting animals for science a noble mission or a threat?” The question is left unanswered, but the reporter notes that collecting specimens from small, isolated, and endangered species can be counterproductive, at best. Ben Minteer, an author of the Science article that inspired the NPR report (not to mention a rebuttal by around 120 other scientists), recommends photographs and DNA samples in lieu of specimens, but other... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
I’ve a brief new article in the new Skeptical Inquirer (July/August 2014) regarding Casey Luskin’s botched attack on the second episode of Cosmos. Here it follows - your comments are welcomed. Fox TV’s Seth McFarlane has joined with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan’s widow and collaborator, to continue Sagan’s marvelous Cosmos series of decades ago. The new series is a splendid blend of homage to Sagan’s original one with dazzling... Dave Thomas http://www.nmsr.org
Recurvirostra americana – American avocet, Walden Ponds, Boulder, Colorado.... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
By David MacMillan. 3. You don’t evolve, your species does. Creationists often conceptualize evolution as something which is purely vertical: successive changes from parent to child to grandchild to great-grandchild accumulating over time. They can hardly be faulted for this misconception, because this view seems to be shared by the general public and even reinforced by the sometimes-imprecise explanations and depictions of evolution by museums and science educators. Evolutionary adaptation, however, does not happen in... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Antievolutionists Say the Darndest Things
Antievolutionists often express outrage over alleged incivility from those who oppose their efforts to evade the establishment clause of the First Amendment. But they have no difficulty in dishing out the abuse themselves. Here is a sample from the Invidious Comparisons thread that documents egregious behavior on the part of the religious antievolution advocates.
One thing that Jack Krebs and I agree with is that Pratt can be likened to an outpost under siege in a cultural war.
My wife and I just returned from a trip to Belgium. We visited Bastogne where a few brave Americans of the 101st Airborne Division were surrounded by the German Army during the battle of the bulge. The German attack was led by a crack SS unit that took no prisoners.
What were we fighting against in Bastogne? We were fighting against a Nazi regime that used the philosophy of Naturalism to justify a eugenics program of terrifying proportions. Naturalism is the belief that all phenomena result only from the laws of chemistry and physics and that teleological or design explanations are not valid. Naturalism is not science. It is a belief system.
In the same manner, the defenders in Pratt are fighting against Naturalism, although they may not realize it. Rather than fighting against science, they are actually fighting for science. They are fighting for science that is driven by logic and critical thinking rather than by a philosophy that teaches to the exclusion of all other teachings that we are the products of only chance and necessity. They are fighting for science that is driven by the scientific method rather than science that is driven by a philosophy of Naturalism.
Rather than using logic and good science to support its assault on the brave contingent in Pratt, the KCFS is using tactics one would expect from those that besieged Bastogne: scare tactics, misinformation and no substantive discussion of the real issues.
So, we are back looking at Pratt as the bombs fall. The question is whether the Board and the Community will be supported by the rest of us as they have had the guts that General McAullife and the other brave Americans had that cold winter day in Bastogne 54 years ago. McAullife's reply was very simple when asked to surrender: "Nuts!" McAullife and the 101st were subsequently relieved by elements of Patton's Third Army. In the same way we all need to rise up and put our hands together for the Pratt Board and Pratt Citizens that have just characterized the outrageous censorship by the science establishment as "Nuts!"