(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear friends of NCSE, A statement supporting climate change education from the American Federation of Teachers. New survey results about evolution in Canada. And a preview of The Atlas of Climate Change.
I've switched the data over from our old server to a shiny new one. It took longer than I would have liked, but hopefully things will go smoother from this point.
The Kansas State Board of Education held "unofficial" hearings in 2005 to decide between the antievolution-influenced rewrite of proposed state science standards and those developed by the writing committee. They brought in over twenty "experts" in "intelligent design" creationism to testify. Attorney Pedro Irigonegray asked many of them to give their opinion of how old the earth is. Their answers are instructive.
- William Harris:
- Q. Sir, I have only a few questions for you. As it was stated earlier, my name is Pedro Irigonegaray, I represent the majority. You've told us a little bit about your beliefs and your opinions and how you came to those. I'd like to ask you for the record, first, can you tell us how old you believe the earth is?
Sometimes you find something while looking for something else. A few weeks ago I was looking at Wesley Elsberry's version of Dawkins' Weasel and began wondering if it is possible to make a game out of an evolutionary search. I played with the options on the weasel page and tried searching for words instead of full sentences. I discovered that individual words could be found in a reasonable number of generations.
So I began the quest for an evolutionary game. As a game it needed to be fun to play. As a demonstration of cumulative selection it needed to be faithful to the core of Dawkins' algorithm. The variation generator must be blind to the past and future. Every generation must be derived from a parent without regard to goals and without memory of past generations.
How We Can Trace Ancestry Through Genetics
If you think you've found a problem in the following, please email me at welsberr at inia dot cls dot org. Organismal biology is my field, so I'd appreciate feedback from molecular biologists.
Some anti-evolutionists claim that sequence data from proteins and genetics
disprove the idea of common descent. Because humans evolved from primates,
who evolved from other mammals, who evolved from reptiles, who evolved
from amphibians, who evolved from fish, etc. back to bacteria, then supporting
data from sequence studies should show greater differences between humans
and bacteria than between fish and bacteria, according to those anti-evolutionists.
The data from sequencing the cytochrome-c protein across a few modern species shows that the pattern of differences does not fit that view. Instead, virtually the same distance from the sequence in modern bacteria exists to all modern metazoans. The anti-evolutionists would like you to believe that this poses a problem for the theory of common descent. I will endeavor to explain why they are mistaken.
I’ve been saying that there were problems in William Dembski’s “explanatory filter” for a long, long time. Dembski has finally admitted that was the case.
At the February 1997 NTSE conference, when I brought up the “traveling salesman problem” solved by genetic algorithm as an example that countered Dembski’s EF, he responded that his logic was sound and his premises were true, therefore his conclusion followed. Dembski in that instant dismissed empirical data as having any bearing on his work. It only took the better part of twelve years for Dembski to repudiate the soundness of his logic presented then.
by Wesley R. Elsberry
It is difficult to find the originators of certain concepts which
pass quickly into general use. The analogy of monkeys typing
at random on typewriters and eventually reproducing copies of
literary works is one such concept.
In tracking down who might have originated the concept, we will
find people who definitely use or reference it, as well as variants
of how it is expressed. We will also explore limitations upon
who might have originated the concept or when the concept might
reasonably have been first told to a general audience.
The "academic freedom" and "critical analysis" bills currently being considered by the Florida legislature are old stratagems borrowed from antievolution efforts in other states. Ronda Storms and Alan Hays have been asked whether "intelligent design" could be taught in science classrooms. Storms and Hays steadfastly refuse to answer the question posed. You have to look at what has been done in the name of narrow religious antievolution and not what is said.
On Pharyngula, PZ Myers treats us with an incredibly accessible explanation why chromosome number can change.
The posting was in response to an email PZ received about the evolution of chromosome numbers.
How did life evolve from one (I suspect) chromosome to... 64 in horses, or whatever organism you want to pick. How is it possible for a sexually reproducing population of organisms to change chromosome numbers over time?
Firstly: there would have to be some benefit to the replication probability of the organisms which carry the chromosomes