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Date: 2005/10/09 07:28:34, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Well, let's see.  Against my better judgment, I'll join this thread.  ;)

Undergrad:  B.S. (1979) in Materials Science and Engineering (MIT), including courses in thermodynamics, solid mechanics,  metallurgical and ceramic science, and the usual math and physics courses.  Being an engineering major made me realize that I really should have been a biologist, something I didn't pursue until some years later.  Incidentally, I didn't study evolution at all as an engineering major, for the same reason that most biologists don't take a course in metallurgy.  I believe that MIT has since instituted a life-sciences requirement for all students, but this requirement was not in place in the 1970s.  However, I do understand and remember enough about thermodynamics to recognize the old claim that "evolution violates the second law" as complete nonsense.  That's the single specific contribution that my engineering education made to my later study of evolutionary biology.

Graduate:  M.S. (1994) and Ph.D. (2002) in Biological Sciences (Western Michigan University).  I took courses in entomology (my main interest), systematic botany, invertebrate zoology, ornithology, physical anthropology, biochemistry, genetics, animal and plant physiology, population ecology, evolution, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell biology, animal behavior, and statistics.  I also took some specialized entomology and cognate courses at Michigan State, as well as a seminar in philosophy of science.  My M.S. research project was in chemical ecology; my Ph.D. dissertation described an unusual adaptation to inbreeding in a solitary wasp species, as shown by a field study, multiple breeding experiments, and genetic testing.  The latter yielded three publications plus a couple of technical notes.

I'm currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester, where I study insect-<i>Wolbachia</i> interactions.  (<i>Wolbachia</i> are bacteria that infect insects and are usually transmitted vertically -- from mother to offspring -- and use a variety of mechanisms to skew the sex ratio of an infected mother's offspring for the bacteria's own benefit.)

So far, to paraphrase the late Prof. Dobzhansky, it all makes sense in the light of evolution.  

And I also know how to spell "credentials".   :D

Date: 2005/10/11 16:37:21, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
If the act of studying a subject in a classroom setting could effect "brainwashing" in the student, I'd be an engineer today.  ;-)

As for understanding some of the -- er, subtleties of why and how a dead plant and a live one behave differently:  You might start with the transpiration-cohesion-tension model of water transport.  Up-front warning:  This will require you to read a botany text, and if it's on the exam, it'll probably be an essay question.  

"...Helmholtz brought out his collection of lacquered butterflies, which caused him to become petulant when he realized they would not fly."  (Conversations with Helmholtz, Woody Allen)

Date: 2005/10/12 16:54:58, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
BTW:  No complaints about engineers intended or implied, Eric.  I certainly wasn't cut out to be one, but I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time socializing with engineers!  (Then again, my husband, who has always had astounding aptitude for the kinds of things that engineers do, went to med school instead.  Go figure!;)

-- Julie

Date: 2005/10/17 16:28:27, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I tend to concur.  Perhaps a member of the choir at Landover Baptist?

-- J.

Date: 2005/10/22 06:44:19, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I just can't keep from  :D when pondering the various possible meanings of "unimpeachable" in the above case.

Perhaps the Valerie Plame case will continue to wake people up.  The current administration has pandered to the non-reality-based community in many ways, and gotten away with it.  But in this case, they sabotaged some of their own intelligence operations because of a petty vendetta against one agent's husband.  Rather a stunning act from officials of an administration who spend so much time banging the drums for their "war on terrorism".

These people have promoted empty facades of foreign policy, civil rights, disaster preparedness, and educational standards.  It's not surprising that they're also promoting an empty facade of science.  There's nothing in the least bit patriotic about it -- these clowns have been methodically undermining every strength that this country has ever plausibly claimed.

Oh, I forgot.  We're too reality-based.  We just don't understand ....

Date: 2005/11/14 12:02:47, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
This piece of news is interesting -- I'm hoping that it works out well for Kalamazoo (where I lived for 13 years).  I was about to call it an "experiment", but since it's not entirely controlled, maybe "innovation" or "approach" is a better word.

BTW, I'd be very, very careful about making assumptions about people's job prospects based only on their college degrees.  It's true that, say, engineering degrees are more geared toward developing specific marketable skills than are humanities degrees.  However, quite a few people with humanities degrees seem to do very, very well in the business world (including a relative of mine who has a BA in philosophy and now holds a lucrative position in banking). The fallacy lies in assuming that all college degrees should be judged on whether you're going to get paid, after graduation, to do the same kinds of things you did for grades when you were in school.  That's not realistic -- not even engineers do problem sets for a living.  And, a lot of people are inspired to pursue further education after being out in the workforce for a few years.

If, as a college student, you don't major in something you enjoy, you're setting yourself up for at least several years of severe unpleasantness, and probably an increased probability of dropping out (I'd be interested in seeing some numbers on this, BTW; my above claim is anecdotal.)  If you find yourself underemployed or bored a couple of years out of school -- and this can happen to engineers too, folks --  both your education and your later experiences can give you a perspective on where to go next.  Lots of people find themselves in law or business school a few years down the road.  I've even met an M.D. whose initial degrees were from a music conservatory.  He had to take several science classes as a part-time student in order to get into med school, but I don't think he'd have given up his earlier experiences as a music student for anything.

Date: 2005/11/18 06:51:12, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I would read it at face value, and understand that George Will's "beef" is with two issues, neither of which is abiogenesis nor common descent.  One is the introduction of a religious doctrine into public-school science classes, and the other is with the divisive effect the ensuing battles will have on his fellow political conservatives.

Date: 2005/11/18 15:19:34, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Krauthammer has written on this and similar subjects before.  There are definitely people out there who are conservatives on fiscal, military, or foreign policy issues but will have absolutely no truck with the religious right.  

I'm politically liberal/progressive myself (I land far into the "left-libertarian" corner of the spectrum at Political Compass). I was raised a liberal Catholic, and sporadically attend a Unitarian Universalist church, arguably the most theologically liberal church denomination one will find in the U.S.  But, I've certainly met Republican-voting UUs. They tend to be a minority, but in some larger UU fellowships, political conservatives are a large enough minority to have their own support groups.

I've also met a few vociferously atheist conservatives, who generally come from the libertarian corner of the right.  And, religious issues aside, conservatives tend to be strongly pro-business, and crappy science education is hardly conducive to a first-class workforce.  Conversely, there's also a segment of the left that promulgates anti-science views (though usually for secular reasons), a group that was well and duly skewered by Alan Sokal in Social Text a few years back.  Sokal, incidentally, is himself a self-described leftist.

And, large segments of both the liberal and the conservative American populations take the Constitution quite seriously, and will express public opposition to attempts to privilege religious doctrines in U.S. public school systems.

Date: 2005/11/21 03:08:02, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I was really happy to read that one of the earliest signatories of the document is the wonderful Methodist minister who performed my wedding ceremony in 1988.  It also reminded me of the courageous Christian and Jewish clergy and laity who were among the plaintiffs in McLean vs. Arkansas Board of Education.

Date: 2005/11/22 06:25:35, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Also (mildly) amusing that "one intelligent design proponent questioned Mirecki’s science credentials", since as far as I can tell from the article, Mirecki is claiming neither to be a scientist nor to teach a science class -- he's a religious-studies professor teaching a religious-studies class!

Date: 2006/01/01 13:55:00, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Hey, can somebody point me at this "evo slush fund" I keep hearing about?  Or do you have to get past the postdoc stage to be taught the secret handshake?  I could use some additional money for my research.  A zillionth of a squillionth of the cost of one day of war would go a long way!

Date: 2006/01/07 06:37:42, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Brian, I'll be glad to respond.  For the record: I'm a biologist whose specialty is insect behavioral and molecular ecology.  (Ph.D. in 2002, and now a postdoc at Rochester.)

1) Living organisms arose from non-living matter by a purely natural mechanism that is well understood.

I'll rate this a 2.  I think that we have plausible mechanisms for how living organisms can arise from non-living matter, but the key here is "well-understood".  

2) All organisms alive today share common ancestry at some time in the remote past.

I'll rate this 7.  The DNA evidence IMO is compelling.

3) All organisms alive today reached their modern form as a result of mechanisms that are well understood by science (e.g., mutation, natural selection, drift, and the other elements in the modern theory of evolution).

I'll also give this a 7.  Time and again, we're able to obtain concordant evidence from DNA, morphology, ecology, and the fossil record.  

4) Supernatural intervention has played no role in the development of living organisms as we see them today.

This is a 1, for one reason.  The scientific method cannot answer this question.  We can't use experiments or observation to study the role, of any, of the supernatural in evolution or developmental biology, any more than we can study its role in gravity or electromagnetism.  

Of course, unless comments are included, this proposition and B8 have the biggest potential to mislead.  Most, if not all, scientists would probably rate this as 1 or 2, for the same reason I stated above -- and the answer would be the same regardless of the scientist's religious beliefs.  A reader who doesn't understand how and why this would be true is an ID charlatan's dream.

5) Supernatural forces are not required to account for the development of living organisms as we see them today.

I'll give this a 7, and the key words are "not required".  While we living organisms are variable and complex, there's nothing about us that violates the laws of physics.  I'm using absolutes like "nothing" in the sense that Stephen Jay Gould defined the word "fact";  it's something well-enough established that it would be "perverse to withhold provisional assent".

6) Human beings are related to other species.

Also a 7.  Again, we have considerable molecular, morphological, and fossil evidence for this.

7) The physical form and behavior of human beings have been shaped by natural selection.

I'll give this a 6.  My only quibble about giving it a 7 is that, in my opinion, much (though hardly all) of our behavior is shaped by cultural forces.  It's also my opinion that our large brains and our behavioral flexibility are products of natural selection.  They do, however, permit us to behave in ways that wouldn't be easy to predict using, say, fitness models.

8) Supernatural intervention played no role in the rise of human consciousness and culture, including moral and religious impulses.

As with B4:  Also a 1, because it's not testable by scientific means.

9) Supernatural forces are not required to account for human consciousness and culture, including moral and religious impulses.

I'll split hairs much more than I did with B5, and give this a 4.  In my opinion, these phenomena could occur by completely non-supernatural means. However, the human belief in these forces is common and very real, and has contributed considerably to cultural phenomena.  The reason for my lowered score:  I think most of the literature on these phenomena comes from humanities disciplines such as history.  Were I more familiar with the social-sciences literature, I might rate it as being more highly supported.

10) Natural selection is responsible for the rise of human consciousness and culture, including moral and religious impulses.

I'll rate this a mere 3 -- see my response to B9.  I think this question is only partly amenable to scientific study, taking more of a social-sciences than natural-sciences approach.  For ethical and practical reasons, we obviously can't manipulate human behaviors to test this kind of thing, and I think it would be difficult to extrapolate it reliably from history alone. 

Hope this helps,
-- Julie

Date: 2006/01/10 03:32:30, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Wow!  Now I'm eager to get my hands on that cool multicolored gel-loading dye.  The stuff we use in my lab just separates into two comparatively boring shades of blue.

I'd be careful with that "toy", though.  Chances are, it's got ethidium bromide in it.

Date: 2006/01/11 15:44:33, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
For the best comment in the thread on Pharyngula, follow this link (go to comment 57312 if it doesn't take you there directly).

Date: 2006/01/11 15:50:18, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
What is this "guts to gametes" of which we speak?

Date: 2006/01/12 11:37:37, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
For any thread participants who are not familiar with Margulis's endosymbiont model:  In this model, one prokaryotic (bacterial) cell engulfs another, but the engulfed cell is not "digested" at all.  Rather, it persists, the association benefits one or both cells, and the ability to maintain an endosymbiont gives a selective advantage to the host.   Margulis's hypothesis was not taken seriously when she proposed it in the 1960s, but in the ensuing years, genetic tools were developed to test it.  It turns out that mitochondria and plastids contain their own DNA, and have considerable structural and biochemical similarities to bacterial cells.  

Incidentally, I work with a different kind of endosymbiont -- Wolbachia, a group of bacteria adapted to persist and reproduce within the cells of arthropod and nematode reproductive tissues, and to be transmitted from mother to offspring. Wolbachia is very good at "manipulating" host reproduction to make more copies of itself, usually by biasing a female's reproductive output towards making more daughters.  (Males either don't transmit it, or else transmit it much less efficiently than females.) In some cases, Wolbachia infection comes with considerable cost to the host, but in others, its presence has become important to host survival or reproduction.

Date: 2006/01/12 13:45:13, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Julie - thats actually interesting - I'm interested in the 'manipulation of host reproduction' and the game theory surrounding this. How host-specific are Wolbachia and is there a scale of host-endosymbiont interdependence between different species?

Interesting that you should ask that.  In just about every species that harbors a persistent Wolbachia infection, there seems to be a unique sequence at an easily amplifiable Wolbachia surface protein gene.  We do know that horizontal transmission is possible, even though most transmission is vertical.  For one thing, the most closely related infected insect species don't normally carry the most closely related bacterial strains.  Wolbachia infections have been experimentally introgressed into new species; sometimes a "hybrid" between two closely related animal species is fertile if backcrossed to one of the parent species, and that's the way it's been done.  There's also some evidence that parasitoids may be able to pick up the infection from their hosts, since they develop in close contact with host body tissues and fluids.  Infections have also been experimentally established in insect embryos via microinjection.

There are four primary ways in which Wolbachia biases host reproduction towards making lots of infected daughters:

Feminization (F).  Infected genetic males develop as females.  This one's known only from some terrestrial crustaceans, and probably depends on a bacterial effect on ZW sex determination pathways.  (ZW sex determination is sort of the opposite of XY.  Females in these species are ZW, and males are ZZ.)

Parthenogenesis induction (PI):  Infected females can produce daughters by gamete duplication, without having to mate.  This is best characterized in some parasitoid wasps.  Interestingly, the true wasps,  bees, and ants have a sex-determination system with which classic PI just can't work.  (This is another field of research for me, but I'll control myself.)  :-)

Cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI):  Infected females can mate successfully with any male, but if an uninfected female mates with an infected male, her embryos won't develop.  This means that infected females have better mating prospects, and thus higher reproductive success.  This is known in many insects, especially in numerous Drosophila species.  

Male-killing (MK): Some or all male embryos of infected mothers die, so that their daughters get more resources.  Since this doesn't imply parthenogenesis, MK infections tends to exist at intermediate frequencies in a trade-off situation; if it swept completely through the population, an MK infection would cause host extinction through loss of mating opportunities.

There are other adaptations known, though, too numerous to list here. There's no easy way to correlate related strains with reproductive effects; the infection "phenotype" seems to be a product of the host-symbiont interaction rather than of the bacteria themselves.  Incidentally, different Wolbachia strains infect nematodes, and in this phylum, the host and symbiont phylogenies match up pretty well!  

I can go on about this for hours, so I'll quit before everyone is completely reeling ....

Any snappy references?

I'm really an applied molecular ecologist rather than a theoretical type, so I don't have an at-my-figurative-fingertips list, but a quick web search turned up this one that at least mentions Wolbachia dynamics:

Hammerstein, Peter.  2005.  Strategic analysis in evolutionary genetics and the theory of games.  Journal of Genetics 84: 7-12.

Hope this helps,
-- Julie

Date: 2006/01/13 03:38:16, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Alan wrote:

BTW would lack of vulnerability to PI in bees and wasps due to (presumably) haplo-diploid sex determination have had an effect on its evolutionary appearance or development?

This is something that's not well-characterized yet, and in fact it's a path I'd like to pursue.  It turns out that not all haplodiploid sex determination systems are alike; the underlying pathways differ, and there seem to have been multiple and diverse responses to selection on sex determination mechanisms.  

Brief oversimplification:  Most bees, ants, and true wasps have a single sex-determining locus (no sex chromosomes) with many alleles.  Haploids are male, and diploids are almost always heterozygous at the sex locus and become female.  Homozygous diploids develop as males, and these diploid males are usually inviable or infertile. This is called single-locus complementary sex determination, or sl-CSD (or just CSD).  Just a few years ago, the sex locus of the honeybee was definitively identified by Martin Beye and co-workers.

Since inbreeding produces more homozygotes, homozygotes become diploid males, and diploid males tend not to reproduce, we'd predict:

1. Species with CSD should avoid inbreeding.

Support: Most species with CSD have inbreeding avoidance behaviors.  For example, many bees and ants have "nuptial flights" and mate far from their natal nests.  Many solitary wasp species also disperse before mating.

2.  Species whose life histories promote inbreeding should have a different sex-determination system.

Support:  Parasitoid wasps that tend to mate with siblings after emerging from a host usually don't have CSD; breeding experiments support this.  The overall pattern, when mapped onto hymenopteran phylogeny, suggests ancestral CSD that was secondarily lost in many parasitoid lineages.  However, the latter is still a topic for conjecture, because we don't have enough information to be sure.

My own dissertation research, BTW, uncovered a bizarre exception.  One solitary, predatory wasp common in the U.S. has CSD (breeding experiments clinched this), often mates with siblings (about two-thirds of matings in the population I studied, based on genetic data), produces diploid males under inbreeding (confirmed by genetic markers) -- and these diploid males are fertile, fathering normal daughters (confirmed by breeding experiments and genetic markers). So, they've "found" another way around the CSD vs. inbreeding dilemma!

3.  Only those hymenopterans that lack CSD should have Wolbachia-induced parthenogenesis (PI), because otherwise the gamete duplication process would produce diploid males, not daughters.

Support:  To date, PI has been found only in non-CSD, parasitoid Hymenoptera.  However, this doesn't rule out different, unknown mechanisms for parthenogenesis induction in CSD species; we just haven't really looked yet.  It also doesn't rule out male-killing or cytoplasmic incompatibility; the latter (CI) may yet turn out to be a considerable player in hymenopteran biology.

You should contact Dr Elsberry about doing a guest contribution on PT.

I'll put that on my list of things to do.  :-) Gotta get a manuscript revised first, but it would be fun to do a Wolbachia essay!

Dean wrote:

Your enthusiasm for the subject shines through - isn't nature great?

Well, y'know, I just love my bugs!  Started getting interested at age 7, but didn't do anything about it for entirely too long (finally got my Ph.D. at age 46).  I try to do my best to get younger people started on what they like rather than what they think they're supposed to like.

Date: 2006/01/13 12:28:45, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I'm seriously considering starting up my own entomologically-oriented blog.   I'll keep people posted if that actually comes about.

Date: 2006/01/17 07:39:41, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I have all of Ripping Yarns on videotape.  And the third and fourth seasons of A Bit of Fry and Laurie on DVD.  I'll be glad to bring them to the party so that there'll be something to watch indoors in case of rain in the garden.  (And make mine a gin and tonic.  "Soupy Twist!")

As for offering an -- er, herbal smoke to the vicar:  From where I'm standing, he seems to bear a distinct resemblance to the Rev. Dennis Sparrow.  I don't think he'll be too shocked.

-- Julie

Date: 2006/01/17 10:10:19, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
A lay?  Why, Dean, I'm shocked.  I'm a married woman!   :D

But milder vices are fine.  I can't resist a good G&T.  Nor petits fours.  Nor reruns of "Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days!

Date: 2006/01/17 15:34:16, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
No offense taken, of course.  Especially not where an offering of petits fours is involved!

BTW, these virtual sweets and alcoholic beverages definitely have their advantages.  You can indulge all you want, not put on weight, and not have to line up a designated driver!

Date: 2006/01/18 08:03:09, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
It's a reference to that cultural critic, Bugs Bunny.

"Whadda maroon!" = "What a moron!"

Date: 2006/01/19 03:43:04, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Hmph.  Most of these guys are probably members of the LDS Church, and observant Mormons don't drink alcohol.  Sending them ale samples is a terrible waste of a good brew, if you ask me.

Date: 2006/01/21 06:08:36, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
As the somewhat overprotected only child of older parents, I developed quite an imagination as a kid in order to keep from being bored silly.  I could also distinguish physical reality from fantasy quite well even as a preschooler.  My understanding, from my extremely limited exposure to either the child-development literature or actual kids, is that this ability is the norm rather than the exception (in other words, kids with imaginary playmates are almost always exhibiting normal creativity, not delusions).

Interesting question:  Do kids have an innate ability to think logically without training, and if so, how and when are they most susceptible to the superstitions of adults?

Date: 2006/01/22 12:44:00, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
The linked article is, indeed, quite the piece of crap.  Not that it's anything we haven't seen here before, of course.  (Eeewww, it's full of bacterial flagella.  Get some Lysol...)

My favorite line in the linked article:

Meanwhile, at a biology lab in a Pennsylvanian university, biochemist Michael Behe was also puzzled by the astounding complexity he found inside the cell.

Hmmm.  I'm also frequently puzzled by things I find out in the field and lab.  Guess I should just rein in my curiosity, stop taking the time to refine my field and lab techniques, and start agitating for public schools to teach that natural phenomena are just too difficult to understand.

Date: 2006/01/22 14:08:15, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Stephen wrote:

Before I started primary school my mother had taught me to read. The result? I ended up being sent to the back of the class with a book, while the other kids were being taught to read.

This happened to me too (in the U.S.), minus the book.  I was briefly put into the slow readers group in first grade (age 6), despite already reading at at least fourth grade level.  Since I'd had little contact with children my age when I started school, I was somewhat quiet around other kids at that age, and I think my teacher considered me slow.  (I was already helping cousins three or four years older with their reading and vocabulary!)  It took several months for my teacher to realize that I could read and to remedy the situation.

We didn't have the equivalent of the eleven plus in the U.S., but there was still a considerable amount of "tracking" here in the 1960s and 1970s.  By that time, I was benefiting from being placed in an advanced track, but years later, I recall a very intelligent friend saying, "I lost the chance to take high school calculus in the seventh grade."

(For those outside the U.S.; Calculus, at least at the time, was usually taken by academic-track high school seniors, at roughly age 17.  My friend had been tracked into a slightly slower math class at 12, and there was no way at all to catch up.  None.)

Date: 2006/01/23 15:10:12, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Y'know, I'm still completely confused about how creationism ever took hold within Christianity.  What on earth does a literal interpretation of Genesis have to do with Jesus or with the New Testament?  And, in fact, despite Genesis being the first book of the Pentateuch, it seems that very, very few Jews are either YECs or IDists.

Very strange.

Date: 2006/01/24 14:03:02, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Am I abnormal?

Nope, you're just another one of us who doesn't buy the idea that the only motivation in life is what might happen after death.

Date: 2006/01/27 17:48:21, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Wonderful. Dembski has deliberately turned over his blog to some malcontent who thinks that AIDS-related dementia is funny.  (I wonder what else DaveScot thinks is a laugh riot.  Heart attacks?  Schizophrenia?  Spinal cord injuries?)  

The good news:  Eventually, UD is going to become such a bizarre mess that even Dembski is going to have to disavow it.  Oh, and the parts quoted here aren't wholly accurate.  Most of the time, DaveScot misspells "Holocaust".


Date: 2006/01/28 08:06:09, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Well, at least that AAAS "Science only in science class ..." banner ad is alive and well -- it popped up while I was reading that thread!

The stuff about IQ scores and ID vs. "Darwinian" belief was truly bizarre.

Date: 2006/02/02 10:56:31, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Omigawd, Stroker and Hoop is back?  I loved the pilot!  

We never did get cable when we moved to Rochester last year, since Adult Swim was literally all we watched at our old place and it worked out to $5-$10 per hour of viewing!  I don't see us planning to get cable again soon, but maybe S&H will eventually come out on Netflix?!?!?!?!  And The Boondocks, too?

And, of course, there's always the Venture Brothers.  I just can't resist the Monarch and his evil henchbutterflies!

Date: 2006/02/02 14:59:06, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
WOW! Sounds like he's quite a guy.

Smoke him a kipper -- he'll be back for breakfast.   :p

Date: 2006/02/06 15:24:12, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Every time I think I've fully accepted the utter nuttiness of the current administration, they take it one step further. These are the people who are claiming they're going to revitalize math and science education as well as the space program.  Apparently it's possible to do these things without supporting any "controversial" academic disciplines like evolutionary biology or astrophysics.

On a personal note:  Are there any countries out there that (a.) have relatively sane leadership and (b.) permit newly retrained scientists to move there even after age 45?  It's a depressing prospect to wait around and hope that our alleged leadership pulls its collective head out of its collective hindgut before we get too old to practice our professions.


Date: 2006/02/06 15:32:12, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
And, as I recall, Arnold Rimmer was an atheist.  Even though -- or perhaps because -- his parents were Seventh-Day-Advent-Hoppists.  Old Arnie wouldn't have been completely ID-resistant though; he'd have been open to the "space aliens" hypothesis.

As for Ace Rimmer, he had a sense of humor.  (What a guy!) You think Hovind's tough because he dispatched an allosaurus with his bare hands?  Well, Ace once killed two Nazis with a single alligator!

Will have to download the Hovind-Ali G extravaganza ....

Date: 2006/02/07 14:42:41, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I remember a wonderful, perhaps apocryphal story of an eminent physicist who got two letters in the same week from people who claimed they'd invented perpetual motion machines.  As the story goes, the physicist sent each one a similar letter, explaining that he wasn't an authority on perpetual motion machines, but knew someone who might be of more help.  He then gave each of the two cranks the address of the other.

Date: 2006/02/08 07:30:08, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Latest news:  George Deutsch has "resigned" from NASA.  Turns out that he never actually completed the bachelor's degree that he claimed on his resume.

More all over the net; just search the news for his name.

Date: 2006/02/16 01:59:37, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I went back to school in my late thirties because I'd started reading Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan for fun, and reading the popular literature on evolutionary biology made me remember that I'd always wanted to be an entomologist (slap upside the head -- how did I ever forget to do what I loved for 25 years?)

It was through Gould's writing that I learned about MacLean v. Arkansas Board of Ed.  I was mystified -- I had no idea that such things still went on in the U.S.  When I was a kid, my mother had told me about the Scopes trial.  I remember her laughing when she told the story.  Incidentally, she's Catholic and has only a high-school education -- and she thought that banning the teaching of evolution in schools was silly.  Then again, in 1960s New England, that kind of thing was something that only happened somewhere else 40 years earlier.  Imagine my surprise to find out that it was still going on in the U.S. in the 1980s!

So, although I've never been a public activist on this issue, I've been interested in it for 20 years.  I actually encountered creationist students for the first time when I was a grad student and biology TA at Western Michigan.  Now that I'm a postdoc thinking about an eventual full-time academic job, I've realized that I'd better keep up with the problem more closely.  

My own research interests are more on the scale of population and community ecology, but like all of biology, all of this makes sense only in the light of evolution.  The educational problem is much broader, of course.  Most adults don't make direct use of evolutionary concepts on the job, for instance -- but the deliberate mis-education of children and college students about science is not just dishonest, but inflicts on them a severe impediment to understanding the world.

Date: 2006/02/21 05:51:33, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I've got most of MPFC on videotape.  Someday, will spring for the whole set on DVD.

And now:  The Fish-Slapping Dance!

Date: 2006/03/06 03:21:53, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I've only read a few of the original stories, but vastly enjoyed the Jeeves and Wooster TV series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. I rented the whole thing, one disc at a time, through Netflix.  Yes, it's essentially a one-joke story, and maybe it's even more so when adapted for TV, but Fry and Laurie are, as usual, too much fun!  Some viewers complained that Stephen Fry was too young for the part of Jeeves -- he was, I think, 33 when the series began, and is not made up to look older.  IMO, though, Fry is one of the most age-neutral actors around, and he and Hugh Laurie were always perfect together!

Date: 2006/03/06 09:26:11, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
The great thing about good old materialist science is that you can do it quite competently if you're a monotheist, a polytheist, an atheist, an agnostic, a deist, or none of the above.  You can do it, and understand it, if you're a liberal, a conservative, a centrist, a libertarian, a green, a fascist, a communist, or totally I-don't-give-a-frass-pellet apolitical.  You can do or understand it if you're a nice guy, a sweet thing, a stressed-out neurotic, or a rapidly oxidizing anal orifice.  You can be of any age or sex or sexual orientation or ethnicity or physical ability status, and you can still understand how scientific inquiry works and even learn to do it yourself.  In fact, you can be any of those things and study history, art, literature, social science, economics, engineering, carpentry, cooking, hairdressing, or anything else that interests you.  

Some of these people who get the vapors about atheist (or religious) scientists speaking up about their personal beliefs really need to pick up their smelling salts and their fainting couches and go home.

Date: 2006/03/06 09:31:26, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Naaaah, they're too busy gloating over the fact that a movie about a same-sex love affair didn't win this year's Academy Award for Best Picture.  (Don't remind them that the film that did win had a story line that addressed racism.  They'll get all riled.)

Date: 2006/03/06 09:46:47, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Well, if I come across a bowl of cake batter in the kitchen, I can come to two conclusions.  One is that an intelligent agent is in the process of baking a cake and hasn't put it into the oven yet.  Another is that there was a cake in the kitchen and an even more intelligent agent miraculously un-baked it.  Since I wasn't baking a cake and the kitchen is empty, it must have been the latter.

(slam ...)

Oh, hi, Mom.  Didn't know you'd dropped in!  I'll brew you a cup of coffee through the Explanatory Filter.

Date: 2006/04/04 06:44:06, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Wow, go away for a week or so and you miss some real gems.

Three weeks in Italy, and the mention of the notion that nature might give objective evidence of being designed can only seem like suffering/persecution to the most objectionably spoiled human beings in recorded history.

I don't get it.  Is DT claiming that spending three weeks in Italy is an example of suffering?  Spending three weeks in Italy is something I'd consider a dream vacation.

And I also don't get this "high priest of Darwinism" thing that I found earlier in the thread.  Can I become a high priestess of Darwinism? Would I get to perform weddings?  And wear really neat satin robes?  And be tax-exempt and stuff?

Date: 2006/07/07 01:26:20, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
I really like Chris's coinage of "apatheist".  It describes me pretty well.

I grew up in a tepidly Catholic home, and became a well-indoctrinated little Catholic in my Saturday morning "instructions".  I still became an atheist at 14, which didn't shock my parents, whom I'd describe as "non-atheist apatheists"; maybe that's a long way of saying "deists". In some ways I identify as Unitarian Universalist, since I belonged to a UU congregation in Michigan for years and occasionally attend one here in upstate New York.  But, while UU has theist roots and adherents, it's not necessary to be a theist to be a UU.

The main thing I've taken away from my UU experiences is a broader understanding of what many UUs call "God-language", meaning the use of words and ideas like "God" and "prayer" whether or not one believes in or prays to a deity.  To me, it's just figurative language, like talking about "Mother Nature".  Some skeptics use God-language (I sometimes do), while others don't.

That said, I don't spend much time thinking about either belief or disbelief in gods.  It's just not something I consider important.  Quite a bit of my formal ethical education came from Catholic instructions, and I have few if any complaints about it, but I see no reason why one must use supernatural ideas to teach ethics.

Date: 2006/08/06 06:39:02, Link
Author: Julie Stahlhut
Klinghoffer wrote:

You would have thought that being able to understand both sides of a scientific issue would be a valuable intellectual experience for anyone to have.

Understanding that a scientific theory is not required to be an issue with two sides is an even more valuable intellectual experience.