Happy Origin of Species Day! (November 24)

November 23, 2012

Tomorrow, November 24, 2012, marks the 153rd anniversary of a day that quietly changed all of science, should have changed much of theology, and brought much of the world into the future, though many people don’t know it yet.

It’s a Saturday this year — so let’s be a day early, to get informed and involved the people who don’t check their calendars on the weekends.

On November 24, 1859, Charles Darwin’s book was published, On the Origin of Species.

Title page, 1859 edition of Darwin's Origin of Species - University of Sydney/Wikimedia image

Title page, 1859 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species – image from the University of Sydney via Wikimedia image

How to celebrate?  You could read a summary of Ernst Mayr’s shorthand version of Darwin’s theory, and understand it really for the first time  (I hope not the first time, but there are a lot of people who really don’t understand what Darwin said — especially among critics of evolution):

Darwin’s theory of evolution is based on key facts and the inferences drawn from them, which biologist Ernst Mayr summarised as follows:[3]

  • Every species is fertile enough that if all offspring survived to reproduce the population would grow (fact).
  • Despite periodic fluctuations, populations remain roughly the same size (fact).
  • Resources such as food are limited and are relatively stable over time (fact).
  • A struggle for survival ensues (inference).
  • Individuals in a population vary significantly from one another (fact).
  • Much of this variation is inheritable (fact).
  • Individuals less suited to the environment are less likely to survive and less likely to reproduce; individuals more suited to the environment are more likely to survive and more likely to reproduce and leave their inheritable traits to future generations, which produces the process of natural selection (inference).
  • This slowly effected process results in populations changing to adapt to their environments, and ultimately, these variations accumulate over time to form new species (inference).
Darwin's original sketch of a "tree of life," from Darwin's journals

Charles Darwin’s 1837 sketch, his first diagram of an evolutionary tree from his First Notebook on Transmutation of Species (1837) on view at the the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Interpretation of handwriting: “I think case must be that one generation should have as many living as now. To do this and to have as many species in same genus (as is) requires extinction . Thus between A + B the immense gap of relation. C + B the finest gradation. B+D rather greater distinction. Thus genera would be formed. Bearing relation” (next page begins) “to ancient types with several extinct forms.”  Wikimedia image

This is mostly an encore post — hey, it’s a history blog — with tips of the old scrub brush justified to Larry Moran and P. Z. Myers, and especially Eugenie Scott and the National Center for Science Education.

More:

 


Friends of science and evolution: Testify next week in the Texas textbook process?

July 14, 2011

I get important e-mail from the Texas Freedom Network; they’re asking for help next week to fight creationism and other forms of buncombe popular in Texas:

Science and the SBOE: One Week to Go

Next week, the Texas State Board of Education will take a critical vote on science in our public schools. We need people like you to make sure the vote is in favor of sound, well-established science.

Up for board consideration are science instructional materials submitted by a number of publishers and vendors who want their product used in Texas classrooms. Even before the board meets, far-right groups have been hard at work trying to ensure materials approved by the board attack and diminish evolutionary science and include the junk science of “intelligent design”/creationism.

The attacks include one from a little-know firm out of New Mexico, International Databases, which submitted instructional materials rife with creationist propaganda.

It gets worse. Far-right SBOE members last month appointed creationists with questionable scientific credentials to teams tasked with reviewing the materials and making recommendations to the board.

And new board chair Barbara Cargill upped the stakes when in a speech just last week she framed the debate over science as a “spiritual battle.”

The board will hold just ONE public hearing on the science materials. Your participation is crucial.

It is critical that you act now by clicking here to express your interest in testifying before the board on July 21.

Please note: The deadline to sign up to testify is 5 p.m. Monday.

We must insist that the SBOE keep junk science – including “intelligent design”/creationism – out of our children’s classrooms. The board must approve only instructional materials that are accurate, that are in line with sound and well-established science, and that will prepare Texas children to succeed in college and the jobs of the 21st century.

Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the radical right. www.tfn.org | www.tfninsider.org | General: tfn@tfn.org
Tell a friend to subscribe to TFN News Clips, Alerts or Rapid Response Teams. Subscribers may choose the issue areas that interest them. To change your TFN subscription preferences – or to unsubscribe – click here.
Copyright 2010, Texas Freedom Network

Trying to carve out time here.  Can you help?

Hearings will be most interesting.  Support for the Texas State Board of Education actually comes, often, from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).  TEA this week laid off just under 200 workers, to deal with the 36% budget chopping done to the agency by the Texas Lege.  Word comes this week that curriculum directors at TEA were let go, including the director of science curriculum.

It’s rather like the first 20 weeks of World War II in the Pacific, with the aggressors advancing on almost all fronts against science.  When is our Battle of Midway?

Information, resources: 


Meanwhile, in the evolution debates, where we find the Mother of All Denialism . . .

June 29, 2011

Other fronts in the War on Education may have earned more attention here in the Bathtub, lately — and in state legislatures.  Threats from the dilution and elimination of good, hard science courses continue to pose problems, especially from creationists and their shyer, camouflage troops from the Chapel of Intelligent Design.

We need to stay aware of the creationist/creationism threat.  At its heart, creationism requires adherents to reject the facts of science, to reject the workings of science, and to reject the functions of debate about what is real, and what is not.  It is to me a rather simple discussion of the quality of evidence.

Eugenie Scott and her colleagues from the National Center for Science Education provide a great update in what is going on, with a great video, and an informative and troubling explanation of the links between creationism and the “unbelievers” in climate change.

Be sure to watch the first ten minutes, to see the video update on the fight to keep good science education in schools, especially the teaching of evolution.


What is a kilosteve? Buy the t-shirt, find out

October 24, 2009

You can get your kilosteve t-shirt here.

Why would you want one?

Every scientist named Steve should have one -- and so should you!

Every scientist named Steve should have one -- and so should you! (Front)

Because it puts you in the company of distinguished scientists who stoutly defend the teaching of good science to children, so they can go on to become great scientists themselves.

Plus, it’s a poke in the eye to the Texas State Board of Education, none of whom are named Steve, and few of whom would be invited to sign on if they were.

Here’s the back of the shirt:

KiloSteve t-shirt, back side.  1,099 total Steves. (Back)

KiloSteve t-shirt, back side. 1,099 total Steves. (Back)

A kilosteve is a thousand Steves.

Creationists fondly distributed a list of scientists who, they claimed, question whether the theory of evolution is accurate.  The anti-science Discovery Institute in Seattle distributed the list starting in about 2001, with a few hundred names.

To claims that many scientists opposed teaching evolution, NCSE created a list of scientists who support teaching evolution theory — but limiting that list to scientists with the first name “Steve,” or a derivative of Steve.  About 1% of people in the English-speaking world have such a name — so the fact that more scientists named Steve sign the list supporting evolution, than those of all names who sign the list denying it, means that the Discovery Institute list represents less than 1% of all scientists.

A comparison of the lists is always instructive.  In 2003 I started phoning people listed on the Discovery Institute list; of the first 20 I called, ten denied having signed any petition against evolution.  One demanded his name be removed.  Five made a modest defense of being skeptical of evolution, but none of them were biologists, and none had any publications which questioned any part of evolution in any way.

NCSE started the project in 2003, not long after the death of Stephen Jay Gould, the staunch defender of science and evolution who was the main witness in the first creationism trial, in Arkansas in 1981.  It’s a fitting memorial to a fine teacher.

Eugenie Scott heads up NCSE.  In an e-mail this week to members of Texas Citizens for Science, who were discussing the kilosteve shirt, she noted it has already spread overseas.

Just wanted you to know that when I gave my talk at Cambridge University Tuesday, Steve #800 walked into the lecture room wearing his kilosteve shirt.

A proud moment!

(Of course I threw open my arms and said in a cheery voice, “STEVE!!!”)

It almost makes one wish one’s name were Steve.  (One also may wonder, who is Steve #800?) The shirt’s a great buy, especially considering that for the price of a kilosteve, one actually gets 1.099 kilosteves.  (As of today, there are 1,118 Steves who have signed the list.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula, which noted the achievement of the kilosteve when it actually happened, and to Texas Citizens for Science, just for the heck of it..

You came to this blog, and all you got was a plug for a lousy t-shirt; share your displeasure:

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Up-to-the-minute reports from the science ramparts — today’s evolution hearings

March 25, 2009

If you’re not thinking of Edward R. Murrow’s reports from the roof of the building in London as the bombs fell, you’re not aware of how grave things are in Texas.

The Texas Freedom Network is live-blogging the hearings in Austin, before the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).  Testimony of a sort is being offered on whether to force Texas kids to study false claims of scientific error about evolution.

Steve Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science is live-blogging, too, here at EvoSphere.

Schafersman listed several ways you can keep up with the hearings:

I will be live blogging the Texas State Board of Education meeting of 2009 March 25-27 in this column. This includes the hearing devoted to public testimony beginning at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, March 25. I will stay through the final vote on Friday, March 27.

Go to the following webpages for further information:

State Board of Education
http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index3.aspx?id=1156

March 25-26 SBOE Meeting Agenda
http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=3994

March 25 Public Hearing with Testimony, 12:00 noon
http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=4034

State Board rules for Public Testimony

http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=3958#Public%20Testimony

Current Science TEKS as revised in 2009 January

http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/home/sboeprop.html

For the live audio feed, go to http://www.tea.state.tx.us/ for the link.


NCSE’s new web design

October 20, 2008

Visited the website for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) lately?

NCSE redesigned the website — it looks great!

NCSE is the only group in America — which means it may be the only group in the world — that stands for science education so stoutly, especially with regard to the teaching of evolution.

Arrayed against much more munificently funded “ministries” of many stripes, against the oddball but money-rich Discovery Institute, NCSE is the only organization that stands to defend the teaching of the hard science of evolution in America’s schools.

Particularly in times like these, when forces of darkness mass to assault science education, we need NCSE.  Go check out their website.

And, teachers:  Bookmark that site. It’s one of the verifiable, good sites you can point your students to for any research project.  Click on the logo to see.


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