Great Wall of China crumbling

August 29, 2007

Nothing lasts forever.

From MSNBC comes an Associated Press report that the Great Wall of China is falling down in places, the victim of blowing sands. The blowing sands are the result of a Dust-Bowl-like overplowing spree after World War II.

Crumbling section of Great Wall of China, in Mongolia

Observations:

1. Geography teachers should copy this story and follow it; soil erosion killed Babylon and several other civilizations in the Fertile Crescent (and Carthage, if we allow that the erosion was promoted by the Romans as a weapon of genocide); the Great Wall is one of those features that most people think strong an permanent. This is also a great insight into construction methods — the parts of the Wall that are crumbling appear to have been made of mud. Adobe construction, anyone (someday I have to finish that post).

2. World history teachers ought to note it for the same reasons as geography teachers. U.S. history teachers will want to keep this to compare it to the Dust BowlThere are also signs that humans may have significantly altered the local biota and, perhaps, climate, with their construction and agriculture methods.

3. China’s ascent in world position brings responsibilities it may have hoped to avoid, such as protecting the environment. Ending the encroachment of the desert in this case is a tall order — but if it can be done there, perhaps it can also be done around the Sahara, around the Namib, around the Syrian Desert, and other places where grasses once grew, but dust now blows. These sites are more common than one might think.

4. Santayana’s ghost: Didn’t China pay attention to the events of the U.S. Dust Bowl?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jonathan Turley’s new blog — Turley’s a good lawyer with very interesting cases; his views are a welcome addition. Most of his blog simply points to interesting legal issues.


π = 3: A discussion of Biblical literalism

August 29, 2007

In the comments — continued from a thread at Gospel of Reason, a blog no longer growing.


One Texas, under God

August 29, 2007

A federal district court judge dismissed a challenge to the new law in Texas which adds “under God” to the Texas pledge, on top of the Texas law which requires all kids to say the pledge every day.

The Texas Lege, long the foil of Molly Ivins, was in particularly fine form this year, writing commandments from God and curtsies to God into several state activities. While I’m way behind on railing about these requirements, our Texas State Attorney General, Greg Abbott, has little more to do than make sure God gets his due — God being incapable of doing that himself, I suppose. Houston’s being over-run with storm refugees who disproportionately brought their guns, drug and gambling habits with them, juries in East Texas being under fire for being racially imbalanced and sentencing way more blacks to death than would seem reasonably by any statistical measure, and millions of school dollars disappearing in charter school scams and other scandals across the state, and Texas having the highest number and highest percentage of kids without health insurance, all pale by comparison to the Texas Lege’s and Mr. Abbott’s calls to make sure Texas kids pledge allegiance to the correct deity in the correct way.

Abbott’s opposite-editorial-page opinion ran in this morning’s Dallas Morning News. He gets his full say, below the fold.

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Majerus’s Peppered Moth PowerPoint

August 29, 2007

True to his word, Michael Majerus put up on his lab’s website the PowerPoint slides from his presentation in Sweden, in which he verified Bernard Kettlewell’s findings that natural selection had changed the colors of certain moths in Britain.

Go to Majerus’s website and download the .ppt presentation. Warning — it’s about 60 megabytes. [Problems of time: The PowerPoint has disappeared from that site; go here to get the paper on Majerus’s research.]

Encyclopedia Britannica, photos of peppered moths against light bark and lichens

Have you ever noticed that creationists don’t put up on their lab websites the papers or slide presentations they make at scientific meetings? What’s up with that, creationists?

See earlier post, here, “Creationists lose key Texas case.”


Creationists lose key Texas case, peppered moths

August 29, 2007

Texas creationists have lost a key case in their campaign against biology textbooks. No, not in the courts.

Peppered moth, lighter colored, against pollution-colored tree; photo by John S. Haywood

They lost their case in nature. In the wild.

Colors changed in peppered moths because of natural selection, a new study confirms. This strikes a serious blow to one of the chief creationist complaints about how evolution is discussed in biology textbooks. Photo at right showing two moths, of the light and dark forms, against pollution-colored tree bark; photo by John S. Haywood, from Kettlewell’s paper, via Encyclopedia Britannica.

British moth researcher Michael Majerus reported that a seven-year research project has confirmed the 1950s work of Bernard Kettlewell: Changes in the coloring of peppered moths is a result of natural selection at work. Majerus is the researcher whose work was mischaracterized by creationists as having questioned or disproven Kettlewell’s work, which showed that natural selection was responsible for a change in the color of most peppered moths in Britain.

Majerus reported his study at a biologists’ meeting in Sweden on August 23. “We need to address global problems now, and to do so with any chance of success, we have to base our decisions on scientific facts: and that includes the fact of Darwinian evolution. If the rise and fall of the peppered moth is one of the most visually impacting and easily understood examples of Darwinian evolution in action, it should be taught. It provides after all: The Proof of Evolution.”

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Pushing them out of the nest

August 29, 2007

It’s been an interesting last few days. Saturday we drove to Austin to catch a session with a group called Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL), as younger son James is looking hard to find a good college fit for next fall. Sunday, Troop 355 honored its fifth Eagle this year (one of the five being James), and then we attended the ordination of a friend from our congregation, a recent graduate from Brite Divinity at TCU.

School started yesterday across Texas.

This afternoon older son Kenny popped in for a quick laundry run and to pick up some items he needs for the start of his third year at UT-Dallas.

So much change, all the time.

Over at Musings of a Dinosaur, a touching piece about sending the young ones off to college, in contrast to our own college trips 30 or so years ago.  Teachers have more to send off to college, more often.  Either that’s what ages us, or it’s what keeps us young.


Texas: Doomed or not?

August 28, 2007

Phil Plait said there is good news out of Texas, the state’s not doomed, since the State Board of Education members said they don’t want to force intelligent design onto the biology curriculum. P. Z. Myers says doom still lurks, since that statement is part of the strategy of doom planned for Texas by the Discovery Institute, which is now pushing a “teach the weaknesses of evolution” tactic.

Doomed or not? Where is the tie breaker?

The tie breaker, Dear Reader, is you.  Read the rest of the post to see what you can do to save Texas, and your state, too.

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