Arx Hereticus

Welcome to the ramblings of a merry heretic, an ex-pat (Tex-pat?) American living in Maryland after having spent six years in Germany. Arx Hereticus is part travelogue, part cooking, part budo, part socio-political commentary and mostly just me BSing.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Warning! Science Content Ahead!

A little light science for you today ... first, a comment about the Texas de-evolution of education:

A great article from ScienceNOW Daily News:

Another Big Bang for Biology
By Phil Berardelli

ScienceNOW Daily News
3 January 2008

Researchers have uncovered what they think is a sudden diversification of life at least 30 million years before the Cambrian period, the time when most of the major living groups of animals emerged. If confirmed, the find reinforces the idea that major evolutionary innovations occurred in bursts.

The main points of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which he carefully laid out in The Origin of Species 149 years ago, have stood the test of time. But where Darwin assumed that natural selection proceeds slowly and orderly--much the way Isaac Newton imagined a clockwork universe--modern investigations have shown that the process more resembles the chaotic world of quantum physics. Scores of new groups of species can appear within a few million years. By far the biggest and most famous of these events is the Cambrian explosion, a period between 542 million and 520 million years ago, when due to some still-unknown cause, the ancestors of nearly all extant groups, or phyla, of animals appeared.


And George Mason University's History News Network:
Is the Theory of Evolution a Matter of Faith?

By Leonard Steinhorn and Charles Steinhorn

There are moments in history when wrongheadedness leads to interesting insights. Perhaps this is one of them.

Consider the Republican presidential candidates who said they didn?t ?believe in evolution? at a debate earlier this year. They may have been onto something ? but for all the wrong reasons.

The truth is, we don?t believe in evolution either. But we don?t have to, because we know it to be factually true. And that?s the nugget of insight that?s too often been missing from the public debate ever since Darwin first laid out his theory of evolution almost a century-and-a-half ago.

Leonard Steinhorn is a Professor of Communication at American University, Author of The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy, and a member of the HNN board. Charles Steinhorn is a Professor of Mathematics at Vassar College.


And an excellent book:

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable.

In the book, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, a group of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine explain the fundamental methods of science, document the overwhelming evidence in support of biological evolution, and evaluate the alternative perspectives offered by advocates of various kinds of creationism, including "intelligent design." The book explores the many fascinating inquiries being pursued that put the science of evolution to work in preventing and treating human disease, developing new agricultural products, and fostering industrial innovations. The book also presents the scientific and legal reasons for not teaching creationist ideas in public school science classes.

Mindful of school board battles and recent court decisions, Science, Evolution, and Creationism shows that science and religion should be viewed as different ways of understanding the world rather than as frameworks that are in conflict with each other and that the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. For educators, students, teachers, community leaders, legislators, policy makers, and parents who seek to understand the basis of evolutionary science, this publication will be an essential resource.


And maybe Americans aren't as anti-science as the fundies would have us think:

Survey: 61 Percent Agree with Evolution

By LiveScience Staff

Americans would rather hear about evolution from scientists than from
judges or celebrities, according to a new survey that finds a majority
agree that evolution is at work among living things.

A coalition of 17 organizations reacted today to the survey by calling
on the scientific community to become more involved in promoting
evolution and other aspects of science education.

The coalition, including the National Academy of Sciences, the
American Institute of Physics and the National Science Teachers
Association, released this statement:

"The introduction of 'non-science,' such as creationism and
intelligent design, into science education will undermine the
fundamentals of science education. Some of these fundamentals include using the scientific method, understanding how to reach scientific consensus, and distinguishing between scientific and nonscientific explanations of natural phenomena."