Thursday, February 05, 2009


Out and About the Intertubes

Some interesting stuff from the last few days:

Greg Laden points out the good ... and the bad at U.S. News and World Report. The very good Glenn Branch, of the National Center for Science Education, explaining why "Intelligent Design is Not Science, and Should Not Join Evolution in the Classroom" and the indescribably -- one might say congenitally -- bad Henry Morris III, explaining -- well, nothing -- except how to construct a god small enough to fit in science's gaps. Greg suggests you contact the editors to praise Glenn and bury Morris.

For the ugly, however, we have this little bit from Answers in Genesis. Forget the article on the page, which is a stupid piece of spittle trying to show that Darwin was never a True Christian because his grandfather was an atheist and Unitarians are heretics. It's the page header art that is noteworthy: a portrayal of Darwin with the inscription "200 lost years." Apparently, Darwin came out with his devil's work before he reached the age of one.

Then, to return to the very good, there is "Maiacetus, the good mother whale" by Brian Switek at Laelaps, explaining the latest of those transitional fossils the creationists tell us don't exist. Deliciously, it is another in the whale lineage, which was once a source of much taunting by creationists, as in this from Duyane Gish (recounted by Stephen Jay Gould in "Hooking Leviathan by Its Past"):

There simply are no transitional forms in the fossil record between the marine mammals and there supposed land mammal ancestors … It is quite entertaining, starting with cows, pigs, or buffaloes, to attempt to visualize what the intermediates may have looked like. Starting with a cow, one could even imagine one line of descent which prematurely became extinct, due to what might be called an "udder failure."
Well, there was an epic fail in there somewhere. Even Michael Behe fell victim:

. . . [I]f random evolution is true, there must have been a large number of transitional forms between the Mesonychid [thought, in 1994, to ancestors of the whales] and the ancient whale. Where are they? It seems like quite a coincidence that of all the intermediate species that must have existed between the Mesonychid and whale, only species that are very similar to the end species [Basilosaurus isis] have been found.
It was only a few months after Behe penned that article that a trio of just such transitionals were disclosed: Pakicetus attocki, Indocetus ramani and Ambulocetus natans. Not that I would have expected Behe to exhibit any change of mind -- or even embarrassment -- when he and the rest of the world was presented, and continues to be presented, with exactly the evidence he demanded ... in spades!

Next is Massimo Pigliucci, at Philosophy Now explaining "The Evolution of Evolutionary Theory" and why the latest challenges and revisions to the modern synthesis are not, as creationists claim, signs and wonders proclaiming the imminent demise of "Darwinism."

Lastly, but far from least, is "Collapse of a Texas Quote Mine," where Jeremy Mohn has taken all the quotes spewed about at the last Texas State Board of Education meeting by its young-Earth creationist chairman, Don McLeroy, to convince (apparently successfully, for the moment) other more moderate members that there was real scientific controversy about common descent, and run down their contexts. Amusingly, McLeroy, who has stated that reading books about evolution is "one of his hobbies," was caught plagiarizing some of his quotes from a Creationist website called "Genesis Park." And, for the final irony, the evidence for this is the same sort of copying error that is used to trace evolutionary lineages through time. When you're done there, be sure to visit Jeremy's blog, stand up for REAL science, that he co-authors with Cheryl Shepherd-Adams.


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