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Friday, October 30, 2009
Sean Carroll's Darwin150 Lecture

I'd like to invite our readers to join me in watching the live webcast of Professor Sean Carroll's Darwin150 lecture, "The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and the DNA Record of Evolution" Wednesday, November 4th at 8 pm Eastern.

Sean Carroll is a great writer and an engaging speaker. Here's more information from his bio:

Sean Carroll is Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics and an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin. His research has centered on the genes that control animal body patterns and play major roles in the evolution of animal diversity. Major discoveries from his laboratory have been featured in TIME, US News & World Report, The New York Times, Discover, and Natural History.

Sean is the author of The Making of the Fittest (2006, W.W. Norton) and of Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo (2005, W.W. Norton). He is also co-author with Jen Grenier and Scott Weatherbee of the textbook From DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design (2nd ed, 2005; Blackwell Scientific) and with Anthony Griffiths, Richard Lewontin, and Susan Wessler of the textbook Introduction to Genetic Analysis (9e, 2007, W.H. Freeman and Co.). He is also the author or co-author of more than 100 scientific papers.

Sean is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (elected 2007) and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, the Shaw Scientist Award of the Milwaukee Foundation, and numerous honorary lectureships. Sean was named one of America's most promising leaders under 40 by TIME Magazine in 1994.

He earned his B.A. in Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, his Ph.D. in Immunology at Tufts Medical School, and carried out his postdoctoral research with Dr. Matthew Scott at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Sean lives in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife Jamie and two sons.

You can sign-up for the webcast here.

Registration is free.

posted by Jeremy Mohn

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
My Videos Featured on "Best0fScience"

I recently granted a request for the owner of the YouTube channel "Best0fScience" to post my "Evolution is REAL Science" videos. I'm excited that the videos are continuing to reach a wider and wider audience.

I've also updated the videos page here on the website. You can now download the videos in .wmv & .mov format along with the PowerPoint files that I used to make them.

Happy downloading!

posted by Jeremy Mohn

"Ten Great Advances in Evolution"

NOVA has recently unveiled an extensive, evolution-related website, with information about their evolution-related episodes and other features. It's still beta, but it looks great.

In conjunction with the launch of the new site, NOVA asked science writer Carl Zimmer to pick ten of the most important developments in evolutionary biology over the past decade. He came up with an engaging and informative list.

Check it out.

posted by Jeremy Mohn

Monday, October 19, 2009
Darwin on Facebook

I recently received the following announcement with a request to pass it along to our "readers." (I like how the sender assumed a plurality.)


WHAT: SciCafe presents Darwin on Facebook: How Culture Transforms Human Evolution, featuring Anthropologist Peter Richerson.

Help celebrate the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species with a night about Darwin, culture, and social media. Come hear anthropologist Peter Richerson of UC Davis explain how social networking sites like Facebook may affect the course of human evolution as he launches a discussion about how our success as a species owes much to our capacity for social interactions—then enjoy the rest of the evening testing out his theory.

Surrounded by magnificent rock and mineral specimens in the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, enjoy the Museum after hours with music, drinks, and thought-provoking conversation at the second installment of the popular new SciCafe series at the American Museum of Natural History. SciCafe features cutting-edge science, cocktails, and conversation and takes place on the first Wednesday of every month.

WHEN: Wednesday, November 4, 7 pm

WHERE: Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth,
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192

ADMISSION: Free Admission with cash bar, must be 21+ with ID

INFO: For more information, please visit

Sounds like a fabulous event.

posted by Jeremy Mohn

Hint to the Discovery Institute:

when somebody makes a $30 million donation to the Smithsonian Institution - not an affiliate, but the real deal - for a new "Hall of Human Origins" featuring our 6-million-year history, that someone is probably not going to be a supporter of intelligent design.

Earlier this year, John Pieret of Thoughts in a Haystack uncovered an interview of that donor, David H. Koch, by wannabe science journalist Suzan Mazur. Pieret correctly points that the exchange between Koch & Mazur is a prime example of how not to conduct an interview, as we noted earlier.

Just in case Mazur (and her fanbois at the Discovery Institute and didn't get the message, here you go:

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History announced on Wednesday that multibillionaire and early Libertarian Party benefactor David H. Koch donated $30 million to fund a hall depicting human evolution.

Most of the money will finance the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins while the remainder will go toward a research chair endowment and education and outreach programs.

An article from Science Insider said the new hall "will focus on major milestones over our 6-million-year history—from when our ancestors first started walking upright through the development of language and symbols and beyond."

The hall will display fossil skull replicas representing various stages of human evolution, reconstructed human faces from different epochs, and exhibits showing how climate change and environmental conditions have impacted human evolution.

Now granted, I don't agree with everything put forth by David H. Koch, but this donation - along with his continued NOVA funding for PBS - will help combat the ignorance spread by entities like the DI and Mazur.

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

Friday, October 16, 2009
Weekend Update

First, in local news, science education in Kansas received a boost during the past few months. This is rarer than you might think, as science educators tend to occupy a perceived "No-Man's Land" between science and education: scientists seem to distrust the intellect of someone who's dirtied their hands with education, and educators seem to regard science faculty as arrogant and demanding. Even within the field of science education, the generalist science educators sometimes face derision from the more specialized physics educators.

More after the jump.

Thus, it was a great kudos for Dr. Paul Adams of Fort Hays State University to receive the university's highest honor: the 2009 Presidential Distinguished Scholar Award. Paul has been named FHSU's Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year twice previously - once from the College of Education, and once from the College of Arts and Sciences - and he has devoted his career to helping improve science literacy by many means. FHSU's President Hammond noted that

Paul is well known for his dedication to science education and his uncanny ability to write and secure grants and funding. All one has to do is look at his offices across campus and you know he's a multi-tasker when it comes to grantwriting. Paul, we thank you for this lifelong effort that adds substantial resources to the accomplishment of the university's mission.

One of his more successful entrepreneurial stories is the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science (KAMS). The Kansas Board of Regents selected FHSU to host the Academy in partnership with the Legislature and other key stakeholders. KAMS is a commitment to the future of mathematics and science learners in the State of Kansas and beyond. The Academy reports to the dean of the College of Education and Technology.

Paul will receive a bit of a financial reward, a dinner hosted by President Hammond for 24 of his closest colleagues (ooh la la - a French menu!), and he will address the university at next Thursday's Honors Convocation. His talk is entitled "Reflections - and Refractions - of a Science Nomad."

In other news, I'm looking to buy some carbon credits. It's homecoming week at the school where I teach, and it looks like the parade organizers came up skimpy on entries. As a result, they're sticking me and my family in the parade in a Hummer limo, ostensibly because I was named the Regional Science Teacher of the Year by the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science. (A few years ago, I received a couple of bigger awards, but no parade ride - thus, my contention that the organizers were desperate.)

All kidding aside, Paul & I both work hard at our jobs, maybe too hard at times (don't we all?). It does bring a measure of gratification that our efforts haven't gone completely unnoticed. Anyway, I'm sad we won't get to include a stupid dog in the limo. Guess we'll just have to feign an ignorant mutt.

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

Upcoming Science Cafe

If I'd killed him when I met him, I'd be out of prison now" is the title of a book which reads like a lame country song. But women! In prison!

No, this is not some sorry excuse to watch a nasty movie . . . but please join us for "Violence in Women" next Tuesday, 10/20, with Dr. Janett Naylor of the Fort Hays State University Psychology Department.

Dr. Naylor is exploring incidents of aggression between women in Larned State Hospital's forensic unit. Find out more about the situational and intrapersonal factors which may lead to high levels of aggression. Janett will, of course, help us discuss this issue afterward. If you're so inclined, join us beforehand (5:15-ish) down the street at the microbrewery Liquid Bread for what's usually a lively discussion with the presenter.

This event is free and open to the public, at Cafe Semolino's in Hays, KS. 7 pm-ish, at 110 W. 11th Street.

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, explored

Why do we Americans applaud Alexander Graham Bell yet villainize Charles Darwin? Why are we grateful, gluttonous consumers of all things pharmaceutical while at the same time we excoriate some biology researchers? Why do we love MacGyver and hate the stereotypical mad white-coated scientist toiling away in his mother's basement?

Author & Towson University professor of English Dr. Glen Scott Allen explores these issues in his work, "Master Mechanics and Wicked Wizards: Images of the American Scientist as Hero and Villain from Colonial Times to the Present." He argues that our cultural scorn for scientists dates back to colonial times, as a form of rebellion against European ways.

According to Dr. Allen, our ambivalence toward the men and women who unlock nature's secrets dates back to our country's very inception. He argues that the American preference for pragmatism in all things has always favored "Master Mechanics" who bring new conveniences to life over "Wicked Wizards" intent on revolutionizing our concept of nature and America's place in it. In American culture, it seems, while we glorify wise Thomas Edisons for inventing useful gadgets, we condemn evil Robert Oppenheimers for attempting to invent new theories of international relations.

Allen reiterates a stunning truth: that "While American culture doesn't mind being fixed, it has no interest in being changed."

You can read the rest of the publisher's press release here, but I'm putting it on my Christmas wish list now.

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

Friday, October 9, 2009
Teach the Controversy!

Check out this hypothetical dialogue between Gordon J. Glover and the official spokesperson of the Intelligent Alien Intervention Institute:

Hmmm ... I wonder who they're satirizing?

posted by Jeremy Mohn

Tuesday, October 6, 2009
We Need More of This on TV

The United States television audience needs more science programs like "Bill Nye the Science Guy."

Watch this video and you'll understand why:

Man, I really miss that program. Good thing there's YouTube!

posted by Jeremy Mohn

Monday, October 5, 2009
Darwin's Darkest Hour

Darwin's Darkest Hour - a two-hour drama about Darwin's decision to publish his work on evolution - will air tomorrow on public broadcasting stations around the country.

According to the PBS press release (pdf):

NOVA and National Geographic Television present the extraordinary human drama that led to the birth of the most influential scientific theory of all time. Acclaimed screenwriter John Goldsmith (David Copperfield, Victoria and Albert) brings to life Charles Darwin's greatest personal crisis: the anguishing decision over whether to "go public" with his theory of evolution. Darwin, portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), spent years refining his ideas and penning his book the Origin of Species. Yet, daunted by looming conflict with the orthodox religious values of his day, he resisted publishing -- until a letter from naturalist Alfred Wallace forced his hand. In 1858, Darwin learned that Wallace was ready to publish ideas very similar to his own. In a sickened panic, Darwin grasped his dilemma: To delay publishing any longer would be to condemn all of his work to obscurity -- his voyage on the Beagle, his adventures in the Andes, the gauchos and bizarre fossils of Patagonia, the finches and giant tortoises of the Galapagos. But to come forward with his ideas risked the fury of the Church and perhaps a rift with his own devoted wife, Emma, portrayed by Frances O'Connor (Mansfield Park, The Importance of Being Earnest, Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence), who was a strong believer in the view of creation and honestly feared for her husband's soul. Darwin's Darkest Hour is a moving drama about the birth of a great idea seen through the inspiration and personal sufferings of its brilliant originator.

Check out the NOVA website for more information.

You can use this resource to find your local PBS station.

posted by Jeremy Mohn

Friday, October 2, 2009
"Intelligent Design vs. Alien Intervention"

Over at, guest author Gordon J. Glover provides an interesting rationale for keeping intelligent design creationism out of science classrooms. By Glover's reasoning, if we asked school boards who support including IDC to teach pseudo-archeology - the idea that extraterrestrial aliens have significantly altered human history - those same school boards would howl to high heaven in protest.

Glover equates IDC activists to the extraterrestrial "hardcore fanatics," the ones who "spend their summer vacations dressed up as aliens in Roswell NM." He notes that these pseudo-archeologists waste no time in crediting alien lifeforms with any phenomena we don't yet understand fully. " . . sound familiar?", asks Glover.

We don't have to grant UFOlogists the "academic freedom" to discuss the "strengths and weaknesses" of mainstream archaeology in the classroom. Nor do we allow pro-alien teachers to preach their UFO gospel to our children under the guise of science.

Remember that this article is running at, and Glover doesn't hesitate to stand up for his faith in God. But in closing, Glover notes (with bolding by me) that

What I disagree with, however, is that plugging the Creator into our biological knowledge gaps constitutes responsible science. And if we open the classroom door to intelligent design, what's to stop alien intervention from walking through it?

Go read the article, which had me giggling at the all-too-apt analogy from Glover. Meanwhile, enjoy a YouTube -

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

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