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Monday, January 25, 2010
Surprise, suprise, surprise!

No, unfortunately, I've learned by now that the surprise would be if the Discovery Institute didn't engage in repeated quotemining.

Once again, the DI is promoting its so-called "Academic Freedom Day" for February 12th, the birthday of Charles Darwin. The DI is pimping this movement based on this ostensible quote from Darwin:

A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.

Jeremy laid bare the DI's deception at about this time last year.

It's telling that a movement that loudly claims to be concerned with freedom and truth has to resort to quotemining and deliberate deception to gain and retain its followers. Can the DI's bad tree of behavior really be expected to produce good fruit? Matt 7:16-20

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

Thursday, January 21, 2010
2012 - Science Cafe in Hays

What fun!

Tuesday night's Science Cafe in Hays was certainly stimulating. For starters, the scheduled presenter (Dr. Paul Adams) was tasked elsewhere by his boss so the presentation was given by a local astronomy buff recruited for the task. The substitute presenter, Megan Adams*, is a gifted public speaker who kept us on our toes with her no-holds-barred approach to debunking ridiculous ideas and with her wry quips. Paul joined the Cafe via Skype video from Topeka.

Megan began by explaining four of the common prophecies regarding 2012:

1. The Mayan calender ends on December 21, 2012.
2. Earth is destined to collide with the undiscovered planet Nibiru.
3. Various alignments of the planets, the galactic plane, the solar system's plane, and the spin of the earth will wreak havoc on the earth's spin and/or magnetic field.
4. The solar cycle will be at a maximum, producing gigantic solar flares which will wipe out life on Earth.

Each of these was shown to be in conflict with scientific evidence; some examples are given at the National Geographic website. In short:
1. Mayan calendars were notoriously inconsistent. And think about it - when your 5-year calendar ends with December 31, does it mean civilization will come to a screeching halt? Of course not - you just go get a new calendar!
2. There is no such thing as "planet Nibiru." Period.
3. Those alignments have happened lots of times during the 5-billion-year history of the earth. If such an alignment was capable of destroying Earth, we'd have clues by now.
4. Although 2012 will be the peak of a solar maximum, there is no data to suggest this maximum will be any more catastrophic than any other solar maximum - which happens every 11 years.

The Fort Hays State University Leader had an excellent summary of the evening on its front page, and the Hays Daily News ran a blurb as well.

During the discussion after the presentation, one of the 50-some attendees presented a prophecy I hadn't encountered: the Lakota Sioux White Buffalo prophecy. As she told it, the birth of a white buffalo is supposed to signify the return of a Sioux deity, and of course all signs point to it happening in 2012. This idea was promoted along with the slowing of the earth's spin which is being hidden by the scientists from the general public, and is the reason time seems to pass so much more quickly as we get older.

Neither contention was presented with any scientific support.

One nugget of wisdom that this speaker did note was that as people, we need to be treating each other much more nicely. (Of course, my own thought was, "why should we only treat each other well if we think doom is imminent?" But I digress.)

It should be noted that

Although she said she did not believe the world would end Dec. 21, 2012, Adams admitted she had a slight ulterior motive: her 21st birthday is Dec. 22, 2012.

She said even the end of the world could not keep her from celebrating.

"If the world ends on the 21st, I'll hang on and survive and still celebrate on the 22nd."

(*in interests of full disclosure, yes, I am proud to be Megan's mother!)

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

Monday, January 18, 2010
Missouri Loves Company

Last week, Cheryl reported that Mississippi is the first state this year to be visited by the Ghost of Intelligent Design known as "Academic Freedom" legislation.

Apparently, some members of the Missouri legislature did not like the spectre of Mississippi being the only state possessed by anti-evolution legislation this year. According to the NCSE, eleven Republican representatives recently tried out their skills as ghost whisperers by summoning the ghost of Intelligent Design into Missouri science classrooms via House Bill 1651.

The bill's chief sponsor, Robert Wayne Cooper, introduced similar bills in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2009. All of Cooper's previous bills passed away.

May they rest in peace.

posted by Jeremy Mohn

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Mississippi is dah loser!

Sweet! (added in edit: Because it's not Kansas this time!)

According to the National Center for Science Education the state of Mississippi has become the first state legislature of 2010 to file an anti-evolution bill.

But check this out:

"The lesson provided to students ... shall have proportionately equal instruction from educational materials that present scientifically sound arguments by protagonists and antagonists of the theory of evolution."

"proportionally equal" ????


If the time devoted to the evidence supporting evolution is "proportionately equal" to the amount of evidence supporting evolution, and the time devoted to the evidence against evolution is "proportionately equal" to the amount of evidence against it, then the lesson becomes easy to plan:

99.99% of the time would be devoted to the evidence supporting evolution, while 0.01% of the class time would be devoted to . . . well, since there's no credible evidence against evolution, that time could be used to discuss the anti-evolution movement in the US.

That 0.01% of class time could be used to point out the uniformly religious motivations of the anti-science movement, like the quote from the bill's sponsor:

"Either you believe in the Genesis story, or you believe that a fish walked on the ground," and adding, "All these molecules didn't come into existence by themselves." - Gary Chism (R-District 37), to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (January 24, 2009)

Somehow, I doubt Chism recognizes what the word "proportionately" means.

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
2012: The End of Time?

Collision with rogue planet Nibiru. The end of the 13th Baktun of the Mayan calendar. The alignment of the equators of Earth, Sun, and the Milky Way Galaxy. Earth passing through the Galactic Plane. Earth spinning wildly out of control. Disastrous geomagnetic reversal. Solar storms. Global consciousness shift, a reincarnated Quetzalcoatl, and Timewave Zero.

Well, it certainly sounds disastrous, don't you think?

Join us next Tuesday, January 19th, at Cafe Semolino's (map) in Hays for our first Science Cafe of 2010. Dr. Paul Adams, FHSU's Anschutz Professor of Education and Professor of Physics, will give us the background behind these scary-sounding events. More importantly, he will help us understand why each and every one of us should be concerned about the effects of 2012 prophecies:

NASA's Ask an Astrobiologist Web site, for example, has received thousands of questions regarding the 2012 doomsday predictions—some of them disturbing, according to David Morrison, senior scientist with the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

"A lot of [the submitters] are people who are genuinely frightened," Morrison said.

"I've had two teenagers who were considering killing themselves, because they didn't want to be around when the world ends," he said. "Two women in the last two weeks said they were contemplating killing their children and themselves so they wouldn't have to suffer through the end of the world."

Hays' Science Cafe is sponsored by the FHSU Science & Mathematics Education Institute, Kansas Citizens for Science, and Cafe Semolino's.

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

Friday, January 8, 2010
A Very Worthy Cause to Support

Put down that spoon.

This PSA is from WildAid. Many more celebrity PSAs can be found on their website.

Pass them around!

Hat-tip: Adrian Thysse at A Natural Evolution

posted by Jeremy Mohn

The Cambrian Explosion: No Dilemma for Darwin

I have been home from work for three snow days in a row. Along with scooping snow and playing with the girls, I've had some unexpected free time.

Time to relax, read, and learn something new.

It's a great time to take in a YouTube lecture like the one below:

The lecture is given by Stephen Westrop, the curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma.

Here's the description of the lecture posted on YouTube:

The Cambrian Explosion was one of the most important episodes in the history of life. Over some 20 to 25 million years, beginning about 543 million years ago, life in the oceans diversified. Today, we find abundant fossils of hard-shelled animals of this age in many parts of the world. The famous Burgess Shale of western Canada formed after the Cambrian Explosion but its unusually preserved fossils give paleontologists a glimpse of a nearly complete Cambrian community. These extraordinary fossils also show the wide range of animals that must have evolved earlier in the Cambrian Period. In this presentation, Westrop takes a look at recent research that gives us a new understanding of this evolutionary "explosion" of ocean life.

posted by Jeremy Mohn

Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Bringing Tiktaalik Home

A journey that took 375 million years is summarized in just over three minutes!

posted by Jeremy Mohn

The Unbroken Thread

Enjoy the latest song from The Symphony of Science:

posted by Jeremy Mohn

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