Science, Just Science

20 November 2008

Stanford Medicine Magazine: Something Fishy Is Going On

Filed under: News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 2:09 pm

Research On Sticklebacks Blows Anti-Evolution Arguments Out Of The Water

by
AMY ADAMS

More than 10,000 years ago glaciers covered the land, and a 4-inch, heavily armoured fish called the threespine stickleback cruised the ocean waters, gobbling up larvae and other prey. These fish were ubiquitous coastal denizens throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Then something potentially tragic happened — the ice age ended and glaciers began to recede. Groups of sticklebacks swam up newly formed streams and became stranded in the many freshwater lakes that sprang up in the trail of the ebbing glaciers. The fish, once suited for an ocean environment, had to adapt or die.

Sticklebacks competed for food and mates and struggled to avoid predators and parasites in their new environments. These forces shaped which fish survived and reproduced. In lakes with quick predators, the smallest, sleekest sticklebacks prevailed. In other environments, slower, bottom-dwelling sticklebacks were best able to avoid predators. Still other populations developed bright colours, new ways of feeding or the ability to cope with more or less salt in the water. In all, sticklebacks became so diverse that naturalists originally divided them into 40 different species.

Some adaptations were particularly remarkable — some fish populations lost entire fins, completely rearranged their jaws, doubled their number of teeth or shed their armoured plates. Creationists might say that God gave those sticklebacks the tools they needed to survive. Most biologists say, What a gorgeous example of evolution at work.

[Read The Rest Of The Article Here]

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

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9 October 2008

FT: Creationism Is About Politics Not Religion

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,News,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 1:29 pm

The Evolution Of Creationism
Christopher Caldwell
September 5 2008

The address by Sarah Palin, the vice-presidential nominee, to the Republican convention on Wednesday was hailed by both supporters and detractors as marking an epoch in US politics. The Alaska governor introduced herself as a representative of the small-town Americans “who do some of the hardest work . . . who grow our food, run our factories and fight our wars”, and warned that she was not coming to Washington to seek the good opinion of the press. For Republicans, it was the most electrifying oratorical moment in a generation, when the authentic voice of middle America made itself heard again after decades of silence. For Democrats, it was a rant unprecedented in its boorishness and effrontery.

Leaving aside Alaskan regional exotica, from moose stew to snow-machine racing, the great novelty of Ms Palin’s candidacy is that she is the first national nominee since William Jennings Bryan a century ago to be called a “creationist” – a disbeliever in the theory of evolution. This is unfair. Those who describe Ms Palin that way are latching on to one exchange during the Alaska governor’s race two years ago when she said she had no objection if teachers questioned Darwin. “I say this as the daughter of a science teacher,” she said. “Don’t be afraid of information, and let kids debate both sides.” She explicitly ruled out putting creationism on school curriculums.

But she is not exactly shouting her mainstream views from the rooftops, either. A new kind of opposition to the theory of evolution has stirred small-town America in recent years. From the 1960s until the 1980s, believers in the Biblical account of creation managed to stymie the teaching of Darwin in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. But only briefly – they were drubbed in the courts, on the grounds that their teachings violated the separation of church and state. Outright creationists, of the sort who date the Creation to 4004BC, are today few, disorganised and weak. What the US does have, though, is an active community of campaigners for “intelligent design”, the belief that nature is too complex to be understood without reference to a “designer” – presumably one with a capital D. Intelligent design, too, has fared badly in the courts, but the political questions it raises are live. They tell us a bit about why populism made such a thundering return to US politics this week.

[Read The Rest Of The Article Here]

So religion is about power & control? I’d never’ve guessed! Honest!

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

1 October 2008

Pharyngula: A Review Of “Explore Evolution”

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,News,Science,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 8:16 am

According to PZ Myers of the Pharyngula Blog, The Discovery Institute is about to replace it’s previous anti-evolution textbook, “Of Panda’s And People” and John Timmer of Ars Technica reviewed it saying:

“the book doesn’t only promote stupidity, it demands it. In every way except its use of the actual term, this is a creationist book, but its authors are expecting that legislators and the courts will be too stupid to notice that, or to remember that the Supreme Court has declared teaching creationism an unconstitutional imposition of religion.”

PZ Myers has read it and agrees it is as bad as the reviewer says.

Read Myers slightly more comprehensive comments here and the full review here.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

30 September 2008

Brunswick School Board Update

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 8:27 am

From PZ Myers Pharyngula Blog:

After reading e-mails by people disgruntled about the idea of teaching creationism, hearing about the state’s point of view and consulting with attorney Kathleen Tanner, Babson said she thinks the board will not try to go against the law to teach creationism, although she would like to see it in the classroom one day.

Fanti said he learned about the court cases after addressing the board and now thinks the idea of teaching creationism as part of the curriculum will be crushed. But he plans to ask the school board to encourage “evolutionists” in the schools to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their theory.

“Instead of making it a religious issue, let’s make it a scientific issue,” said Fanti, who identifies himself as a chemical engineer.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

24 September 2008

US (Brunswick County): New Attempt To Teach Creation In Schools

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,News — Kyuuketsuki @ 12:17 pm

Just saw this mentioned on Center For Inquiry:

Brunswick school board to consider creationism teaching

Published: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 10:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 10:40 p.m.

The Brunswick County school board is looking for a way for creationism to be taught in the classroom side by side with evolution.

“It’s really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism,” county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday’s meeting. “The law says we can’t have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists.”

When asked by a reporter, his fellow board members all said they were in favor of creationism being taught in the classroom.

The topic came up after county resident Joel Fanti told the board he thought it was unfair for evolution to be taught as fact, saying it should be taught as a theory because there’s no tangible proof it’s true.

“I wasn’t here 2 million years ago,” Fanti said. “If evolution is so slow, why don’t we see anything evolving now?”

The board allowed Fanti to speak longer than he was allowed, and at the end of his speech he volunteered to teach creationism and received applause from the audience. When he walked away, school board Chairwoman Shirley Babson took the podium and said another state had tried to teach evolution and creationism together and failed, and that the school system must teach by the law.

“Evolution is taught because that’s what the General Assembly tells us to teach,” Babson said, adding that she doesn’t agree with it, but that students must learn it to graduate


[Read More Here]


James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

11 April 2008

Support The Skeptologists!

Filed under: News,Science,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 10:41 am

In my browsing around the net I cam across a bunch of scientists who want a more intelligent form of programming on our TV screens and I concur … so I thought I’d post a little advert for it here:

Support The Skeptologists!

Raise your voice! Let it be known that it’s time for a TV series that focuses on the real, the intelligent and important advances in science, critical thinking and skepticism. The Skeptologists will be pitched to major networks soon, and we want to give the programming executives a sense of what kind of support they can received if they invest in a TV series of this kind. This is your chance to have a voice in the type of TV that is produced.

[You Can Read More Here: The Skeptologists]

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

21 February 2008

BBC: ‘Frog From Hell’ Fossil Unearthed

Filed under: Education,News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 7:31 pm

From The BBC’s News (Science & Nature) site:

A 70-million-year-old fossil of a giant frog has been unearthed in Madagascar by a team of UK and US scientists.

What the 'Frog form hell' may have looked like

The creature would have been the size of a “squashed beach ball” and weighed about 4kg (9lb), the researchers said.

They added that the fossil, nicknamed Beelzebufo or “frog from hell”, was “strikingly different” from present-day frogs found on the island nation.

Details of the discovery are reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The team from University College London (UCL) and Stony Brook University, New York, said the frog would have had a body length of about 40cm (16 inches), and was among the largest of its kind to be found.

“This frog, a relative of today’s horned toads, would have been the size of a slightly squashed beach-ball, with short legs and a big mouth,” explained co-author Susan Evans, from UCL’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology.

“If it shared the aggressive temperament and ‘sit-and-wait’ ambush tactics of [present-day] horned toads, it would have been a formidable predator on small animals.

“Its diet would most likely have consisted of insects and small vertebrates like lizards, but it’s not impossible that Beelzebufo might even have munched on hatchling or juvenile dinosaurs.”

[Read The Rest Of The Article Here]

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

20 February 2008

Scientific American: ‘Junk’ RNA May Have Played Role In Vertebrate Evolution

Filed under: Education,News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 7:48 pm

From Scientific American:

Genetic material once dismissed as mere “junk” may in fact be responsible to the evolution of simple invertebrates into more complex organisms sporting backbones, according to a new study.

Tiny snippets of the genome known as microRNA were long thought to be genomic refuse because they were transcribed from so-called “junk DNA,” sections of the genome that do not carry information for making proteins responsible for various cellular functions. Evidence has been building since 1993, however, that microRNA is anything but genetic bric-a-brac. Quite the contrary, scientists say that it actually plays a crucial role in switching protein-coding genes on or off and regulating the amount of protein those genes produce.

Now, researchers from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and the University of Bristol in England report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that these tiny genetic segments could be responsible for the evolution of animals with backbones, noting that they found a surfeit of microRNA in the genomes of the earliest vertebrates, such as lampreys (jawless fish), when compared with invertebrates like sea squirts.

“There’s this dramatic increase in microRNAs that were fixed in the genome of vertebrates and were rarely secondarily lost,” says study co-author Kevin Peterson, an associate professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth. “If a human has a microRNA that’s also found in zebra fish, we [typically] find it in lamprey but we don’t find it in any invertebrate,” implying that that piece of genetic material is unique to vertebrates.

[Read The Rest Of The Article Here]

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

26 June 2007

News: UK Government Acts On ID!

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,News,Science,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 9:10 pm

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS (modified by James Rocks) ***

From “The Register”:

UK Gov boots Intelligent Design Back Into ‘Religious’ Margins

The government has announced that it will publish guidance for schools on how creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching, and has reiterated that it sees no place for either on the science curriculum.

It has also defined “Intelligent Design”, the idea that life is too complex to have arisen without the guiding hand of a greater intelligence, as a religion, along with “creationism”.

Responding to a petition on the Number 10 ePetitions site, the government said: “The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. “

… 

The petition was posted by James Rocks of the Science, Just Science campaign, a group that formed to counter a nascent anti-evolution lobby in the UK.

From the UK Government’s E-Petition website:

The Original Petition

“The Prime Minister has recently spoken about the importance of science education in the UK. Creationism & Intelligent design are greatly featured in the media and are being used disingenuously to portray science & the theory or evolution as being in crisis when they are not. Moreover groups such as Truth in Science are targeting our nation’s children and their science education with material that is not only non-scientific but have been rejected by the scientific community. These ideas therefore do not constitute science, cannot be considered scientific education and therefore do not belong in the nation’s science classrooms.”

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to prevent the use of creationist and other pseudo-scientific propaganda in Government-funded schools.”

Submitted by James Rocks of ‘Science, Just Science’ Campaign

From The UK Government (10 Downing Street):

The Government’s response.

The Government remains committed ensuring that young people have an understanding of the importance of science and the world around them.

Science is a core subject of the National Curriculum throughout every Key Stage. The National Curriculum secures for all pupils, irrespective of background and ability, an entitlement to a range of areas of learning. Its aim is to develop the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes necessary for each pupil’s self-fulfilment and development as an active and responsible citizen. It makes expectations for learning and attainment explicit to pupils, parents, teachers, governors, employers and the public, and establishes national standards for the performance of all pupils. All materials that support the teaching, learning and assessment of primary and secondary education, can be found on the National Curriculum website (new window).

The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. The science programmes of study set out the legal requirements of the science National Curriculum. They focus on the nature of science as a subject discipline, including what constitutes scientific evidence and how this is established. Students learn about scientific theories as established bodies of scientific knowledge with extensive supporting evidence, and how evidence can form the basis for experimentation to test hypotheses. In this context, the Government would expect teachers to answer pupils’ questions about creationism, intelligent design, and other religious beliefs within this scientific framework.

We will be publishing guidance for schools, on the way creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching. It will be possible to ensure that the weight of scientific opinion is properly presented. The guidance will be available on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority website in due course. 

Whichever way you look at it this e-petition was a success for SJS and for UK science.

4 June 2007

News: How E. Coli Evolves To Adapt To Changing Acidity

Filed under: News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 9:06 pm

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS ***

From Medical News Today:

E. coli may spend hundreds or thousands of generations in the relatively neutral-acidity colon, with brief exposure to the extreme acidity of the stomach and modest alkalinity in the small intestine during colonization of a new host. With modern sewage handling (or mishandling), the bacteria may also experience exposure to the ocean, with a pH near 8.0, before infecting a new host.

To assess how E. coli might adapt to different environmental conditions, the researchers observed four groups of bacteria. One group was exposed to constant acidity (pH of 5.3) and another to constant alkalinity (pH of 7.8). A third group was exposed to randomly fluctuating pH levels, and the fourth was exposed to pH levels that cycled daily between acidic and basic conditions.

After at least 1,000 generations, the researchers exposed the groups to either an acidic or basic environment. The groups exposed to acid or base for the entire period had developed into specialists – that is, they displayed significant fitness gains when transitioning into their preferred environment.

In contrast, the groups that evolved in variable pH environments exhibited generalist fitness patterns, with neither group having any significant fitness loss in any of the environments. Interestingly, the researchers also found that there was no significant cost to being a generalist at any tested pH level: “Overall, these comparisons suggest that the jack-of-all-trades may be a master of at least some as well,” the researchers write.

“What is interesting here is that the complex patterns of adaptation in the various pH regimes were so different among the groups and revealed the first empirical characterization of the intricacies of evolution in response to variable pH,” explain the authors. “Plans for future studies include the extension of this experimental evolution system applied to . . . ways in which E. coli may be evolving fitness to survive within the coastal ecosystem or the human host.”

[Full Article Here]

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