Space City Skeptics

The Official Blog of the Houston Skeptic Society

Archive for the ‘Evolution’ Category

Interview with Dr. Eugenie Scott

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Skepchick blogger and Houston Skeptic Society co-organizer Sam Ogden recently sat down with Dr. Eugenie Scott last month when she was in town to lecture at the Houston Natural Science Museum.  Society member Chris of Dropframe Video (cmalachi@hotmail.com) did a fantastic job of capturing and editing the interview, which is presented on You-tube.  Part one of the series can be found here, from where you can link to the subsequent parts to allow for easier uploading. Enjoy!

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Written by Geek Goddess

October 12, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Unintelligent Design…..

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If man was created in god’s image, then god has lower back pain and an enlarged prostate.

Written by skepticpedi

April 23, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Posted in Evolution, Religion

Tagged with ,

Dietary Evolution Versus Culinary Design…..

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Belvidere, NE- When Home Economics teacher Fran Gill refused to read a statement about culinary design before her lesson on the origin of modern recipes, she was taking a stand. She had no idea that this simple act of defiance would create a controversy, at least a local one. For while national attention has focused on the events in Louisiana and Texas regarding the teaching of evolution, a small public school in Nebraska is having its own battle.

In 2008, the Belvidere school board, which consists of mayor Spooner Jenkins, who also serves as fire chief and deliverer of copies of the Ye Olde Nebraskian to 42 of the 43 houses every Sunday, voted unanimously to approve the forced teaching of culinary design(CD) in the town’s one room schoolhouse. The 43rd house in this picturesque community belongs to Maynard Wilks who refuses to subscribe to the statewide newspaper because of a long running feud with Myrna Miller, his neighbor and winner of the town bake-off 53 years running. When asked for more specific reasons he muttered, “No good Myrna Miller and her dagnab peach cobbler. Tastes like 3-day-old biscuits if you asked me!”.

This red brick building, which has been used as the town school since Randy Watson’s Chicken Taco Casserole stand went bankrupt in 1983, employs 1/2 of the town’s population. The other half are farmers and/or farming assistants. There are 3 students, Jimron Watkins, Susabell Watkins, and Jimron Watkins Jr., each of which are currently taking Home Economics 101 which has always been a popular course with students and teachers. Other courses offered at the school are Tractor Repair I, II, and Advanced Tractor Theory; Wheat; Corn; Cow Parts; The Art of Taxidermy; Careers in Soil Management; UFO Abduction Basics; Whuppin; and Algebra.

Most chefs and food scientists accept that modern recipes have, over billions of years, come to exist in their current form through a series of random ingredient additions resulting in more palatable combinations. Recipes more pleasing to the taste had a better chance of surving while those which offended the taste buds were cast aside. Of note, the Theory of Dietary Evolution does not comment on the origin of the first recipe although this is an area of extreme scientific interest. It does, with over a hundred years of solid scientific investigation to support it, explain how early recipes consisting of the most basic ingredients such as salt and pepper evolved into such modern entities as Baked Alaska and Chicken-Vegetable Kabobs.

Culinary Design supporters claim that the true evidence actually points toward an intelligent creator of modern recipes. And they disagree with those skeptics who feel that they have a religious agenda. “They are just trying to force god, or the holy chef as they like to call him, into our public schools!”, Floyd Watkins, father of Jimron Watkins, grandfather of Jimron Watkins Jr., and school janitor, gym teacher, hall monitor, and busdriver was heard to say by Jethro Laney, town car washer, sheriff, and head cook at Ronda’s $2 dollar cafe, where every item on the menu is $2 except for the World Famous $3 Dollar Meatloaf. When I pointed out the redundancy in using a dollar sign as well as the word dollar, Ronda growled, “The sign says 3 buck so that’s what you gotta pay for it!”.

So will this growing controversy tear the peaceful town of Belvidere, Nebraska apart? Will the expected influx of the media and other strange city folk affect the good natured attitude Belvidere is famous for. Only time and an upcoming trial will tell. The residents have called in lawyers from nearby Carleton, Nebraska, population 136, to represent the opposing sides on this issue. Carleton will send it’s two lawyers, both of whom will soon be graduates of the Correspondence College of Tampa’s Lawyer School. This will surely be a clash of titanic proportions.

Written by skepticpedi

January 25, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Posted in Evolution, Satire

Tagged with ,

Texas Science Education Under Attack…Again? Still?

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My best friend handed me yesterday’s Houston Chronicle, with an op-ed piece by Lisa Falkenberg, “It’s Time for Education to Evolve”.

The school board is evolving. It has evolved from creationism, to creation science, to intelligent design, and now is swinging between ‘teaching the controversy’ and ‘teaching the strength and weaknesses’. Of particular concern to me is that many science teachers are now avoiding the topic of evolution altogether, whether out of ignorance of the subject, personal belief, or fear of recrimination from anti-science parents. A friend of mine, who has a degree in engineering from Colorado School of Mines, is a young-earth creationist, and sent her daughter to a Christian high school, in part to keep her sheltered from the evils of evolution and big-bang theory. (You know that Darwinism is the cause of teenage pregnancies, drug abuse, AIDS, and Enron, right?) How are these children supposed to excel in college and be the next generation to develop new drugs, design rockets and flying cars, grow more food, squeeze more energy out of diminishing resources? Who is going to provide my medical care when I’m 90?

I can’t add anything to Ms. Falkenberg’s excellent article, but here are some teasers:

..members like Mercer (a school board member from San Antonio) seem to suggest that, unless they can inject unfounded doubts about Darwin into the state curriculum, students will lose their ability to ask questions and exercise their critical thinking skills.

Andrew Ellington, a biochemistry professor at UT, says he located both his biotechnology companies in other states, in part because venture capitalists perceived the Lone Star State has having ‘a lax or backward educational climate.’

We have seen our future, and it is Kansas.

Written by Geek Goddess

November 26, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

Evolution is not eugenics

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Michael Egnor has a post over at the Discovery Institute’s evolution news and views blog where he basically says that evolution has not done anything for anyone.  He writes:

Darwin’s positive legacy to real medical science is non-existent.

and

Darwin’s theory was (and is) indispensable for only one thing in medicine: eugenics.

First off, he gets it completely wrong about eugenics being a legacy of Darwin. If eugenics is essentially human breeding, then doesn’t it make sense that eugenics has its roots in animal and plant breeding and not evolution? Eugenics and breeding are in fact the opposite of evolution: neither is subject to natural selection, a central tenet in evolutionary theory.

So what about Darwin’s theory not having anything positive to do with modern medicine? To ignore the theory of evolution’s benefits to science and medicine is absurd. Evolution permeates through everything in biology. We can study model organisms only because we know that we have similarities due to common ancestry. We can compare regions of genes and proteins between species only because of evolutionary theory. There are many other benefits of knowing that evolution occurred, but these two alone are sufficient to show the absurdity of Egnor’s claim.

Egnor’s post is a typical example of the tactics utilized by intelligent design proponents. The post is titled ” Is P.Z. Myers Attending a Conference on Eugenics?” Right away, you can see that Egnor is going for a little bit of character assassination by associating P.Z. Myers, a well-known evolution proponent, with eugenics. At the same time, Egnor is connecting evolution with eugenics, a truly reprehensible practice. The post itself is replete with examples of denial of the utility of evolution. These tactics really shouldn’t be a surprise, but they are worrisome. This is particularly true with respect to the current battle over the teaching of evolution here in in Texas.

Written by bort901

November 25, 2008 at 7:12 am

Posted in Evolution

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Texas Science Education Hearing Set for Tomorrow…..

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Steve Schafersman, who writes for the evolution blog Evo.Sphere on the website for the Houston Chronicle, will be in Austin tomorrow. He plans to cover in real time, beginning at 9AM, the Texas State Board of Education hearing on the Proposed Draft #2 of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science, particularly the Biology standards. You can read about it on his blog, or follow the links to the audio feed of the actual testimony at the Texas Education Agency’s website. 

It is unfortunately too late for those interested to register to speak but many rational and science-based citizens of Texas, including Steve Schafersman, will be using their allotted three minutes to raise a voice of concern over wording that opens the door for creationism to be taught in our public schools.

Schafersman, who is also a member of Texas Citizens for Science (TCS) , wrote on November 13th in a release from the TCS that,

“As you can see, slight differences in language and terms can make an enormous difference. If the proper terms and phrases aren’t used, anti-science Creationists will exploit the Texas science standards language and try to damage biology textbooks and biology classroom instruction. We must not let this happen. Otherwise, science education in Texas will suffer and we will not be teaching 21st Century science in the 21st Century.”

I couldn’t have said it any better.

For some balance, and a laugh, here is what the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin has to say on the matter in a November 14th post about imposing dogmatism in the Texas science standards. It’s part one in a series of three posts on the subject in case you need a humorous distraction from the failing American economy. Luskin appears to be very impressed with the number of total pages contained in the science standards reviews submitted by pro-Intelligent Design reviewers compared to those supporting science and reason in the teaching of our youth, seemingly making some kind of argument ad verbosity (argumentum verbosium?). I haven’t read the reviews but I can imagine that something along the lines of “I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, can’t grasp how humans evolved randomly so we must have been created.” was involved.

On a more positive note, and one that frankly suprised me a little bit considering what state this is, yesterday the Texas Freedom Network released the results of a study which revealed that,

“the Texas science community strongly rejects intelligent design and the so-called “weaknesses” of evolution. Further, a majority of Texas science faculty worry that dumbing down science curriculum is harmful to students’ future prospects for college and 21st-century jobs.”

Now if we can just get the students’ parents on board.

Written by skepticpedi

November 19, 2008 at 4:18 am

Posted in Evolution, Science