Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Back in town

Been back from my vacation for more than a week now. I've spent time reading and thinking but have not settled down to write yet. The thoughts are percolating and I expect to have them posted by this weekend ... IF I don't encounter problems getting my new DSL service operational. "Three easy steps!" Yeah. Right. We'll see.

Anyway, chimps were all great. Can't wait to visit them when they get to their new home in Florida, where they'll get to run around on grass and dirt for the first time in their lives.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Family reunion

I’ll be gone for the next week or so. I’m heading off for a family reunion of sorts. Going to spend some time with a large gathering of some very distant cousins. I’ll be in Alamagordo, New Mexico, doing volunteer work at Save the Chimps, a true sanctuary for over 200 former research chimps. There I will spend most of the day doing laundry and preparing treats. (No, they don’t wear clothes. They get blankets and sheets to use as nesting material.)

For several years I’ve had the pleasure -- and honor -- of working closely with chimpanzees. I can’t imagine how anyone could gaze into the eyes of these magnificent beings and have any doubt how closely related we are – or be the least bit bothered by the idea. No, that’s not a very scientific statement, but my affection for some very special chimps – and for chimpdom in general -- leaves my mind open to the concept of common descent.

Wish I’d said that

Great article by Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne in the Sept 1 Guardian. In “One side can be wrong,” the authors warn “accepting 'intelligent design' in science classrooms would have disastrous consequences.”

They address many of the points that I have been raising here since May, but they do it more articulately. One bit I really appreciate:

“The argument the ID advocates put, such as it is, is always of the same character. Never do they offer positive evidence in favour of intelligent design. All we ever get is a list of alleged deficiencies in evolution. We are told of "gaps" in the fossil record. Or organs are stated, by fiat and without supporting evidence, to be "irreducibly complex": too complex to have evolved by natural selection.

“In all cases there is a hidden (actually they scarcely even bother to hide it) "default" assumption that if Theory A has some difficulty in explaining Phenomenon X, we must automatically prefer Theory B without even asking whether Theory B (creationism in this case) is any better at explaining it. Note how unbalanced this is, and how it gives the lie to the apparent reasonableness of "let's teach both sides". One side is required to produce evidence, every step of the way. The other side is never required to produce one iota of evidence, but is deemed to have won automatically, the moment the first side encounters a difficulty - the sort of difficulty that all sciences encounter every day, and go to work to solve, with relish.”

Highly recommend that anyone looking for a clear and reasoned discussion about the “teach the controversy” controversy READ THIS ARTICLE.