Sunday, February 26, 2006

Judge Jones responds

A brief post before I head out on a vacation that will include time with both family and apes:

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Judge John Jones III discusses his ruling in the Kitzmiller v Dover trial and comments on some of the criticism the ruling has inspired. He sums up:

"History... is written well after the fact, and I don't know how history is going to treat this... decision. Is it Scopes II? Is it something that people will ruminate about years from now? We can't know that. I certainly knew... from the moment I took the bench from the first day of the trial that there was a great spotlight on it."

For links to the full ruling, visit the National Center for Science Education page on legal issues.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Theory and faith

Faith is necessary in order to validate science” is the title on an interesting letter in the Friday 17 Philadelphia Inquirer. J. Alexander Adams Jr., a scientist, contends that faith is not purely a religious concept and does have a place in science. He uses string theory as an example.

I don’t know what string theory is, but I do know that some people point to it as “weird science” and it sometimes comes up in discussions about whether “intelligent design” qualifies as science. Adams writes,

“String theory at present is not, strictly speaking, science at all, but philosophical speculation awaiting corroboration by experiential phenomena. When it explains and predicts observations, it will then become science….Likewise, if observations invalidate string theory, faith in it will thereupon become invalid.”

Then he hits the nail on the head with this observation

“Those who abuse faith appear to have an aversion to the compromises, imponderables and messiness that characterize our world. These people require hard-edged answers to all questions, answerable or not. Testability is not at issue here; these people wish to banish their anxieties with comforting ideologies. This is the way of many a bad scientist and many a good ideological fundamentalist.”

Monday, February 13, 2006

What I did for Darwin’s birthday

Saturday, sort of on the spur of the moment, I decided to drive down to Salem to attend a Darwin Day event at Willamette University. I’m really glad I did.

The program started with a panel discussion that included representatives from four disciplines: Biology (David Craig), Rhetoric and Media Study (Nacho Cordova), History of Science (Myles Jackson), and Religion (Douglas McGaughey). Good discussion. Very involved audience. Just wish we’d heard more from the students in the audience. (Looked like about 30-40 people in attendance.)

Then there was cake and conversation – during which time I determined that Nacho Cordova was one of the few people ever to leave a comment on this blog. Small world.

The part I especially wanted to be there for was the education panel, featuring both young and veteran science teachers from local area high schools and middle schools (Zach Holmboe, Steve Holman, Jason Niedermeyer, Danny Ramirez, and Gena Dwyer). I was really impressed with the passion they had for their subject. And with the creative ways they approached the teaching of biology and evolution.

So, how did you celebrate Darwin Day? Let’s start making plans for next year!

At the Intersection: Defending Evolution as a Matter of Political Strategy

Last week over on Chris Mooney’s blog The Intersection was a thoughtful and thought- provoking discussion about strategies for “defending” evolution. (I put “defending” in quotes because I prefer to “support” evolution.) Following a lengthy post outlining Chris’s disagreement with PZ Meyers (Pharyngula) over whether we should be trotting out “scientists who reconcile faith and evolution (aka Ken Miller) to reach the broader American public” is an even lengthier series of comments.

This discussion is a keeper – which is why I’m linking to it here.