Category Archives: Expelled

Killing off Darwin?

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Book Review:

The End of Darwinism by Eugene G. Windchy
US$14.39
ISBN-10: 1436383684

Published May 12, 2009
Xlibris Corporation

logoiya

YoS2009 is an important year for science. It is the Year of Science, the International Year of Astronomy and the Darwin year. The latter because both the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth (February 12) and the 150th year of publication  of his major book The Origin of Species (November 24) occurs.

So there has been a whole host of events and publications devoted to Darwin, his life, his writings and his science. There has been discussion on how his ideas fit into society and philosophy, the affects on society, politics and religion, and their relevance to modern society. There are some great articles and videos accessible on the internet. And then there are the books on Darwin and evolutionary science which have been, or will be, published this year.

But, of course, there are also the naysayers. Those hostile to science in general or just evolutionary science in particular. Almost always religiously motivated, these people have also been mobilising this year. Although the results have been comparatively negligible.

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The purpose of purpose

dawkins lectureMy previous post on Purpose seems, from the discussion, to have hit a raw spot with some people. Just to add fuel to the fire, have a look at this video of Richard Dawkin’s’ recent presentation during his March USA tour. Entitled “Purpose of Purpose” he discusses how the word is often used inappropriately. Along the lies of the theological “why” questions. Quoting Peter Atkins he points out that often “why” questions are just silly.

However, Dawkins does point out that humans are obsessed with purpose, and discusses why that may be so. He describes how purpose has evolved and why the human brain can derive humanitarian and religious purposes which are not necessarily seen as evolutionary adaptions.

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Boycott Coke

coke-creationMost New Zealanders who travel through the USA notice a strange phenomena. The availability of Pepsi and Coca Cola products differs by shop, city or even region. It sticks out like a sore thumb for us as we are used to equal availability of these products here. Hell, it’s even said that one could label a president as Coke President or Pepsi President – presumably depending on who donates to their campaign.

I have never come across any dogmatic preferences for one product or the other here.  At least not to the same extent that there is very often  a dogmatic attitude, bordering on religion, in New Zealanders preference for beer brands.

But no – here is a good reason to limit your purchasing choice – to prefer Pepsi to Coke.  The Creation Museum in Kentucky, USA, has partnered with Coca Cola (see Thirsty Museum Guests Choose Coke). Meaning you have to be prepared to not drink Pepsi, as well as being “prepared to believe,” if you visit that museum. (Their slogan, not mine).

So, New Zealanders, if you continue to purchase Coke products you are unwittingly donating, via this partnership deal, to the forces of darkness who are attacking science.

So, boycott Coke. And if you feels sufficiently strongly about it go here and send Coke a brief message telling them about your boycott.

(Thanks to Pharyngula: see Kentucky’s Creation Museum is partnered with Coca-Cola).

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The necessity of science

obama-cartoonYou have got to love this guy – or at least his speech-writers.

US President Obama spoke recently to the Annual Meeting of the US National Academy of Sciences. He announced a number of new measures aimed at restoring US science to its proper position. They were enthusiastically received by the audience. (See  Remarks by the President at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting.)

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PZ needs an iPod

For all those who know and love PZ Myers and his blog Pharyngula. He’s put his name in for the chance to win a prize of an iPod (see I’d really like to win an iPod Touch). Go there and help him by clicking on the link.

Really, he just trying to piss off that creationist Eric Hovind who is offering the iPod as a prize for the most click throughs to his post: Creation Minute is an exciting series hosted by Eric Hovind that explores the creation worldview using cutting-edge visual effects and digital technology. Each episode challenges the evolution theory and gives evidence of the Bible’s historical and scientific accuracy.

Hovind is of course trying to publicise his creationist site. But just imagine – Pharyngula gets so many hits it’s quite likely that most click throughs will come from there. And Hovind will be obliged to pass on the iPod (loaded with creationist videos) to Myers! That will hurt! – But as Myers points out  Hovind’s morals are such that he is unlikely to fulfil his undertaking in this case.

You never know, in all the confusion precipitated by Myers winning the most click throughs, and Hovind’s refusal to countenance handing over the prize to him, he might just hand it over to someone else like me without thinking. So click on the link above – but also go on the Pharyngula and click there too.

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Where is Galileo?

There is a lot going on this year to engage those of us interested in science. The 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book “The Origin of Species” is being celebrated throughout the world.

It would be very easy to get “all Darwined out” because there is just so much available. New books, lectures, TV documentaries, etc. However, there is just so much variety in what is available. OK, there has been a lot of biographical information – but even this has provided new insights. Modern biographies also provide more interest because of new findings and new approaches. These days biographies are less reticent about dealing with negative features of a person’s life or personality.

But this year much of the material has concentrated on different aspects. The influence of Darwin’s ideas on society, the conflict with religion, Darwin’s contribution in the context of the evolution of science and society at his time, recent findings in evolutionary science and  modern scientific controversies in evolutionary science. And the seemingly ever present political struggles or “conflict of cultures.”

So the Darwin celebrations have provided a great opportunity for discussion of scientific ideas and philosophies.

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Belief not the same as truth

Going through some of notes (scraps of paper all over the place) I came across these jottings:

“To believe in something because it’s true does not come naturally to people.”

and

“Subordination of belief to what is true is not natural to people.”

Perhaps you recognise this problem?

I think I noted them down while reading Dan Agin’s book: Junk Science recently.  It’s a great book (although I think he is a bit hard on evolutionary psychology). I certainly ended up feeling very angry with the huge negative influence anti-science groups and beliefs have on humanity.

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Dawkins on the Big Screen

dawkins-tI had mentioned Richard Dawkins will be announcing the winner of the Royal Society prize for popular science books  in a live  video link at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. (See New Zealand popular science books). I hadn’t realised that Dawkin’s appearance would be more extensive.

He actually will be interviewed by Sean Plunket and will be talking bout his new book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. Of course he will also be talking about Charles Darwin and the current significance of his work.

Apparently there will also be an opportunity for audience questions, although I think they have to be submitted to the festival office beforehand (email to  info@writersfestival.co.nz before Sunday 10 May with DAWKINS in the subject line).

Details of the event are:

Friday 15 May 8:15 – 9:30 pm
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
$19.50 – 23.00* (Earlybird available until 12 May 8.00pm)

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Blog traffic to aim for?

A few New Zealand bloggers pay attention to their traffic statistics. Some are even interested in how they do in the local blog ratings (NZ blog ranks – March ‘09, nz blogosphere rankings: February 2009 & Half March Half Done Stats).

But here’s something to aspire to.

US scientific blogger PZ Myers reports that his blog, Pharyngula) recorded 2,296,911 visits in March! (See What are all you people doing here?). My detectors show Pharyngula has almost 6000 Google Reader subscriptions! It also comes number 1 in the international Atheist Blog Ratings and anecdotally is known to be the most popular science blog.

It’s great to see that a blog promoting science and reason, (and opposing hatred, superstition and ignorance) gets so many readers.

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Saturn opposes Uranus

Recently resolutions were tabled in the Oklahama State Legislature attempting to prevent Richard Dawkins from speaking at The University of Oklahama. This has been followed by an official “investigation” of the University and Dawkins presentation by  of one of the representatives (see Oklahoma Legislature Investigates Richard Dawkins’ Free Speech).  I guess most people thought this was just a storm in a teacup – indicating the survival of intolerance and bigotry in the USA. Perhaps harking back to the McCarthyist era.

So I was somehwhat surprised to see that there were other ways to explain this incident. (I mean apart from those by creationist organisations like the Discovery Institute will have their own justifications for this persecution.)

But what about this from  Learning Curve on the Ecliptic. Apparently the whole incident can be explained by:

“Saturn (the legislature of Oklahoma) opposing Uranus (the relatively modern theories of Dawkins, i.e. evolution).”

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