Archive for August, 2008

If it’s a credible theory…

Sunday, August 31st, 2008
pawlenty-mtp.jpgGovernor Tim Pawlenty defends intelligent design on this morning’s Meet the Press

This morning on Meet The Press, Tom Brokaw interviewed Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to discuss the McCain campaign. And, to my surprise, they talked about evolution.

McCain running mate Sarah Palin’s support of creationism has been picked up by the national media and I’m totally enthused by the idea that the Republican campaign may be forced to address this issue head-on and produce a coherent stance on evolution and creationism in public schools. Of course, there was absolutely no coherence in Governor Pawlenty’s response to Brokaw’s question about whether Palin was right to promote teaching creationism:

I saw her comments on it yesterday, and I thought they were appropriate, which is, you know, let’s–if there are competing theories, and they are credible, her view of it was, according to comments in the newspaper, allow them all to be presented, or allow them both to be presented so students could be exposed to both, and–or more, and have a chance to be exposed to the, to the various theories and make up their own minds.

As tipster commenter Andrew pointed out, Pawlenty begins by calling it “creationism” but then drifts into calling it “intelligent design.” (Just more proof that the Dover prosecutors got it right: intelligent design is just religious creationism dressed in an ugly labcoat.) He dodges the real issue of what should be enforced in school curricula by arguing for local power at each school district, but he happily outs himself as an anti-evolutionist:

Intelligent design is something that in my view is a plausible and credible and something that I personally believe in.

So there’s another one for the list. You can read the transcript or watch the Netcast of today’s Meet the Press here.

Palin is pro-creationism

Friday, August 29th, 2008

palin.jpgSarah Palin, Governor of Alaska and John McCain’s just-announced running mate in the current presidential race, supports creationism.

Her position was made clear in her 2006 gubernatorial campaign, when she said it should be taught alongside evolution. Creationism, unlike intelligent design, is an openly religious ideology and is prohibited from being taught in public schools by the First Amendment. Palin later soft-pedaled her statement, explaining, “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.” But the Republican Party of Alaska’s position is that “Creation Science be given equal representation with the other scientific theories in the classroom.”

Regarding her personal views, she has said: “I believe we have a creator,” and was unable to explain whether she accepted evolution: “I’m not going to pretend I know how all this came to be.”

Biden is pro-science

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

biden.jpgSenator Joe Biden, announced yesterday as Obama’s running mate, is unequivocal about his support of science.

Not only does he oppose teaching creationism and intelligent design in schools, he has expressed exasperation at how many Americans accept those ideas: “I refuse to believe the majority of people believe this malarkey!

In an earlier conversation with blogger John Logsdon, Biden said he would support a doubling of the NSF and NIH budgets. He has voted to expand embryonic stem cell research and claims an aggressive stand on addressing global climate change. Read more about Biden’s positions at On the Issues.

Famous people who don’t believe in evolution, UPDATE

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Lots of people don’t believe in evolution, and some of them are pretty influential. Here’s an update to the previous list of famous people who… you know.

Got a tip? Leave a comment!

Ron Paul, Congressman (R, Texas)

Video of the Spartanburg (SC) GOP Executive Committee meeting, November 1, 2007

Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan

The Trap is Set,” blog post by Thomas Robb, April 24, 2008

Ben Stein, actor (Famous line: “Bueller? …Bueller? …Bueller?”)

Ben Stein to Battle Darwin in Major Film,” World Net Daily, September 28, 2007

Claude Vorilhon, founder of the Raelian Church

Raelian Movement website

John Boehner, House Minority Leader (R, Ohio)

Judd Gregg, Senator (R, New Hampshire)

Rick Santorum, former Senator (R, Pennsylvania)

Letter to the Discovery Institute (PDF) asserting Congress’ position that students should learn about theories other than evolution, in reference to their support of the Santorum Ammendment to the No Child Left Behind Act

Ronald Reagan, former President of the United States

God, Satan and the Media,” The New York Times, March 4, 2003

Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Founder and leader of the Unification Church

Chapter 1: The Principle of Creation, from the Divine Principle, the main theological text of the Unification Church

Ted Nugent, musician

Vegans, Keep Out: It’s Hunting Season,” The New York Times, September 27, 2005

Grover Norquist, lobbyist

Conservatives and Evolution,” The New Republic, July 7, 2005

Pat Buchanan, politician and The American Conservative co-founder

Conservatives and Evolution,” The New Republic, July 7, 2005

Sherri Shepherd, The View co-host

The View television clip


More on PLoS One

Monday, August 18th, 2008
starlingbycoen.jpgA photo of a starling by Coen Elemans, lead author in a new PLoS One paper about superfast songbird muscles.

There’s another point about PLoS One that I wish I’d made in my earlier post: it’s the only journal publishing scientific articles on a broad range of topics that doesn’t have the extremely competitive acceptance rate of Science or Nature. An author submitting a manuscript chooses a journal based on more than just impact factor, of course. A well-respected subject-specific journal is often the best place to send work, especially if you’ve published related results there before and it’s regularly read by colleagues in your discipline. But what if your manuscript characterizes something that crosses multiple fields? Something of unusual or quirky significance? Maybe it’s not earth-shattering enough for Nature, but it would be a shame to leave it underexposed in a subject-specific journal.

Suddenly, PLoS One is perfect.

And in the spirit of the thing, let me tell you about new research published in PLoS One. Coen Elemans, from the University of Utah, and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania provide the first direct evidence of superfast muscles in songbirds. They found that the syringeal muscles in starlings can produce twitch contraction halftimes of 3.23±0.44 ms, the fastest isometric twitch kinematics ever measured in vertebrates. Superfast muscles are a special type of muscle and appear to have evolved multiple times in different vertebrate taxa (rattlesnakes shake their rattle with superfast muscles, for example). These findings have already earned mentions in The New York Times, National Geographic, and many newspapers both stateside and international. They’re relevant to multiple subdisciplines, and publishing them in, say, a muscle physiology journal would have left them overlooked by the birdsong community. Fortunately, PLoS One enjoys high exposure: in the New York Times alone, ten reports on PLoS One articles were published so far this year, almost a third of the number of reports on PNAS articles. Not bad for a journal with an entirely different editorial and publishing process.