Monthly Archives: January 2008

What Is Intelligent Design?

She’s short and sweet, and so is her comment on intelligent design. When thoughtful parents have their children perform for the camera, it’s often funny and cute. In contrast, when religious and fanatical parents have their children perform for the camera, it’s often blatant indoctrination, and just plain scary.

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Sea Monsters In Kansas

Who’s in the mood for sea monsters? One of the noteworthy books I read in 2007 was  Oceans Of Kansas – A  Natural History of the Western Interior Sea by Michael Everhart. In it Everhart gives detailed descriptions of the creatures that inhabited the Western Interior Sea, which divided North America from about 100 millions years ago to about 69 million years ago. Some of the animals were real monsters.

Michael Everhart is a paleontologist from the University Of Kansas, and curator at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. His latest book is titled Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Creatures of the DeepAnd his website Oceans of Kansas is definitely worth a look.

I never thought I’d actually want to go to Kansas. But how can you not love Mosasaurs?

www.TheDarwinReport.com

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Baby Mammoth On Ice

If you haven’t seen the 10,000 year-old carcass of the baby mammoth yet, check out the video. She’s a cute little bugger even in death. The six-month-old female was discovered in North West Siberia. You can read more about her at  BBC News.

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Another Ken Ham Darwin Sham

Ken Ham, founder of the mega-creationist museum in Kentucky, has a new book out on Darwinism. Authored by Ham and Charles Ware, a bible college president, the book makes the specious argument that evolution is racism incarnate. The book is provocatively titled, Darwin’s Plantation: Evolution’s Racist Roots, and its premise is based on nothing more than revisionist history. Only someone who hasn’t bothered to study Darwinian history would make the claim that it has racist roots. And to state that modern evolutionary science (Neo-Darwinism) is to blame for racism is equally absurd.

First, Ken Ham, like most creationists, has trouble separating science from politics. Whether or not evolution is strongly supported by the physical evidence is purely a scientific question. Racism, on the other hand, is an emotional and political question, which is usually rationalized regardless of any contradictory evidence. Was evolutionary theory used historically to rationalize racism? Yes, some people used it to that end. But the use or misuse of a science in no way invalidates its reality. Mathematics has many evil applications, but those applications don’t weaken its power.

Historically speaking, Charles Darwin came from a family of abolitionists. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, strongly disapproved of slavery. And Charles Darwin wrote negatively about the slavery he witnessed on his travels in his book, The Voyage Of The Beagle. Darwin’s The Descent Of Man is also an argument against racism, since one of the points in it is the common ancestry of all the humans races. And simply using the word “savage”, as Darwin did, in its 19th century context doesn’t make a man a racist. Political correctness and cultural sensitivity were more than a century away.

Amusingly, several 19th century scientists, who were also strong creationists, directly and indirectly supported slavery through their work. For example, zoologist and geologist, Louis Agassiz, hated the idea of evolution, and rationalized the long age of the earth with the idea of multiple creations. In the multiple creation model, black people were characterized as being “lower” than whites. Thus, advocates of slavery preferred Agassiz to Darwin.

Ken Ham believes in a literal reading of the Bible, which has only one creation event, with an Adam and an Eve. (Were Adam and Eve black or white?) Given that fact that the bible endorses slavery and that slavery was in action until the 19th century, it’s apparent that the belief in creationism has much more in common with racism than the science of evolution does.

www.TheDarwinReport.com

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Noah’s Ark Discovered

Poor Mike Rowe, from the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs, had an early career hawking objet d’art on QVC. Like a skilled urban archaeologist, he deftly describes his find – the Ark of Noah. Except his Ark is a small garish highly-overpriced tote bag.

And check out the name on the side of that sturdy craft, it’s called the S.S. Noah. SS stands for steam ship. So here we have strong evidence that Noah’s Ark was self-propelled. I guess the Ark wasn’t thrust upon Mount Ararat by God, it was sailed there by Noah. He should have settled on Hawaii, the fool. Anyway, this is quality evidence in favor of the Biblical Flood, so we best keep it to ourselves or the creationists might use it. It’s better than anything they currently have.    

www.TheDarwinReport.com

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Evolution: What The Fossils Say – A Great New Book

For X-Mas, I was delighted to recieve a copy of the new book by Donald Prothero, titled Evolution: What The Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Being unfamiliar with Prothero’s previous published works, I mistakenly took the book to be a pretty coffee table book about fossils. How wrong I was.

Donald Prothero is a professor of geology at Occidental College in Southern California, and he has written a whole list of books, from After The Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals to The Evolution Of The Earth.

His latest book is a stimulating read. I’ve only just finished chapter 3, but I’m too excited to wait to review the whole thing. His style of writing to clear and to the point. And he knows how to introduce technical terms without overwhelming the reader. In the first chapter he explains the philosophy of science, which is very often misunderstood by the general public, especially creationists. Here is an excerpt in which he writes about science as a method and the meaning of the word theory:

…Science is not about final truth or “facts”; it is only about continually testing and trying to falsify our hypotheses, until they are extremely well supported. At that point, the hypothesis becomes a theory (as scientists use the term), which is a well-corroborated set of hypotheses that explain a larger part of the observations about the world. Some well-known and widely accepted theories are the theory of gravitation, the theory of relativity, and, of course, the the theory of evolution.

You can read a sample chapter (PDF Format) or view some of the color plates (PDF Format).

Here are a few of the other chapter titles: Life’s Origin, Cambrian “Explosion”… or Slow Fuse?, Spineless Wonders Of Evolution, Fish Tales, Dinosaurs Evolve and Fly, The Ape’s Reflection.

I’ll be back with more on this great book, because Prothero does a wonderful job crushing creationism with science, and he deserves to be applauded.

Editor

www.TheDarwinReport.com

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Happy New Year With The Natural World

After a night of partying (or not partying), let’s begin 2008 by appreciating a small corner of our beautiful planet Earth. The Galapagos Islands were where Darwin stopped to smell the ‘roses’, so they come highly recommended. Enjoy!

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