Tag Archives: palaeontology

A Little About Paleontologist Per Ahlberg

Anyone interested in paleontology, rational thought, or the scourge of creationism might want to read the transcript of an interview with Per Ahlberg, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden. His straight talk and wit are refreshing. Here’s a sample:

I think mainstream science has a duty and a responsibility to expose creationism and ID for the pseudoscientific frauds that they are. This is something quite different from engaging them in debate, the way you would do with adherents of an opposing but conceptually sound scientific viewpoint. Scientists must expose them simply because they are frauds, and it won’t do to have large parts of the population bamboozled by the lies and misrepresentations of charlatans… Note that there is an important point here: creationists and ID proponents by necessity attempt to befuddle their audience, not just about the evidence for evolution, but about the nature of scientific enquiry in general. They have to, because it is their only way of concealing the threadbare nature of their own claims. (His emphasis)

From this, it should be clear why I have chosen to take part; though you can add the fact that I enjoy talking to people and presenting my ideas to popular audiences. Money, fame and hot chicks would be welcome but have not been forthcoming so far…

Per Ahlberg is known for his work with fossil tetrapods. His latest contribution is as co-author of a paper about 395-million-year-old tetrapod trackways that were found in Poland. (Here’s a summary of the find by PZ Myers at Pharyngula). And a short video about the find is available on the Journal Nature website. Enjoy!



Filed under Atheism, Culture Warfare, paleontology, Skepticism

The Dangerous Language Of Intelligent Designers

A few weeks back Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers attempted to sneak into a screening of the creationist movie Expelled. Dawkins was successful, while Myers was expelled from the theatre. (Religious people are suspicious of men with beards). But while trawling for creationism on the net, I came across a religious site which described the events that unfolded. Get a load of the crazy terminology: Atheists Infiltrate Events For Intelligent Design Film. Infiltrate, they say? Is toilet papering a house sabotage? Is a flaming bag of poop biological warfare? I guess Dawkins made off with valuable ID secrets and sold them to the highest bidder. I just hope he didn’t spend all those pennies in one place.

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Filed under Intelligent Design

Darwin Day World Wide Celebration 2008

February 12th is Charles Darwin’s birthday (Feb 12, 1809 – April 19, 1888). And people world wide are celebrating his life and remembering his achievements. Unfortunately the average person seems to know very little about Darwin and his work. Creationists systematically slander the man without actually having read any of his books. And public school teachers are forced to expose their students to dry factoids and poorly written textbooks. But there is much more to the fascinating history of evolutionary biology and its founder. Countless resources are available online for those who have an interest in learning more about Charles Darwin the man, the explorer, the naturalist, and, of course, the scientist. Here are just a few:

The Darwin Day Page

About Darwin: Dedicated To The Life And Times Of Charles Darwin

London Natural History Museum: Charles Darwin, the Young Explorer

University Of California Museum Of Paleontology

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online

Talk Origins: Exploring the Creation Evolution Controversy

Darwin Day: Stony Brook University 2008

Darwin Day at Cal UCMP

University Of Wisconsin-Whitewater: Darwin Day Lecture

Check the web and see if a university near you is hosting an event.




Filed under darwin

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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Filed under Biology

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.



Filed under Trawling For Creationism