The Mayan apocalypse failed to appear, so I had a nice New Year’s day here in Florida. The temperature got into the 70s here, and not too breezy, so Diane and I worked on various things that all too recently would have been too hot to do comfortably. But here in the evening, I’m reflecting a bit over what has gone by, and thinking about things to be accomplished in the coming year.
One of the major items in the works is finishing off a document for a plan of action in handling TalkOrigins Archive web sites. The success of the Panda’s Thumb has for some time made it the main point of interest, but there has been discussion about a major overhaul of the TalkOrigins web site itself. I’m putting this together via a Google Docs document. The document discusses a collection of web applications for future TalkOrigins Archive holdings. The Panda’s Thumb weblog serves as a front-lines resource with its usual interactivity. The current static HTML TalkOrigins Archive should be preserved so as not to break web resources with links to those materials. But those materials and more will be made available in a content management system. Developing new materials for the CMS will be part of the job for a Wiki. There is also the idea that a full-blown forum package could handle free-form discussions for those without good access to Usenet newsgroups. The critical component in all this, though, is setting up an effective volunteer organization. And that’s the part of the document that I am working on putting together now. When complete, we’ll be having a full call for volunteers. (If you would like to become a volunteer for the TalkOrigins Archive now, please leave a comment indicating your interest and skill set.)
I’m still looking to move ahead with various academic publications that have been in process for quite some time. One thing I was doing today was looking through files, which reminds me of just how much of a backlog there is. I did run across my script for my 2002 presentation at the World Skeptic’s Conference, which reminds me of another activity that I’ve deferred: putting my various presentations in video format and putting them online.
And the science education situation in Florida looks like it may get even more interesting in the future. Our new state education commissioner, Tony Bennett, was touted as a featured speaker for a “Creation Evidence Expo” in 2009, then cancelled when it made the news.
There’s the whole issue of data center consolidation for Florida’s state agencies, a process that is supposed to be complete within the next six years or so. The legislative mandate to do this came down some time ago, but it seems to me that the legislature was not properly informed of the downside of data center consolidation: you may save money on personnel, but a frighteningly large proportion of such projects fail outright. Failure of data systems for state agencies is a pretty bad potential downside to have. There are other issues with the implementation of the data centers. The state is aiming to put everything into two data centers, both of them physically located in the state capitol, Tallahassee. That makes it convenient for the state administration, certainly, but anyone who has looked at data bandwidth in high-speed Internet systems would notice that Tallahassee is not in the path of main trunk lines. Data flow, and low latency, is a critical part of client/server and n-tier architectures, and putting the central data repositories at the end of a thin pipe seems an odd choice. Part of the benefit of having multiple data centers is backup and failover capability; these, though, are rather less effective the closer the places are physically. Power outages are more likely to take down both centers when they are in the same geographic locale, and disasters are more likely to effect both, too. Having a data center in Tallahassee makes sense, but having the premier data center elsewhere (somewhere with much better bandwidth access, for one) would make much more sense. There’s lots more to talk about on this topic, and I hope to do some of that later.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 75686 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 5693 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
At lunch at the Spoonbill Bowl on Saturday, I was privileged to volunteer with a group of students, faculty, and researchers. It was a long day. Lunch was provided, and I got to sit down with a colleague and a couple of faculty members from USF St. Petersburg. One of them posed a brain-teaser question. I followed up with broaching the Monty Hall problem.
Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, I’ll briefly describe the Monty Hall problem. In the television game show, “Let’s Make a Deal”, host Monty Hall would offer a contestant an opportunity to win a major prize, let’s say a new automobile. The stage would show three doors (“Door #1″, “Door #2″, and “Door #3″). The major prize is behind one of the doors. Behind the other two are booby prizes, let’s say that they are goats. The contestant is allowed to pick a door. Rather than simply opening the contestant’s pick, Monty would have a door the contestant did not pick opened to reveal a goat. Then, Monty would offer the contestant a choice: she could stay with her original pick, or she could switch to the other door that had not been opened.
The Monty Hall problem poses the question of strategy: Is it better to always stay with the original choice, to always switch to the other remaining door, or does it not matter one way or the other? This question was posed many years ago in a column hosted by Marilyn Vos Savant and gave her months of correspondence as people argued with her advice to always switch. Marilyn was right, of course. The problem and just how counterintuitive the result is has proven a popular topic since then, and Jason Rosenhouse even has authored a book about it.
Back to my luncheon discussion. Me bringing up the Monty Hall problem led to about twenty minutes of trying to explain to one of my lunch companions why always switching was the right choice. It was a microcosm of the entire history of the public history of the problem, and I found it frustrating that I wasn’t able to more clearly and simply put it so that my companion could be convinced of the correctness of the answer. What finally made sense to my companion was that if one enumerated all the permutations, staying won in one-third of them, and switching won in two-thirds of them.
So I decided that I would make up a set of business cards to make future discussions of the Monty Hall problem go faster. Here is my graphic:
While I can’t include all the text that I would like on something the size of a business card, I can use this to quickly demonstrate why switching is actually the better strategy. The card shows all nine possible ways that the game can be played. It also shows that in only three of those does staying with the initial pick work out to a win for the contestant. In the other six ways the game works out, the contestant only wins if they switched.
I think I’ll put a version on a T-shirt.
Update: During lunch today, I tested out my card as a tool on a Monty Hall Problem-naive colleague. Her initial hunch was that staying with the initial choice was the strategy to pursue. I said that I would try to convince her that switching was the correct strategy and produced a card. I pointed out that every possible way the game could go was represented, and in only the top row did staying work out to a win. Within two minutes, I had convinced her of the correctness of the switching strategy. So that’s one data point.
Also, I’ve updated the graphic here. I’ve changed the color scheme. Diane pointed out that it would be hard for color-blind people to distinguish differences in the original. I’ve also added door numbers to make it clearer that each block of three rectangles represents one set of doors. And I added drop shadows to the doors just because I think it looks better that way.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 3182 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 1189 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Dr. Eugenie Scott is giving a public talk Thursday, February 9, 2012, at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The topic is on the “critical analysis” legislative efforts that have popped up in Florida, and how these are part and parcel of the creationism movement.
The location is FAH 101 and the time for the talk is 7 PM. There’s a reception at 6:30 PM, so getting there early would be a good thing. I plan to be there.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 14617 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 1932 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Upcoming television series on PBS: Inside Nature’s Giants, begins January 18th at 10 PM.
Professor Joy Reidenberg is an unlikely TV star. She’s a comparative anatomist with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Physically, she is diminutive, dark-haired and dark-eyed, and not the sort of slender sylph in morphotype that TV producers seem to favor. But Joy has deep anatomical knowledge and a gift for communicating what she knows, and that led the producers of the documentary series, “Inside Nature’s Giants”, to feature Joy in their program.
Diane and I have known Joy for years as a fellow attendee of various biennial conferences hosted by the Society for Marine Mammalogy. At the latest conference, we caught up with her following the conference-end banquet. She spun us a fascinating tale of how she came to star in a television series. Joy said that she received a call from the producers early one Friday afternoon preceding a holiday weekend, asking her if she might be interested in dissecting a stranded fin whale for a television program. Sure, she said, thinking that they were prospecting and planning for a project that would be months, if not years, down the road. So the question following her “yes” response floored her: Could she be on the plane for Ireland at 6 PM? Maybe was the answer, as Joy told us that physically getting to each part of the transportation network she’d need to get her stuff and passport would stretch things. Her husband and daughter decided to join the expedition. To cut things short, Joy and family made it to Ireland, and despite various amusing misadventures, made it to the locality of the whale stranding on time. There, the documentary producers pressed her into service as liaison to the local health authorities, who had to be convinced that permitting a whale necropsy on the spot was the best way forward to safely disposing of the carcass. She also had to try to convince the police to keep people away from the body, and she reported less success on that front. In any event, Joy got to do the dissection there for the cameras, and her innate enthusiasm and ability to draw people into discussion of anatomy impressed the producers so much that she became a regular co-host on the series.
There was also the adventure of traveling back home. Diane and I have attended necropsies of cetaceans, sirenians, pinnipeds, and sea turtles, and one has to take fairly strong measures to deal with the remaining odor that clings to clothes, skin, and hair. Joy had to physically get inside a decaying whale there in Ireland, and that makes for a different scale of olfactory assault. Joy told us of taking a succession of showers with vigorous scrubbing, but in the end even her family opted to stay in a separate room at the hotel. On the plane ride back, Joy was shifted to the very rear of the plane by the flight attendants, who kindly told the other passengers that they were having trouble with the toilets to explain the stench.
The TV series, “Inside Nature’s Giants”, is slated to air six episodes on PBS, starting January 18th, 2012, at 10 PM. The series is all about charismatic megafauna, but concentrates on post-mortem anatomical examination. Check your local PBS affiliate to make sure of the schedule. Another regular on the series who should be familiar to readers is Prof. Richard Dawkins.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 41008 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3948 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
I got an email request from a college student. He asked if I knew of a high-school level textbook that covered the concept of natural selection without using the word, “evolution”. He has relatives who are Mennonite and who home-school, and would reject any textbook that explicitly said “evolution”, but whose kids deserve to have an understanding of some of the basic concepts in evolutionary science.
This is the text of my reply to my correspondent:
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I personally do not know of such a textbook, and I’ve tried to get feedback from people who should know the textbook market better than I do without success.
I think that it would be outside expectations that such a textbook would be written, though. Writing a textbook is a major undertaking, and those who are inclined to cover evolutionary science have little incentive to try to target a market segment that will, if they figure out what is going on, not buy their book.
I have myself considered writing a book (not a textbook) with a working title of, “What Every Creationist Should Know About Evolution”. It would cover the basic information and try to be non-confrontational about most aspects of religious antievolutionism. (I haven’t gotten sanguine about the outright lying part of antievolution yet.) The prospects for a market for it are similarly dismal, I expect.
Personally, I think that you might be better off to point out that overturning something like evolutionary science is only going to happen when people motivated to do so can approach the topic with an excellent understanding of the current state of that science. It is that sort of person who would be cognizant of the flaws and have the drive to do the research that would demonstrate it to be so to the scientific community. If they believe that evolution is false and have the courage of their convictions, they should utilize a standard textbook to show their children what the scientists *actually* say about it, rather than accept second-hand slurs about it from people who never bothered to learn the topic. This does, of course, run the risk of convincing the children that the scientists have a point, but the children will eventually have the opportunity to learn these concepts without their parents’ guidance anyway. They might find it better to meet that problem head-on while their children are still in their care than to have them discover evolutionary science concepts and evidence on their own.
I think this latter course of action is better than the stealth textbook on the openness front.
The Consortium for Ocean Leadership’s National Ocean Science Bowl is holding its national competition this weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida at the USF/St. Pete campus and FWRI. There is round robin competition on Saturday, then the finals will use a double-elimination tournament schedule that finishes up on Sunday.
I’m signed up as a moderator in one of the rooms on Saturday. I really enjoyed volunteering for the regional tournament, and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s competition.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 57335 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 5880 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
The regional National Ocean Sciences Bowl, the Spoonbill Bowl, happens this next Saturday, March 6th, 2010. The location is at the USF Marine Sciences and Fish and Wildlife Institute (100 SE 8th Ave., St. Petersburg, Florida 33701). It gets going pretty early in the morning. This is a quiz competition with each game pitting two teams of four players against each other. There are two rounds of toss-up questions requiring fast responses, with bonus questions for correctly answered toss-ups. In between, there are two “team challenge” questions that give each team a set time to collaborate on answering more involved questions. The questions are drawn from topics contributing to marine science, including
7. Marine Policy
8. Social sciences (including economics, history and human interactions)
9. Technology (including instrumentation, remote sensing, & navigation)
10. Current Events
The public is welcome to attend the event.
I’ve volunteered to help with the event, where I will be one of the moderators. I think that we are planning on running eight rooms for the round-robin initial phase of the event. The final phase will be run as a double-elimination tournament. I’m really looking forward to this. In April, the NOSB nationals will be held here in St. Petersburg, where teams winning at the regional competitions around the country will compete.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 46345 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 7077 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
A philosophical look at evolution and creation by a newly-minted history Ph.D., Leslie Tomory, is titled The Shock and Awe of Creation. Tomory is in the theistic evolution camp, and argues on philosophical grounds that antievolution is a bad thing, while affirming that faith and science can co-exist.
That’s fine by me. But here is one of the issues that diminished my enjoyment of the piece.
Young earth creationists are the first and crudest variant of this reaction, but they are by no means the only one. The Intelligent Design (ID) movement accepts common descent to varying degrees, but rejects the established mechanisms of evolutionary change. The arguments of ID proponents are structured in the way I have outlined. Reacting to evolutionism, they have chosen to go on the attack against natural selection and genetic drift. They recognize that common descent is evident and they accept it.
Uh, no. There is one major “intelligent design” advocate, Michael Behe, who is on record saying that he has no particular reason to disagree with common descent, which is a rather different proposition from saying that he accepts common descent, much less that he feels that it is evident. Within the “intelligent design” movement, acceptance of common descent ranges from a (quite common) nil of the young-earth creationists in the movement to the grudging acquiescence of Mike Behe. Wherever one finds “intelligent design” material that addresses common descent, it uniformly seeks to make common descent seem less “evident” to the reader. Common descent is still quite plainly a target of “intelligent design” advocates, but it is also clear that they recognize they have a fine line to walk if they want to appear to be at all reasonable to the rest of the world. Have a look at “Of Pandas and People” and “Explore Evolution” sometime. When they talk to a “safe” audience, though, the stops often come off.
Another issue in the essay:
The final concept contained within the notion of evolution is the pace of evolutionary change. Although gradualism was dominant in Darwin’s thinking, the second half of the 19th century witnessed the rise of other opinions regarding the pace of evolutionary change, the most important of which was mutation theory’s large jumps. The rediscovery of genetics, with its emphasis on clearly distinct expression of genes, gave further impetus to mutation theory’s jumps. This changed, however, with the forging by Theodosius Dobzhansky among many others, of the modern or neo-Darwinian synthesis in the 1930s. This united Darwinian mechanisms with Medelian genetics and the study of population dynamics. Gradualism was once again the dominant opinion, although it was somewhat modified in the 1970s.
It was at this point when Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould put forward their theory of punctuated equilibrium, which argued that evolution proceeds by bursts, followed by long periods of stasis. Their arguments were based on observations of the fossil record which seems to indicate that on the whole, evolution proceeds in this uneven way. The bursts should not, however, be understood as occurring in a few generations. Rather, these bursts are only rapid when considered on geological time scales spanning millions of years, and speciation events occur over thousands of generations, making punctuated equilibrium a form of gradualism.
While Tomory eventually finishes by saying that punctuated equilibrium turns out to be a form of gradualism, he fails to elucidate the terminological problem at basis here. Gradualism of the sort that Darwin espoused wasn’t about constancy of rate, but rather the rather banal fact that it is populations that evolve, and its antithesis is saltationism, where new species are instantiated and founded by single organisms. Gould and Eldredge did rail against “gradualism”, but if you read the original papers carefully every such instance is best understood as shorthand for their slightly longer novel phrase of “phyletic gradualism”, a very specific and delimited concept of anagenetic speciation with constant rates of change in traits associated with the speciation event. I’m not sure that it is at all accurate to say that “gradualism” was modified in the 1970s. Gould and Eldredge elicited a lot of reactions that assumed that they were advocating saltationism, and they had, it seems, quite a bit of fun in tweaking people’s noses over the fact that they were doing no such thing. All in all, most of the brouhaha over punctuated equilibria appears, in retrospect, to have the form of an extended academic practical joke, as the rhetoric and phrasing of the original proposal appears to be gauged to elicit exactly the sort of mistakes in response as did follow. This does nothing to lessen the positive aspects of punctuated equilibria in making clear the importance of allopatric speciation on the patterns seen in the fossil record, but it does illustrate that there is more happening in the scientific literature than just straightforward explication of research findings.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 39916 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6616 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Check out the discussion of a teacher suspended indefinitely in Brookeland, Texas, apparently for being “too liberal” and “an atheist”.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 5939 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 2049 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Baraminologist Todd Wood has come to view religious antievolution as idolatry. Wood has apparently come to the conclusion I did back around 1986, that promoting religious antievolution apologetics is harmful to faith.
Hat tip to Josh Rosenau.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 43774 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6814 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
At US News and World Report, Ray Comfort has responded to Dr. Eugenie Scott’s critique of the bowdlerized version of the Origin of Species that he is planning to distribute starting this year. And among other pieces of inherited religious antievolution anti-information, Comfort fires what he mistakenly seems to believe is a broadside:
Scott quoted a famous geneticist, who said, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” I would like to drop one word, so that the quote is true. It should read, “Nothing in biology makes sense in the light of evolution.” For example, evolution has no explanation as to why and how around 1.4 million species of animals evolved as male and female. No one even goes near explaining how and why each species managed to reproduce (during the millions of years the female was supposedly evolving to maturity) without the right reproductive machinery.
Uh, Ray, you’ve already embarrassed yourself on this point. But I guess Ray can’t be bothered to actually learn about what he tries to critique. The fact is that while evolutionary science doesn’t have one single theory that everyone agrees explains why sex evolved, it does have lots of hypotheses bearing on that topic, and plenty of research is ongoing concerning that. So, Ray, how does having many proposed explanations equate to having no explanations? Or is math also something you repudiate?
The how question also has various hypotheses in play, though you won’t learn about them from Comfort, since he is also apparently ignorant of the fact that we can see even in extant populations just about every gradation between asexual and sexual modes of reproduction that are conceptually possible. Once organisms start swapping genetic information, there is a clear path to the condition of “male” and “female” where there are two complementary strategies to how to package that information. Males use a strategy of making more, but smaller gametes, and females make fewer, but larger gametes. As to the right reproductive machinery, Comfort is also apparently ignorant of the various invertebrate species that feature a sperm delivery system called the cirrus, but no corresponding vagina-like receptacle: transfer is accomplished simply by stabbing the intended mate with the cirrus and transferring the gametes that way. And Comfort simply doesn’t get the important fact about common descent that each daughter species inherits most, if not all, the properties and attributes of the parent species, including mode of reproduction. Sexual reproduction does not have to independently arise in a great many different lineages; that’s the special creation conjecture that Comfort is actually critiquing. Once sexual reproduction (in the form of exchange of a complete haploid copy of genetic information) does arise, the descendants are free to use that and to modify the mechanisms by which it occurs.
There are so many gaps and holes in the theory of evolution that you could drive a fleet of a thousand fully laden 18-wheelers through them. The irony is that I can see them, and I’m not an expert on the subject of evolution. So, what does that say about the theory’s experts, whoever they are? It says (as a wise man once said) that man will believe anything . . . as long as it’s not in the Bible.
Ray, not only are you not an expert, you are pretty much a documented complete ignoramus when it comes to biology. The “gaps and holes” you see are your ignorance, not something of scientific note and interest. Your brand of ignorant religious antievolution damages both faith and science.
Update: Ray Comfort has apologized for the argument about sexual reproduction. Ray should be commended for his willingness to admit error, which is a trait all too rare among religious antievolution advocates. Ray further notes that the evolution issue is not his primary concern, but evangelizing people to come to Christ. Ray, you will hopefully have more opportunities if you drop the requirement that those who believe that science is finding out how God created must set that aside for the poor apologetics of religious antievolution.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 42122 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6562 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Philip Clayton at “Religion Dispatches” has a post up about evolution/creationism issues and the yin/yang of the classes of antievolutionists and new atheists who agree that one must choose between religion and science, but just disagree on which way to jump.
There’s a brief mention of “non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA) (with a disclaimer that it isn’t necessarily adequate) and a further discussion of how the participants need to set aside “hegemonic” claims.
When evolutionary and religious explanations are construed as fighting for the same territory, they will unleash their weapons upon each other—as today’s religion wars show. When we recognize and acknowledge their different strengths, a far more interesting discussion emerges.
This new debate is challenging because it requires both sides to give up certain hegemonic claims: scientists, the claim that science provides the answer to all metaphysical questions; and religionists, the claim that they know better than science how nature works.
I think Clayton does all right in entering certain arguments concerning metaphysics. But I think that he has overlooked the public policy aspect concerning K-12 public school education. Since 1968, religious antievolutionists have been illegitimately claiming scientific status for their conjectures, and attempting to inject those conjectures into the public school curriculum at every opportunity at every level, individual, school, district, state, and federal. “Interesting discussion” is hindered when it is consistently one side that demonstrates such intellectually bankrupt and immoral behavior. Until religious antievolutionists ‘fess up that what they are pushing is religion, not science, there can be no rapprochement on this. Of course, that also means that they have to abandon the long-term project of diluting or contaminating K-12 public school science education. I see no moves in that direction. Until that happens, the flames will continue, and will be contributed to by theistic evolutionists like me, who see religious antievolution as a threat to the integrity of both faith and science. It is way too soon to talk about ashes.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 43371 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6968 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
I went over to Wikipedia earlier this evening, hoping to find out what major University of Florida football quarterback Tim Tebow was graduating in. I didn’t find that out, but I did run across this sentence there:
One of the reasons he chose Florida was because of Meyer’s spread option offense, an offense for which Tebow was deemed a prototypical quarterback.
Given that the spread option offense has existed since the 1920s, it seems unlikely that Tebow was around then to serve as the prototype of a quarterback to run it. So I changed that to read:
One of the reasons he chose Florida was because of Meyer’s spread option offense, an offense for which Tebow was deemed an archetypal quarterback.
and left this explanation for others editing the page:
prototype=first of kind or preliminary; archetype=instance most indicative of the type
Before committing that change, I did look to see if I could get the Gainesville Sun article that was referenced for that sentence. I had no joy on that, but Google indicates that sports writers seem to have this as a common confusion over the difference in the terms.
Results 1 – 10 of about 156,000 for tebow prototypical
Results 1 – 10 of about 746,000 for football prototypical
I’m sure some of those are legitimate uses of “prototypical”, but my sense from looking over a small sample is that most are not.
Update: I found Tebow’s major; it is “Family, Youth and Community Sciences” in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The web page says that the program is an applied social science.
Further update: I’ve found at least one source that defines “prototype” as “a standard or typical example”. That would make sense of a lot more of the usage I see in sports writing, but would still leave out those that are trying to communicate a sense of someone being exceptional in performance. It is certainly out of place in trying to use it in description of Tebow.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 43909 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 7495 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
“Academic politics is much more vicious than real politics. We think it’s because the stakes are so small.” — various
The administration at Butler University has been having trouble with the Zimmermans. Prof. Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Weekend has a new contract… one that does not have him serving as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In addition, Butler U. Provost Jamie Comstock apparently said harsh words about Prof. Zimmerman that he is treating as defamatory. Also, Prof. Zimmerman’s wife, Prof. Andrea Gullickson, was Chair of the Department of Music, but was first stripped of the chair and then threatened with dismissal from her faculty position.
That’s the usual run of academic politics, and something that would likely not have hit anyone’s radar in the normal course of events. But then we get to Butler U. and the third Zimmerman. This one is Jess Zimmerman, currently a junior enrolled in courses at Butler U. Jess has been pretty understandably upset about the treatment his father and stepmother have received at Butler U. Jess, though, did more than be upset: he blogged about the situation, quoted emails about Gullickson’s treatment, and opined that the administrators at issue were bad news for the Butler U. community. The cherry on top so far as Butler U. was concerned was that Jess did this blogging anonymously.
While I don’t often partake of anonymous commentary, I think there are good reasons to use it. One of the best of those reasons is that of making it harder for petty tyrants to seek retribution. As a student at the institution being criticized, there are a great many ways that the wrath of an administration pricked by words can be unleashed. What has turned a local rumor and gossip circuit story into national news is the actual way the administration chose to wield its power: they filed a libel and defamation lawsuit against the anonymous blogger.
Then came the revelation of just who it was they were suing: a student and family member of faculty who were quite reasonably seen as victims of administrative power struggles. The suit has been withdrawn, but the outrage lives on. Besides the obvious issue that the lawsuit was frivolous (look at the supposedly defamatory comments), Butler U.’s lawyers were also not thinking about what they would open the school up to in terms of the discovery process. Think that stuff like what happened to Profs. Zimmerman and Gullickson occurs in an absence of high-level communication? Think again. The odds are long that further embarrassment would have been avoided if a lawsuit went forward.
Now, though, Butler U. administrators still want to “punish” Jess Zimmerman. Having denied Jess his day in court, Butler U. is offering to provide him his day in kangaroo court, via an unspecified set of punishments chosen for miscreant students. Further, in discussions over Prof. Zimmerman’s own legal claims against Provost Comstock, the university lawyers sought to make it a condition of settlement with Prof. Zimmerman that Jess give up any right of appeal and submit to any (thus far undisclosed) administrative sanctions against him. Prof. Zimmerman quite rightly refused to make any such deal. The cases are separate, and the attempt to join them is nothing better than extortion.
I’ve seen various comments that try to defend the Butler U. administration. I’m afraid that the more I read, the lower my opinion of the Butler U. administration drops. One expects that in complex cases, there will be points that go to favor one and the other side. This situation, though, seems thoroughly lopsided.
I will divulge here that I work regularly with Michael Zimmerman and consider him a friend. I’ve never met Jess but I wish him the best of luck getting through this trying time. Butler U.? If they wished for my advice, they’d give up trying to take out their frustration on a student over having their dirty laundry aired. Nobody who looks at the record is buying the various rationalizations for the vindictiveness, guys.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 34634 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6754 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Quark Expeditions has a contest going. They are making a promotion out of sending a blogger to Antarctica on an expedition next year, and have a voting system set up so that each blogger can have people vote for their bid to go on the trip.
I found out about the whole thing a bit late, when PZ Myers on Pharyngula endorsed Grrrlscientist’s bid. So I’m in a bit of a hole at the moment in the voting. Please take a moment to go vote for my bid. You can change your vote later, if you decide to go with another blogger in the running. The voting ends September 30th, 2009.
Back around 1997, Randy Davis at Texas A&M University was putting together an Anatarctic expedition to observe the behavior of diving Weddell seals, including both physiological and bioacoustical measures of what was happening. I got an invitation to go along to assist in the research, but I had to turn that down because of my chronic ulcerative colitis. As my doctor said, though, ulcerative colitis can be cured, and my colon got removed back in 2004. (See the first messages on this blog for the gory details of going through surgery and recuperation.) So now I’m in shape where I can contemplate having an adventure, and I’d like to get the chance to find out part of what I missed due to chronic illness earlier. Please give me a hand: vote for my bid, and pass it on to people you know. And if you do, I’d be grateful to hear from you in the comments here, too.
I should point out that the contest gives the winner a two-person expedition to Antarctica. My partner for the trip is Diane J. Blackwood. Diane’s academic background is also interdisciplinary. She has a BS in zoology, another BS in electrical engineering, an MS in biomedical engineering, and a Ph.D. in wildlife and fisheries sciences. We both went through the same Ph.D. program together at Texas A&M University. Diane has a lot of research experience, from respiratory studies in infants through G-induced loss of consciousness in fighter pilots, from behavior of lekking prairie chickens and sage grouse to reaction times of whales and dolphins in hearing tests. A vote for my bid gets you, the blog reader, an additional expert perspective on the expedition.
Gearing up for Antarctica
It’s a pleasant fantasy to think about what to take along on an Antarctic expedition. One has to balance weight versus value for these sorts of trips, so the first pass will simply be to list off useful things, and later I’ll work on winnowing that down.
Laptop computer, probably my Gateway MT6458 for me and the old IBM Thinkpad A30 for Diane.
External drive(s), probably one or two 1.5TB USB drives
USB card reader(s)
USB flash drive(s), have one 8GB, will likely stock up on more
Aim to have one or two USB drives pre-loaded with Ubuntu and Knoppix systems for booting and system rescue
CD set of disks for system recovery/reinstallation
GPS with waypoint logging
Screwdrivers, straight flat blade, Phillips #2, interchangeable tip with tip assortment, miniature screwdriver set
Eyeglass repair kit (2)
Forceps, curved and straight
Dikes, small and medium
C clamps (2)
2″ PVC pipe tape
Scotch Super-33 electrical tape
Hook-up wire, 24 gauge
15W pencil soldering iron
Nikon D2Xs (digital SLR)
Fuji S2 (digital SLR)
Nikon F2 (manual film SLR)
(May want to get a full frame digital SLR for the trip)
Nikkor VR AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8
Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6
Nikkor AI-S 24mm f/2.8
Micro-Nikkor AI-S 105mm f/2.8
Nikkor AI-S 50mm f/2
Sigma AF 18-200mm
(May want to add a 500mm mirror lens or other long lens)
Nikon SB-800 (2)
Wireless remote for D2Xs
Gossen Luna-Pro light meter
Compact flash cards
SD to compact flash adapters (2)
Nikon flash cord
Diffuser for macro work
Custom panorama head
(Need to get a travel tripod)
(More stuff to be listed)
EDO Western 6166 hydrophone (good for audio through high frequency sound)
Sonobuoy salvage hydrophones, various
Geophone (low frequency and vibration response, has suction cup)
Aiwa miniature stereo mic
Olympus WS-320M voice recorder
Custom hydrophone pre-amps
Battery-powered pre-amps and amplifiers
GT-1000T Amp/monitor speaker
(Will look for flash memory data recorder before trip)
(There are some simple bits of science that can be done with the above tools concerning the state of the sea surface and how the Antarctic peninsula differs from the starting point in Argentina.)
This article points out what we knew from the outset, that the “academic freedom” law passed there was about nothing other than making it likely that teachers could adopt various of the standard religious antievolution arguments for classroom instruction. The state department of education had a policy that the board of education altered:
The section removed said: “Materials that teach creationism or intelligent design or that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind shall be prohibited for use in science classes.”
The folks arguing for the removal say that that is implicit in other rules in force. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 9191 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3170 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
The Discovery Institute, who told everybody for years that they should “wedge” “intelligent design” creationism into the public schools (and even went so far as repeatedly suggesting that various administrators and officials “follow the law” when referring to the vestiges of the failed Santorum Amendment buried in the “No Child Left Behind” conference report), are hard at work to get most of the very same arguments into the public schools. The new effort promotes a misused label of “academic freedom”; see for yourself at academicfreedomday.com.
The website design utilizes a pop-art retro cartoon look, and features a snippet from Charles Darwin:
“A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”
Of course, the DI doesn’t take note of the context. I’ve discussed this before.
And an antievolution site without a quote-mine of Darwin would be incomplete, so obviously Gornoski’s site dishes it up in the header of his theme. Darwin’s message was that his book was too short to collect all of the opposing arguments, too, not that he would be seeking that fair result. In our modern situation, the clear message is that science classes have too little time to spend on teaching students both science and anti-science as if they were the same thing. Evolutionary science has passed muster through rigorous test and scrutiny; the “weaknesses” that the DI promotes are just the same old discredited tosh that has been seen from religiously motivated antievolutionists for decades and centuries. Evolutionary science is accountable through the record of hard work of scientists seen in the scientific literature, and antievolutionary drivel is not.
As an example of just how mendacious our merry band of antievolutionists from Seattle are, check out their page on the site concerning online resources. Do they take the quoted snippet in the way they want others to take it? Of course not. Every single link is to credulous “intelligent design” creationism or other religiously-motivated antievolution advocacy, and none whatever to criticisms of their arguments, though many such sites are available.
Note also that many of the resources are explicitly about “intelligent design” creationism advocacy. The Discovery Institute has been steadily denying that they were advocating IDC to various and sundry boards of education and the like; it’s good to see such clear proof from them directly that they were lying when they made those denials. METHINKS IT IS LIKE A CONFESSION.
Hat tip to Greg Laden.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 10071 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3586 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Lansing Community College had an in-service day today with round-table discussions. Diane and I had volunteered to lead three such sessions, using the topic, “Why Does My Neighbor Hate Evolution?”
The first session had a small group entirely composed of people who saw antievolution as a problem, but the second and third sessions included self-proclaimed creationists or antievolutionists in the groups.
The reason explaining most of the phenomena of the title, Diane and I explained, was commitment to a particular religious doctrine that put it at odds with the findings of evolutionary science and various other disciplines. And within that, most cases are explained by adherence to young-earth creationism, saying that the earth must be 20,000 years old or less.
One of our participants was explicit in preferring a 6,000 age of the earth. That person also told us of a trip made to the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky, saying that it was well done, fairly presented both sides, and made a good case for the young earth view. It took some restraint, but I didn’t call this person out directly on the whopper about AiG presenting evolutionary science fairly. After a later Gish Gallop, I made clear that in over twenty years of close examination of antievolution claims, I had yet to encounter one that stood up to scrutiny. I think that was taken badly, the person left the discussion at the first opportunity.
One thing that the first discussion delved into was how science teachers who embrace antievolution could motivate themselves to teach a curriculum including science which they personally doubted. This is a real issue; upwards of 30% of science teachers either teach creationism or would do so if they got the slightest hint from adminstrators that it might be OK to do so. After some discussion about curricula, standards, and accountability of information in the field being taught, the argument that seemed to resonate was that if one believes that the current status of some scientific concept is incorrect, then one still must do one’s best to teach it accurately and completely, the better to prepare students to analyze it and find the problems that one believes must be there. Inaccurate or incomplete presentations will contribute to extending the time an incorrect concept is retained. This argument has the advantage of offering the opportunity for a payoff even to avowed antievolutionist teachers for teaching to the curriculum. Back many years ago when I was casting about for opportunities to teach at the K-12 level, I got a job offer from a private fundamentalist Christian school that wanted someone to teach biology. (Unfortunately, the amount offered would have essentially been a pay cut from the job I had, as it would have entailed significant costs for commuting.) The principal interviewed me, and during that broached the topic of teaching evolution. Once he ascertained that I personally did not have an issue with that, he went on to discuss how he needed to have the students learn the concepts of evolutionary science, but also needed a teacher with discretion who could do so without setting off hordes of angry fundamentalist parents. Even within the ranks of those who see evolutionary science as flawed, there are those with the perspicacity to recognize that accurate and complete education is valuable and necessary. Bringing that recognition to others seems like a good goal.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 10181 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3337 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Back on November 8th, Diane and I spent half the day helping Lansing Community College put on their Science and Math Elementary Exploration event. We were assigned to the biology section where we provided owl pellets for the students to pick apart and identify bones found therein. We had instruction sheets and a handy one-page bone identification guide.
We had a lot of students come through the doors during the SMEE activities. Diane had me go around to other SMEE events to get pictures as well. I’ll post some as I get a chance.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 9759 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3197 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Rob Crowther, Discovery Institute spokesperson, has an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun.
Intelligent Design goes beyond biology and encompasses physics, chemistry and cosmology, as well. It is not creationism, nor was it developed to get around court rulings.
Intelligent design is the Logos theology expressed in the idiom of information theory, or so asserts Dr. William Dembski. That would be somewhat beyond biology, one has to admit. Certainly, accepting “intelligent design” as expounded by Dembski and others requires being ready to deny findings in biology, physics, chemistry, and cosmology, especially when it comes to the third rail of the IDC movement, criticism of “young-earth” creationist dogma.
The argumentative content propounded in “intelligent design” creationism is a subset of the argumentative content of “creation science”. It doesn’t provide anything other than what was seen in the creationist ensemble of religious antievolution argument, so it is hard to see why something that is comprised of the same stuff should be considered something completely different.
Crowther does not deal with the clear record that says that, yes, “intelligent design” creationism was developed expressly to get around court rulings. He’d have to deal with “cdesign proponentsists” if he were to actually examine relevant stuff, but he doesn’t do so.
Crowther uses an ambiguity to misinform. Because the phrase “intelligent design” received occasional use in descriptive language prior to 1987, Crowther casts that as putting in doubt the specific post-1987 usage of “intelligent design” to mean a field of study that denies evolutionary science. Unfortunately for Crowther, it is pretty simple to distinguish between the two, and no one used “intelligent design” as a phrase for a field of human inquiry before it popped up as a replacement for “creation science” in drafts of a textbook in 1987.
Oxford scholar F.C.S. Schiller employed the term “intelligent design” in 1897, writing that “it will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of Evolution may be guided by an intelligent design.”
Not used as indicating a field of study. Next…
In By Design, a history of the current controversy, journalist Larry Witham traces the roots of the contemporary Intelligent Design movement in biology to the 1960s and ’70s.
Maybe Witham is as confused as Crowther on being able to tell when “intelligent design” was first applied to mean a field of study.
Leading theoretical physicist Paul Davies described the fine-tuning of the universe as “the most compelling evidence for an element of cosmic design.”
That’s not even the same phrase, and it doesn’t refer to “cosmic design” being a field of study, either.
Fred Hoyle, the eminent theoretical physicist and agnostic, followed with The Intelligent Universe (1983). He wrote: “A component has evidently been missing from cosmological studies. The origin of the Universe, like the solution of the Rubik cube, requires an intelligence.”
Again, not the same phrase, and no implication that there’s a field of study being described.
In 1984, one of the first scientific books advocating intelligent design appeared, Mystery of Life’s Origin, which was favourably received by leading scientists and scholars.
Nobody has ponied up an instance of “intelligent design” being used in the sense of denoting a field of study in this text. Nor will they.
Also that year, biologist Ray Bohlin published The Natural Limits to Biological Change, one of the first books to use the term “intelligent design” in its modern sense.
Lane P. Lester and Ray Bohlin used the phrase “intelligent design” as an alternative to “natural design” on pages 152, 153, 156, and 167 in that book. Nowhere did they suggest that “intelligent design” was a field of study as opposed to a simple descriptive phrase.
All of this was before court cases such as Edwards v. Aguillard.
All of that was irrelevant to the claim, too. What happened following Edwards v. Aguillard is well-documented in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial record. The Foundation for Thought and Ethics had a project to produce a creation science supplemental textbook, and in several preliminary drafts used the phrase “creation science” to refer to what they claimed was a field of study. After Edwards v. Aguillard, though, the drafts suddenly replaced “creation science” and similar phrases with “intelligent design”. Given that Edwards v. Aguillard proscribed religious antievolution in general and “creation science” in particular, the clear import to everyone besides lying tools (otherwise known as “cdesign proponentsists”) and the people they manage to dupe is that the search-and-replace operation was undertaken to evade court rulings. The issue is not and never was whether the phrase “intelligent design” had been used before Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987, but rather whether “intelligent design” had been used to indicate a human field of study before then. Crowther’s analysis is completely irrelevant since he never bothers to acknowledge that distinction.
McKnight’s attempt to discredit ID is as far afield as what he says about the Discovery Institute.
Anybody got a link to the McKnight article that set Crowther off? Given Crowther’s defensiveness, it sounds like a good read.
It is a secular think-tank, and our research into intelligent design and evolutionary theory is rooted in science, not religion.
Hey, Rob, what research is that? How come Howard Ahmanson, Jr. was the sugar daddy behind the “Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture” if there was only secular stuff going on? And will you ever acknowledge that usage of “intelligent design” to refer to a field of study makes a difference in analysis?<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 8950 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3134 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>