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AntiEvolution.org provides concise and accurate information for those who wish to critically examine the antievolution movement.

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/10/24

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Both the AAAS and the advisory committee of the 21st Century Science
Coalition are expressing their concern over Texas's state science
standards.  NCSE Supporter Francisco Ayala is profiled in the pages of
Scientific American. And NCSE's new website is up and running.

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/10/17

[by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch]

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Antievolutionists have been appointed to a committee to review the draft
set of Texas state science standards.  More welcome is the news that Randy
Moore received the 2008 Evolution Education Award from the NABT and Eugenie
C. Scott received the Field Museum's Award of Merit.

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/10/10

[by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch]

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Texas newspapers are editorially supporting the treatment of evolution in
the recently released draft set of science standards, while a lawsuit
alleging that the Understanding Evolution website violates the First
Amendment failed on appeal.

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/10/03

[by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch]

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A new coalition of scientists is defending the teaching of evolution in
Texas, and the International Planetarium Society affirms the scientifically
ascertained ages of the earth and of the universe.

Florida: Open Letter on Learning from History

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The "academic freedom" and "critical analysis" bills currently being considered by the Florida legislature are old stratagems borrowed from antievolution efforts in other states. Ronda Storms and Alan Hays have been asked whether "intelligent design" could be taught in science classrooms. Storms and Hays steadfastly refuse to answer the question posed. You have to look at what has been done in the name of narrow religious antievolution and not what is said.

Creation, Power, and Violence

Essay by Blake Stacey (originally at Science After Sunclipse)

The amount of hatred one can earn simply by speaking one's mind and doing one's job never fails to astonish me. All the more remarkable is how the people who hate so viciously are the very ones you'd expect to be tolerant, or at least quietly begrudging — people whose ancestors, both familial and ideological, were themselves the targets of bigotry in generations past, when different powers were the oppressors. Yet today, even in a country which prides itself on a long list of freedoms, speaking the plain, factual truth of the world is a sure way to win oneself ire, derision and abuse.

Both history and current events teach us that forces of prejudice and inequity oppose the dissemination of truth to certain sectors of society. As recently as 2006, the Afghan schoolteacher Mohammed Halim was drawn and quartered by motorbikes, the remains of his body put on display so that others would think twice before defying Taliban law and committing the unforgivable crime of teaching female children. I doubt the Taliban thugs who beat the algebra teachers of Ghazni have any particular animosity towards the mathematics; given a moment's reflection, they might wholeheartedly support the math lessons necessary to train engineers who then build weapons to be used against the United States. The crime in their eyes, I'd wager, is not the material, but the audience.

In the country where I grew up and am writing now, the story is a little different: most of the time, hatred against educators does not escalate to physical violence, although threats of violence are common enough, and most of the time, the factor provoking abuse is not the audience, but the lesson itself.

The plain truth I'm talking about is the biological principle of evolution. The single most powerful idea in biology, this discovery has withstood decades of criticism to emerge triumphant as one of the most well-checked propositions in human history. Learn about evolution, and you can go to work on diseases, or help find out where species both living and extinct fit into the family tree of life. You can understand the living world, and help preserve human life within it.

Open your mouth about evolution around the wrong people, though, and you can find yourself harassed, ejected from your job and even beaten in the street.

Just ask these people.

Iowa State Board of Regents Turns Down Tenure Appeal

It is a small news item, but astronomer and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Guillermo Gonzalez had an appeal before the Iowa State Board of Regents asking them to overturn Iowa State University's decision not to grant him tenure. The vote came down 7-1 confirming Iowa State's decision.

Gonzalez is one of three people featured in the forthcoming film, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed". That film has Ben Stein in the unenviable position of trying to convince everyone that there is something sinister about the fact that someone whose publication output and research funding suffers because he's spending his time promoting "intelligent design" creationism got denied tenure.

Barbara Forrest Speaks Out on Texas Education Agency Actions

Professor Barbara Forrest of South Eastern Louisiana University wrote a strong statement concerning recent actions of the Texas Education Agency in forcing the resignation of director of science curricula Chris Comer.

Forrest concludes,

The incident now involving Ms. Comer exemplifies perfectly the reason my co-author Paul R. Gross and I felt that our book, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, had to be written. (http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com) By forcing Ms. Comer to resign, the TEA seems to have confirmed our contention that the ID creationist movement -- a religious movement with absolutely no standing in the scientific world -- is being advanced by means of power politics. In December 2005, Judge John E. Jones III validated our contention that ID is creationism, thus a religious belief, when he ruled in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf) that the teaching of ID in public school science classes is unconstitutional. Judge Jones recognized that ID has nothing whatsoever to do with science; its proponents are merely using public education -- the public education of other people's children -- as the vehicle for their plan to undermine the teaching of evolution.

The one thing that should not be forgotten in this episode is that Ms. Comer herself has been injured, and Texas children have lost a valuable advocate for quality science education. I regret deeply that the TEA chose to use my work as an excuse to hurt Ms. Comer. Even more, I am incensed by it. However, what happened to her may be just the tip of the iceberg. This country has reached a sorry state of affairs when one of the largest, most prominent departments of education in the country fires a public servant for doing her job. But while I regret that the information I related in my presentation in Austin and in my book has been confirmed in such a sad way, my co-author and I have every intention of continuing our efforts as scholars and citizens to inform the American people about the threat that the intelligent design creationist movement continues to pose to public education and to the constitutional separation of church and state.

Unacknowledged Errors in “Unacknowledged Costs” Essay

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Back over the summer, William Dembski was talking up "Baylor's Evolutionary Informatics Laboratory", and one of the features there was a PDF of an essay critiquing the "ev" evolutionary computation program by Tom Schneider. Titled "Unacknowledged Information Costs in Evolutionary Computing", the essay by Robert J. Marks and William A. Dembski made some pretty stunning claims about the "ev" program. Among them, it claimed that blind search was a more effective strategy than evolutionary computation for the problem at hand, and that the search structure in place was responsible for most of the information resulting from the program. The essay was pitched as being "in review", publication unspecified. Dembski also made much of the fact that Tom Schneider had not, at some point, posted a response to the essay.

There are some things that Marks and Dembski did right, and others that were botched. Where they got it right was in posting the scripts that they used to come up with data for their conclusions, and in removing the paper from the "evolutionaryinformatics.org" site on notification of the errors. The posting of scripts allowed others to figure out where they got it wrong. What is surprising is just how trivial the error was, and how poor the scrutiny must have been to let things get to this point.

Now what remains to be seen is whether in any future iteration of their paper they bother to do the scholarly thing and acknowledge both the errors and those who brought the errors to their attention. Dembski at least has an exceedingly poor track record on this score, writing that critics can be used to improve materials released online. While Dembski has occasionally taken a clue from a critic, it is rather rarer that one sees Dembski acknowledge his debt to a critic.

In the current case, Marks and Dembski owe a debt to Tom Schneider, "After the Bar Closes" regular "2ndclass", and "Good Math, Bad Math" commenter David vun Kannon. Schneider worked from properties of the "ev" simulation itself to demonstrate that the numbers in the Marks and Dembski critique cannot possibly be correct. "2ndclass" made a project out of examining the Matlab script provided with the Marks and Dembski paper to find the source of the bogus data used to form the conclusions of Marks and Dembski. vun Kannon suggested an easy way to use the Java version of "ev" to quickly check the claims by Marks and Dembski.

(Also posted at the Austringer)

Change in Appearance

I ran into a problem with some of the options for user permissions. One thing led to another, and I ended up having to upgrade the CMS software in order to get back to a functioning permissions system. That, unfortunately, meant that the old theme no longer worked. So I'm back to the "Pushbutton" theme with a small tweak until I can get some time to consider Drupal 4.7 themes.

If someone already knows their way around the Drupal 4.7 theming system and would like to contribute a 3-column theme for AE or a 2-column theme for TalkDesign, let me know.