Archive for February, 2012

Grading on the curve?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The Orlando Sentinel School Zone blog reports that Florida’s science standards’ grade given by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has been reconsidered. Before the standards were revised in 2008, the standards had been given F after F after F. The first grade issued after the revision was expected to be a vast improvement; we were hoping for a B or even an A. Instead, we got a D.

However, that grade has suddenly been revised after some folks called Fordham to complain. We now have a C. There is no explanation yet as to how Fordham justifies that grade change.


Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

His noodly appendage compels me to post this … about prayer in Florida schools.

His noodly appendage compels me to post this … about prayer in Florida schools.

Creation events this past weekend

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Anyone know about this First Coast Creation Society? I never heard of them before.

Chemist and creationist Jonathan Sarfati will be the guest speaker at three Sunday events in Jacksonville, according to the First Coast Creation Society.

Darwin Day

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

I had written a Op Ed for one of the Florida Newspapers entitled “Do We Need Darwin” which they agreed to publish. However on Thursday last I recievd a e-mail from them stating that they wanted sole rights to the article and I was not allowed to republish all, or any part of the article. I had already done this and refused their terms. There was no time to submitt it to any other newspaper so rather than waste it I will post it for you.

                                                                                                                               Do We Need Darwin

February 12th 2012 is Darwin Day, the 203rd year anniversary of the naturalist Charles Robert Darwin. Darwin established that all species of life have descended, over time, from common ancestory and proposed the scientific theory of evolution, a branching pattern of life processes that he called natural selection. With compelling evidence and much trepidation, he published his theory for evolution in the 1859 book “On the Origin of Species, arguably one of the most important books ever written. Its importance not only lies in the recognition that humans share an affinity with all other animals and in particular members of a primate species, but in the way that recognition can be of benefit to us all. Of course, many people still refuse to accept Darwin’s theory, or at least think it would be demeaning if it were true. To consider that man does not possess a divinely gifted domain in an anthropocentric universe would seem to ostensibly outweigh its vague benefits. Since its inception 200years ago, there has been a deluge of fervid writings and passionate debates, yet no other scientific theory remains as poorly understood or woefully unappreciated as evolution, particularly in the United States. In a recent survey on the public acceptance of Evolution conducted among thirty four western countries, America placed slightly ahead of Turkey at an embarrassing thirty third. Perhaps dismissing the noun, “theory” in front of evolution and call it the “fact of evolution” would benefit those who consider the term theory to mean pure speculation rather than its true scientific definition. However, it is not my intention (at least not in this editorial) to extend this debate. So perhaps I can present evolution from a perspective that is rather less scientifically nuanced.

Conceivably you are reading this editorial one evening in the comfort of your home, you’ve just eaten dinner, roast beef and several vegetables and your favorite dog is curled up on the floor next to you. Earlier in the day you felt a little under the weather, so, using your cell phone, made an appointment to see your doctor and then drove in your new vehicle to pay him or her a visit. You were prescribed anti biotics and received your yearly influenza shot at the same time.

On the way home you stopped by the gym in an effort to lose the extra 20 lbs you’ve inconceivably gained over the last few years and cannot imagine why.

The practical consequences (in evolutionary terms) of the last paragraph may not seem initially obvious, yet look a little deeper and we can appreciate the substantial influence that evolution places on our daily lives.

Your roast beef came from a ox–like animal called an auroch, which roamed over large areas of Asia and North Africa and has been domesticated and selectively breed for the past eight to ten thousand years. The vegetables you enjoyed are hybrid plants never found in the wild and would not be able to survive (in the evolutionary sense) in the wild.

If your dog behaves a little aggressively once in a while, well that’s normal, all modern dogs have been genetically link to the Asian Grey Wolf which was first domesticated around 15,000 years ago. The scientific study of Biomimetics – the application of evolved designs from nature to resolve problems in engineering and modern materials, account for the streamlining of your car and the iridescence and antireflective properties found in moth and butterfly eyes resulted in a brighter screen for your cell phone. Due to the rapid evolving resistances in bacteria and viruses, both your prescribed anti biotics and flu shot have to be updated every year by pharmaceutical researchers. And your over eating /weight problem. In our distant past, living on the open savannahs, if we wanted to survive, natural selection required us to consume as much proteins and sugars that were available. Unfortunately that instinct is still with us.

It would seem that one of the downfalls of scientific modernity is to adopt a position of self assumption and our reliance on evolution is no exception. As a society we remain ambivalent toward the subject, not realizing that trying to equate Darwin with our modern day understanding of evolution is rather like associating the Wright Brothers to space flight.  If, as a nation, we wish to compete in a rapidly advancing technological world arena, we should take note of the advice offered by Darwin himself. “It is neither the strongest that survive, nor the most intelligent, it is the ones that are most adaptable to change” In America, the time for that change is long overdue.

Teachers Workshop

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

This from Larry Plank Director  K-12 STEM for Hillsborough County public schools. Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, will be speaking to teachers this Saturday as a component of USF’s Darwin Days Celebration.  This is a wonderful opportunity, as Eugenie rarely has the opportunity to work with teachers in such an intimate setting.  We still have seats available at this weekend’s workshop, which includes Eugenie and other wonderful presentations and take-back-to-the classroom activities for teaching life science.  The workshop begins at 9am and concludes at 3:30pm.  Light refreshments will be served, and parking for this event will be free. Further information can be found here

Dr. Scott (NCSE) at USF

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Here’s a story in the University of South Florida paper The Oracle about NCSE’s Dr. Eugenie Scott’s upcoming appearance there: Evolution expert seeks to inform creationists

Bird said Scott is one of the most famous and internationally known faces in science education today and called the $5,000 expense of bringing her to the University “very reasonable for a top, nationally known” individual. The lecture’s sponsors include the Humanities Institute and the Department of Integrative Biology.