Posted on July 11, 2014 * Comments

On June 25, 2014, the following scientific study made the cover of the prestigious journal, Nature: “Aspergillomarasmine A overcomes metallo-β-lactamase antibiotic resistance.” Doesn’t exactly sound earth-shattering, does it? But the discovery of a fungal compound that restores the efficacy of one of our antibiotics of last resort is, in fact, huge news.

Posted on July 11, 2014 * Comments

This week we have a very special fossil courtesy of Fossil Friday fan Dan Phelps—who also happens to be the president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society. What could it be? Looks like some sort of plant pod to me, or an ancient sloth zipper?

Posted on July 10, 2014 * Comments

Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m still happily kibitzing on a dispute between two philosophers, Mary Midgley and Nicholas Everitt. (Look, I don’t give you a hard time about your idea of fun, do I?) You’ll recall that in 2007, Midgley published a pamphlet entitled “Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems” (PDF), which Everitt is now criticizing in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) in the Journal of Philosophy of Education. Of the criticisms of Everitt’s I’ve addressed so far (part 1, part 2), the most important is that Midgley wrongly denies that young-earth creationism was “once the mainstream Christian position, endorsed by both intellectuals and the layperson in the pew” (p. 5). But a position held by Christians in the pulpit and in the pew is not necessarily a Christian position as such, and the fact that Christians have not generally regarded young-earth creationism as definitive of or central to their faith seems to show at least that Everitt fails to establish his case. Now to the consequences for the classroom.

Posted on July 09, 2014 * Comments

We at the Science League of America and our host institution, the National Center for Science Education, are proud to be among the founders of the Climate Science Students Bill of Rights, which states that:

Posted on July 08, 2014 * Comments

Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

Popcorn in hand, I’m kibitzing on a dispute between two philosophers, Mary Midgley and Nicholas Everitt. In 2007, Midgley published a pamphlet entitled “Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems” (PDF), which Everitt is now criticizing in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) in the Journal of Philosophy of Education. In part 1, I managed to address just two of Everitt’s criticisms. The first was about the definition of “creationism”; although Everitt prefers a definition on which all Christians are creationists, I noted that there’s ample precedent for a more restrictive definition such as Midgley presupposes. The second, more important, criticism was about the connection between creationism (in the more restrictive sense) and Christianity. Everitt claimed that young-earth creationism is the “traditional position of Christianity,” as opposed to Midgley’s claim that it is a latter-day aberration, but his claim seems to me either to involve a fallacy or to be unsupported. Now read on…

Posted on July 07, 2014 * Comments

Last week, I presented you with a set of mammal molars that were neither mastodon nor mammoth. Dan Phelps was the first to identify it as one of the Gomphotheriidaea four-tusked relative of the elephant. 

From the UCMP:

Posted on July 07, 2014 * Comments

We covered genetic drift in Part 1 this morning. Next up in our run-down of evolutionary mechanisms: gene flow and mutation.

Posted on July 07, 2014 * Comments

This perhaps should have been the first up in my exploration of common misconceptions, since it is arguably more fundamental than what “survival of the fittest” means (or doesn’t mean). But all of these misunderstandings and ideas are so entangled that there really can’t be a “right way” to present them, can there? So let’s get to it! Misconception #2, come on down!

Posted on July 04, 2014 * Comments

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! This week on Fossil Friday, I’m bringing you a special request from last week’s winner—a mammal. This genus is found everywhere, except for Antarctica and Australia, but this fossil in particular comes from Nebraska. Go USA!

Posted on July 03, 2014 * Comments

Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

Back in 2007, the philosopher Mary Midgley published a pamphlet entitled Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems (PDF) with the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. Prompted by controversies over the teaching of evolution in both the United States and Britain, she sought, as she explains, to address problems “about the current promotion of Intelligent Design Theory,” to consider them in a broader historical context, and to offer a few suggestions “about the best way for schools to handle problems such as those presented by Intelligent Design Theory” (p. 2). Now, in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) of Midgley’s pamphlet in the Journal of Philosophy of Education, the philosopher Nicholas Everitt writes that although “I expected to find myself in substantial agreement with what Midgley says … having examined [the pamphlet], I find that I disagree with much that it claims” (p. 1). What could be more blogworthy than a philosophical kerfuffle over creationism?