My Son the Expert! Part I: An Introduction to the Debate Over Evolution in Texas

As I was listening online to last week’s Texas State Board of Education hearings, two comments by Board members stuck with me. The TSBE was in its final deliberations on science standards and liberal Republican Pat Hardy delivered an encomium to “experts.” She went on about how if you get sick and require the medical knowledge of an expert in the field, why then you’d better go to that expert and follow his advice! She pleaded with other Board members to listen to the “experts” on evolution, which would mean voting to accept the “expert” view that there’s no debate on evolution worthy of being shared with high school biology students. The same day, Board member Don McLeroy, who was Read More ›

Remembering Raymond Shaw

The power of a slogan is that if you say it over and over again enough times, the effect is like brainwashing on yourself and many of the people who listen to you. It crowds out thought, to the point where, when a particular topic comes up in conversation, the slogan-imprinted mind simply spits back the slogan. You’ll see this at work among scientists, journalists, and the general public. Take, for example, a slogan that dogs the evolution debate: “There is no debate,” along with its variant, “There is no controversy.” A Google search on those two, linked with the word “evolution,” produces 20,800 and 18,800 hits respectively. One of those hits, I noticed, was from a piece I wrote Read More ›

A Note on Purim

At the risk of sounding a brief religious note and therefore inviting from ID critics the usual (and so extremely logical!) inference that the Discovery Institute supports theocratic rule, let’s consider for a moment the message of Purim. That Jewish festival is upon us today and, with its themes of randomness versus a guiding providence at work in history, it happens to be an excellent time for reflecting on themes relevant to ENV. Celebrated with lots of eating, drinking, and charitable and other gift-giving, Purim recalls the events told in the Bible’s book of Esther. In the story, which is very much screenplay-ready, a conniving minister to the king of Persia uses his influence on the monarch to plot the Read More ›

What Is Hypocrisy, After All?

I’ve been corresponding with Nicolas Gotelli, a University of Vermont biologist. When I received his response to my initial email, I thought it was so ridiculous and hypocritical that I said to myself, Wouldn’t it be amusing to publish this on ENV? Then I reflected disappointedly, No, it’s a private correspondence, that would be unethical! I can’t do it without his permission and, since he’d have to be pretty thoughtless to allow someone to reprint his hysterically bristling letter, it’s not worth asking. Luckily, Professor Gotelli has solved my problem for me. He promptly and without seeking permission sent our emails off to PZ Myers, who immediately published them on Pharyngula. You can read the correspondence there. Thank you, gentlemen. Read More ›