Is “Ardi” All Washed Up? (Updated)

In some ways, the career of a missing link mirrors the career of the celebutante. They break onto the scene with much fanfare and hype. Everyone is wowed–or at least, everyone pretends to be wowed so nobody can be accused of ruining the party. Besides, she’s useful for advancing lots of agendas. After a little while, people realize that the star doesn’t have all the talent everyone hoped for. Nobody wants to feign excitement anymore. Eventually, people are sickened of the original hype and become eager to see the celebutante fall. And then it’s the fallen celebutante that starts making headlines. Substitute the word “missing link” for “celebutante” and this is something like what we’re now seeing with “Ardi,” the Read More ›

Fossil Finds Show Cambrian Explosion Getting More Explosive

Cephalopods, which include marine mollusks like squid, octopus, and cuttlefish, are now being reported in the Cambrian explosion fossils. As a recent BBC news article reports: “We go from very simple pre-Cambrian life-forms to something as complex as a cephalopod in the geological blink of an eye, which illustrates just how quickly evolution can produce complexity,” said [evolutionary biologist Martin] Smith. Keep in mind here that “evolution” is a placeholder term for an as-of-yet uncovered mechanism that produces animals like Cephalopods in a “geological blink of an eye.” Darwin’s Dilemma is not solved by vague appeals “how quickly” evolution can operate. All this follows on the heels of recent fossil findings that push phylum Bryozoa back into the Cambrian period, Read More ›

“People don’t know polar bears can swim!”

Camille Paglia has made interesting comments about global warming in the past that have made me think she might be a (very quiet) Darwin skeptic. Not the NCSE’s Josh Rosenau. His selective quote mining of her comments meant to imply the exact opposite is Orwellian. To make matters worse he really twists things up when attempts to paint those who champion critical thinking on evolution as postmodern Marxists. “Critical thinking” sounds great. But it’s a Marxist approach to culture. It’s just slapping a liberal leftist ideology on everything you do. You just find all the ways that power has defrauded or defamed or destroyed. It’s a pat formula that’s very thin. At the primary level, what kids need is facts. Read More ›

Interview With Author of New Paper on the Limits of the Darwinian Mechanism

Pretty much everyone agrees that natural selection acting on random genetic mutations can explain some things. The really interesting question is, how much can it explain? Since Darwin’s mechanism seems intuitively plausible, we’re often tempted just to trust our intuitions rather than to look at the hard data. And yet the data increasingly show that, whatever its intuitive attractions, the powers of selection and mutation are surprisingly limited. In many cases, new biological functions require several mutations. And everyone agrees that natural selection doesn’t have foresight. But it’s widely assumed that if each of the individual mutations leading to new functions are themselves adaptive, then natural selection can traverse the pathway. Again, this makes intuitive sense. But what about the Read More ›

New Law Review Article: The Constitutionality and Pedagogical Benefits of Teaching Evolution Scientifically

Last fall, I participated in a symposium at University of St. Thomas School of Law and presented a paper titled “The Constitutionality and Pedagogical Benefits of Teaching Evolution Scientifically.” The article has now appeared in the legal journal University of St. Thomas Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. IV(1):204-277 (Fall, 2009). As seen in an abstract for the article below, the paper makes three main points. First, the inquiry method of teaching science stresses that students should understand not just scientific content, but also the processes of scientific investigation. The inquiry method of science education seeks to inculcate in students habits of mind employed by successful scientists such as open mindedness, skepticism, curiosity, and a distaste for dogmatism. This Read More ›