Science, just Science News

The news items in here are created by the SJS team. Any comments left in here are the sole responsibility of those making the comment and may not reflect the views of the SJS campaign or it's contributors.

February 28, 2006

Natural Selection Evidence

Science, Just Science - News

New evidence that natural selection is a general driving force behind the origin of species

Co-authors Patrik Nosil, front, and Daniel Funk

Charles Darwin would undoubtedly be both pleased and chagrined. The famous scientist would be pleased because a study published online this week provides the first clear evidence that natural selection, his favored mechanism of evolution, drives the process of species formation in a wide variety of plants and animals. But he would be chagrined because it has taken nearly 150 years to do so.

Continue reading at PHYSORG.COM

, ,

ID Revisited

Science, Just Science - News

This is a reprint from Natural Science from 2002. But is certainly worth another look.

Intelligent Design?

A special report reprinted from Natural History magazine

Darwin's evidence convinced scientists that natural selection can better explain life's complexity than intelligent design (ID).

Prepared by Richard Milner & Vittorio Maestro, senior editors of Natural History

The idea that an organism's complexity is evidence for the existence of a cosmic designer was advanced centuries before Charles Darwin was born. Its best-known exponent was English theologian William Paley, creator of the famous watchmaker analogy. If we find a pocket watch in a field, Paley wrote in 1802, we immediately infer that it was produced not by natural processes acting blindly but by a designing human intellect. Likewise, he reasoned, the natural world contains abundant evidence of a supernatural creator. The argument from design, as it is known, prevailed as an explanation of the natural world until the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859. The weight of the evidence that Darwin had patiently gathered swiftly convinced scientists that evolution by natural selection better explained life's complexity and diversity. "I cannot possibly believe," wrote Darwin in 1868, "that a false theory would explain so many classes of facts."
Continue reading at:

, , , ,

February 27, 2006

Evolution of Blondes

Science, Just Science - News

From The Independent 27th Feb 2006

How women evolved blond hair to win cavemen's hearts

By Arifa Akbar

Published: 27 February 2006

For those who are still considering the debate on whether men prefer blondes, a study may have provided proof in favour of the flaxen-haired, if only because they appeal to the "caveman" within.

Academic researchers have discovered that women in northern Europe evolved with light hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to stand out from the crowd and lure men away from the far more common brunette.

read more

, , , ,

Judge Jones explains - in his own words

Science, Just Science - News

Judge Jones Explains

Judge Jones, of Dover fame, has been criticised by the ID side for making an explicit ruling that
Intelligent Design is a religious idea.

They say that, under the conduct of the case, there was no strict need to make this ruling, and that this
makes him an "activist" judge, and the ruling suspect.

In this interview with the Philidelphia Inquirer, the Judge explains that he did so because both sides,
the IDers and the Dover school parents, asked him to do so.

The relevant quote is;

"The Inquirer: Some have said your ruling wasn't about church and state but about whether intelligent design is science.

Jones: I think that the ruling followed precedent, both the Lemon test [a three-part test, based on Supreme Court rulings, of whether a government action violates the separation of church and state] and the establishment test [from the First Amendment of the Constitution, which forbids Congress from making any law "establishing religion"], and I'm reluctant to characterize what that "means." The controversial part of the ruling was whether intelligent design is in fact science. Lost in the post-decision debate was that both sides, plaintiffs and defense, asked me to rule on that issue. Clearly, that was resolved based on the scientific evidence presented at the trial. That portion of the opinion seems to have been scrutinized, and praised or criticized, more than the part of the decision grounded in the two tests."

The rest of the interview is also interesting. Well worth a read

See it here;

, , , ,

February 25, 2006

Jurassic Beaver found

Science, Just Science - News

Another gap in the fossil gap closes?

A full version of this article appears in New Scientist

'Jurassic beaver' find stuns experts

Original article printed in New Scientist 19:00 23 February 2006

By Jeff Hecht

The discovery of a new, remarkably preserved fossil of a beaver-like mammal that lived 164 million years ago is shaking palaeontologists’ understanding of early mammals.

This makes it the largest mammal ever found in the Jurassic Period, from 200 million to 145 million years ago.

Palaeontologists had long thought the mammals living under the feet of the dinosaurs were tiny shrew-like animals. But recent discoveries have challenged this notion.

Full pelt

In 2005, Repenomamus giganticus from China showed that land mammals had reached a metre in length about 130 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period.

But the newly found fossil reveals that early mammals were also far more diverse than thought. The discoveries "are completely reconfiguring our understanding of Mesozoic mammals," says Hans-Dieter Sues of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

Castorocauda was preserved in exquisite detail, flattened in sediments at the bottom of an ancient lake. Hair impressions surround the body, which includes a 20-centimetre-long flat, beaver-like tail. Two slabs of sedimentary rock include most of the body and part of the skull.

The animal had "a full mammalian pelt, with guard hairs and under fur, and scales on the tail" like a modern beaver, says Zhe-Xi Luo of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, US, and one of the team.

It is the earliest mammal known to live partly in the water. The creature probably lived like a modern platypus, says Luo, "digging a tunnel to nest and lay eggs, and going from the tunnel into the water to feed".

, ,

February 24, 2006

Their Own Version of a Big Bang

Science, Just Science - News

From the L.A. Times:

Their Own Version of a Big Bang

By Stephanie Simon
L.A.Times Staff Writer
February 11 2006

Those who believe in creationism -- children and adults -- are being taught to challenge evolution's tenets in an in-your-face way.

WAYNE, N.J. — Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, palaeontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.

"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"
The children roared their assent.

"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,'" Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.'" He waved his Bible in the air.

"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.

"God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?"

"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"

The children answered with a thundering: "God!"

A former high-school biology teacher, Ham travels the nation training children as young as 5 to challenge science orthodoxy. He doesn't engage in the political and legal fights that have erupted over the teaching of evolution. His strategy is more subtle: He aims to give people who trust the biblical account of creation the confidence to defend their views — aggressively.

He urges students to offer creationist critiques of their textbooks, parents to take on science museum docents, professionals to raise the subject with colleagues. If Ham has done his job well, his acolytes will ask enough pointed questions — and set forth enough persuasive arguments — to shake the doctrine of Darwin.


Read The Full Article

, , , ,

February 23, 2006

Thought for the Day - from BBC

Science, Just Science - News

Thought for the Day, 23 February 2006

John Bell

I met Lucien Zell the other day in a café in Prague. He looked Bohemian and indeed he was, though not in terms of his ethnic origins. He's a poet and a singer in a rock band.

It was the poet bit which interested me, the more so when I began to read some of his work and conjecture what was behind it.

There were various allusions to God - that fitted well with him being Jewish. Several poems concerned children - which was to be expected, given that he has three of them.

Travelling was another prevailing image. That could be explained by his itinerant lifestyle. And an unabashed sense of vulnerability pervaded his writing, which I attributed to him being born with only one hand.

So I developed theories about how his different attributes were responsible for Lucien Zell's poetry. And then I thought: but surely there are other disabled religious travellers in the world, yet they don't all write poetry. So my theorising had to be set aside. It was not the full story.

I was musing over this on the flight back to Scotland when I read in a newspaper how in British universities the debate about Darwinism versus Creationism is heating up. Here we have an alleged scientific theory and deeply held religious belief both purporting to explain the origins of the species.

The most rabid proponents of both Darwinism and Creationism tend to polarise their perspectives from each other, but need this be so?

For it seems to me that here we have two languages with different intentions. One is the language of science concerned with process. It's an ever-changing and intrinsically imprecise language because new discoveries can force established theories to be revisited.

And the other is the language of faith, primarily concerned not with process but with purpose and meaning. It is also an intrinsically imprecise language, for, as St. Paul pointed out, our knowledge of the purposes of God will always be partial this side of time.

Is it beyond the realms of possibility that these two ever-changing perspectives on life might complement rather than threaten each other?

, , , ,

How evolution can save lives

Times Online - Junk medicine: creationism
by Mark Henderson

How evolution can save lives

The creationist movement, and its cloak of “intelligent design” theory, is usually seen in Britain as a peculiarly American phenomenon. Most of us are relieved that our schools have not had to fight off a lobby seeking to deny the facts of evolution and enforce teaching of theocratic dogma in its place.

A recent poll for the BBC’s Horizon programme, however, suggests that Britons of a scientific bent would be unwise to be complacent. A surprising four people in ten, it found, think that religiously inspired alternatives to evolution should be taught in the science classroom.

The survey probably overestimates support for creationism, but on the eve of Darwin Day — the 197th anniversary of the great man’s birth is tomorrow — it is a reminder that Britain is not immune. Whether it is city academies adding God to science lessons, or columns pushing intelligent design in The Daily Telegraph, creationism is seeking to establish a British foothold.

This must be resisted, chiefly because introducing faith to science, a discipline based on experiment and evidence, undermines the critical thinking that education should promote. But the practical consequences of evolution denial are worth considering, too. Prominent among them is the effect it has on health. It is impossible to understand biology, and therefore medicine, without a good grasp of evolution.

, , , ,

February 21, 2006

Academics fight rise of creationism at universities

A very worrying article appeared in the Guardian newspaper today, charting the rise of creationism at universities in the UK.

If you want to help us do something about this, please come and join our campaign at Science, Just Science.

, , , ,

Royal Society Lecture on Creationism

The Royal Society are organising a free lecture by Prof Steve Jones on:

"Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right"

- on April 11th in London - details here:

, , , ,

February 20, 2006

Churches Urged to Back Evolution

Science, Just Science - News

It's time to recognise that science and religion should never be pitted against each other
Gilbert Omenn
AAAS president

BBC: Churches Urged To Back Evolution

US scientists have called on mainstream religious communities to help them fight policies that undermine the teaching of evolution.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) hit out at the "intelligent design" movement at its annual meeting in Missouri.

Teaching the idea threatens scientific literacy among schoolchildren, it said.

Its proponents argue life on Earth is too complex to have evolved on its own.

As the name suggests, intelligent design is a concept invoking the hand of a designer in nature.

There have been several attempts across the US by anti-evolutionists to get intelligent design taught in school science lessons.

At the meeting in St Louis, the AAAS issued a statement strongly condemning the moves.

"Such veiled attempts to wedge religion - actually just one kind of religion - into science classrooms is a disservice to students, parents, teachers and taxpayers," said AAAS president Gilbert Omenn.

"It's time to recognise that science and religion should never be pitted against each other.

"They can and do co-exist in the context of most people's lives. Just not in science classrooms, lest we confuse our children."

, ,

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design on BBC Radio

The subject of 'Intelligent Design' has cropped up a couple of times on the BBC recently. Firstly on the 'Today' programme - you can listen again here

and for us insomniacs on 'Up all night' on Radio 5. (you'll have to use the fast forward buttons to navigate 1 hour and 5 mins into the broadcast)

, ,

February 10, 2006

Welcome to Science, Just Science News!

This is a news item to annouce the launch of the Science, Just Science news service.

Science Just Science is a new campaign that has been launched in the UK to keep science and just science in the school classrooms.

This campaign has started in response to a growing wave of anti-science movements in the US, spearheaded by the ID movement, the effects of which are starting to be felt in the UK as well.

This blog will be used as the news service for the main Science, Just Science website and is open for comment for everyone.

, , , ,