Poll Expelled! By Ben Stein

i-db5418d556ac4fcb694469e310eb0a0a-us_constitution.jpgExpelled!, the so called documentary, has a web site on MySpace. Recently they ran a poll asking if Intelligent Design should be taught in schools or not. The results of that poll overwhelming indicate “no” … with 420 thousand “nay” votes and fewer than one thousand in favor of violating the tenets of the Constitution of the United States of America.So The Expelled! web site meisters removed the poll.Of coruse, they are not that smart, so they kinda screwed it up. You will be interested to know that the poll is still located here.I’m getting tired of this unpatriotic crap.i-777c2666f7344e66646fda28aa5a9ef7-flag.jpg

Francisco Ayala Proflied in NYT

An evolutionary biologist and geneticist at the University of California, Irvine, he speaks often at universities, in churches, for social groups and elsewhere, usually in defense of the theory of evolution and against the arguments of creationism and its ideological cousin, intelligent design.Usually he preaches to the converted. But not always. …

Read the rest at: Roving Defender of Evolution …

The Homeschooler Mind Set

Home schooling is probably a really good idea for a lot of people, but only for a certain (unknown) percentage of people who actually do it. And, among those who do manage to home school, I would guess that the effectiveness of home schooling varies from pretty good to dismal because homeschoolers are doing it for the wrong reasons, in some cases for just plain bad reasons, and/or they really don’t know what they are doing.I have yet to meet a teacher who would claim that they are generally happy with what shows up at their classroom door from Home Schooling Land … even though most teachers with whom I have had this conversation are actually in favor of home schooling in principle.The point here is that it is probably pretty easy to execute the process poorly and damage the child.An analogy might be flying. Flying is great. We get from point A to point B quickly. But it is also kind of expensive, and really, flying in a giant commercial airliner is not really that great of an experience. Some people have opted to fly themselves, kinda like the home school version of air flight … get a pilots license get a small plane (or get into a system where you can rent planes) and fly yourself around wherever possible. These people truly experience flight, because they are in a smaller plane, communing with the clouds and sky and shit, and they are doing it themselves. Private flying is the home schooling of air transport.However, being a private pilot requires a lot of training and there are quite a few rules to follow. So in this sense, the analogy is not exactlylike home schooling, which has almost no rules or training of any kind. (By the way, analogies are generally not exactly like that which they analogize. Otherwise they would not be analogies. They would be clone-alogies.) Nonetheless, private planes are way more likely to go down than commercial planes, and usually because of the dumbest reasons … oops, forgot fuel. Crash. Or, oops, got lost, no air strips, only forest or ocean … Crash. Or oops, I’m flying on instruments and never really learned to do that. So, which way is up again? Crash….One could say that homeschooling is like this … a version of education that ideally would be much better than the “standard” approach, but in practice, is often (how often, we don’t know) executed poorly.The reason that I think a lot of home schoolers are not doing a great job is because their motivations are not really in the interest of the child. Their motivations are often religious, or often political or often both. The children are being dragged along in the adult’s efforts to make some point, play some game, avoid some personal discomfort, get their jollies in one way or another, etc.The following items are items that came across my virtual desk since I went to bed last night regarding home schooling. I’ve culled from about 20 sources to produce a set of commentaries … one could call it quote mining, or one could call it selective editing … to provide a sense of what part of the homeschoolers discourse looks like. I think this proves my point. (more…)

Hans Reiser Convicted of First Degree Murder

Hans Reiser, who developed the Reiser File System, was convicted yesterday of First Degree Murder. He was accused of killing his wife, who’s body was never recovered.The Reiser Filesystem is thought to be one of the best journaling file systems available for Linux computers. However, since Reiser’s incarceration under suspicion of murder, the usual maintenance and development of the file system that may have otherwise occurred has not happened, so relatively few people have deployed it and major distributions tend to shun it as a default. (more…)

Florida House Academic”Freedom”Bill

The Florida House yesterday voted to require teachers to criticize evolution when teaching the subject in Florida public schools. The house version of the bill will now, most likely, travel back to the Senate (where a similar bill, was recently passed). Governor Charlie Crist is not talking about whether or not he will sign the bill.

“What this bill does is tell the teacher, go ahead and teach the theory of evolution and make sure your students have a complete view of that theory and they know that it is only a theory, it is not gospel law,” said Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. “There’s no proof that any species has transitioned from one thing to another.”

You can read about it here, and add your comments to the news web site.

How To Escape Flashing Ad Annoyance

Maybe you have an ad blocker. There are reasons, though, to NOT use an ad blocker. One reason might be that they don’t work for you, for some reason. Another is that you use Windoze, and every now and then you have to totally wipe your hard drive and reinstall your system and all your software, and you get tired of re-configuring every stupid thing every time this happens and have fallen into the pattern of living with the defaults. Or, maybe, like me, none of those things are issues because you use Linux, but you still don’t blotto out the ads because as a responsible blogger you feel that you kind of need to see the ads. They are part of the landscape you work in. How can you effectively complain about something that you can’t see? So you live with the ads because you need to see what is showing up on your own blog, and because you don’t want to dampen your peripheral vision.For me, one thing this means is that if a page has really annoying behavior (usually, but not always, as part of the ads) I’ll avoid linking to it. If it has something I might want to blog about, but that is not too important, I just skip it. I try to not point my readers to sites that make noise when you open them, for instance. If I blocked the ads, I could not know to avoid certaiin sites.Still, there are these ads that are really annoying because they flash a lot. Like this ad here: (more…)

Cambrian Food Webs

i-bc4f9890e7ab4aeab604660e4845ff10-food_chain.jpgFood webs — the network of trophic (eating) interaction among the many species sharing a habitat or biome — is a much studied aspect of ecology. Food web and other similar phenomena such as dispersal syndromes are epiphenomena of evolution, resulting from the negotiation of competitive and cooperative interactions among many individuals. Indeed, the food web is the gross-level movement of energy within the ebb and flow of entropy and life-based energy capture. This flow of energy is fundamental to all life systems.ResearchBlogging.orgThe delicacy or vulnerability of a particular habitat … the potential susceptibility or resistance to perturbation … may depend on the details of this network of interactions. If everything ultimately depends on a basal food type that goes extinct, for example, there could be big trouble.So, just as understanding any aspect of life requires that we examine historically ancient, no longer extant systems, we need to understand ancient food webs. But, a valid study of food webs requires a certain level of detail that is often absent from the data available for ancient systems.Moments ago, a study of Cambrian food webs came out in PLoS Biology. (more…)

Nature and Conservation News

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Canadian panel: Climate change is threat to polar bears from PhysOrg.com
(AP) — A scientific committee that advises Canada’s government on endangered species said Friday that climate change is a threat to the survival of the polar bear, but the species does not face extinction.
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Narwhals more at risk to Arctic warming than polar bears from PhysOrg.com
(AP) — The polar bear has become an icon of global warming vulnerability, but a new study found an Arctic mammal that may be even more at risk to climate change: the narwhal.
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What is the most compelling science movie?

… and why.The Page 3.14 readers poll asks this question, with a selected number of choices. The choices given in the poll are interesting, but I think one could add quite a few more. In part, this would depend on why one thinks a certain film is compelling.Is a film compelling because it engages people in an interest in or love of science that goes beyond the film itself? Because it raises deep or at least interesting questions about science, or about other aspects of the world but from a scientific perspective?I think Jurassic Park had the influence of making people interested in science, and it raised some interesting questions. GATTICA is not only a very well made film, but it fairly starkly addresses important ethical areas, even if doing so in what one hopes is a somewhat unrealistic setting.Well, comment here with your choice and/or go over to 3.14 and vote! If we get enough interesting commentary, I’ll submit this post to the next Carnival of Cinema!

Unsurprising link between anti-gay and anti-science education policies emerges in Florida’s academic freedom frey

This is described in UDreamOfJanie:Ronda R. Storms is a Florida sate senator (Republican) who has spearheaded efforts against Planned Parenthood, against her local LGBTA community, and so on, is now linked to the Discovery Institute in regards to her latest project, the Florida “Academic Freedom” bill.In regards to Academic Freedom, Storms …

…took the age-old ethical high-road known as ‘Lying for Jesus’. She insists that this bill is about the freedom to inquire about all `scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in connection with teaching any prescribed curriculum regarding chemical or biological evolution.’ When asked if this is just a backdoor for sneaking in ‘Intelligent Design’, she wouldn’t answer the question.