Daily Archives: March 5, 2009

Fish Fight!

It turns out that Dolphin Safe Tuna is bad for sharks. And visa versa. More or less….

Let’s as BlogFish about it…

Who’s right depends on what you value more, dolphins or broader ocean ecosystem health. At least that’s the way I see it. We could protect dolphins totally during tuna fishing only if we’re willing to allow other animals like fish and sea turtles to suffer harm and become depleted (or further depleted).

Details Here.

Kepler Launches Tomorrow (Friday)

NASA’s planet-hunting space telescope Kepler is slated to launch the night of March 6 from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a mission to find Earth-sized planets that could have liquid water at the surface and potentially harbor life.

“It’s not just another science mission. This one has historical significance built into it,” said Ed Weiler of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters. “It very possibly could tell us that earths are very, very common, that we’ve got lots of neighbors out there. Or it could tell us that Earths are really, really, really rare.”

More here

Is Horse Domestication Earlier than Previously Thought?

It is a long way from Kazakhstan to Kentucky, but the journey to the Derby may have started among a pastoral people on the Kazakh steppes who appear to have been the first to domesticate, bridle and perhaps ride horses — around 3500 B.C., a millennium earlier than previously thought.

Archaeologists say the discovery may revise thinking about the development of some preagricultural Eurasian societies and put an earlier date to their dispersal into Europe and elsewhere. These migrations are believed to have been associated with horse domestication and the spread of Indo-European languages….

Continued here.

See also this as Scientific American

Dawkins…. On Purpose

Dawkins gave a talk that could be criticized as not particularly new, in that his main idea is that human brains are too powerful and adaptable to continue to function primarily within an adaptive program serving as a proper adaptive organ. Instead, human brains think up all sorts of other, rather non-Darwinian things to do. This idea has been explored and talked about in many ways by many people. Kurt Vonegut Jr.’s character in Galapagos repeatedly, in a state of lament, quips “Thanks, Big Brain…” as evidence accumulates that our inevitable march towards extinction is primarily a function of that particular organ’s activities. People have talked about the brain as the outcome of runaway sexual selection. Evolutionary psychologists have talked about the evolution of strong preferences and desires, which in turn play out i a rather Frankensteinian fashion in a world where those desires can be met with ease instead of hard work and much time. Thus, we have evolved a yearning for rare nutrients such as salt and fat, and then we invented the ability to have unlimited access to salt and fat. So now, in a ‘civilized world’, it is the salt and fat that kills us incited of the predator or the con-specific competitor over access to some food or some sexual opportunity. (Thanks, Big Brain….)
Continue reading Dawkins…. On Purpose

Darwin in Danger in the Land of Disney?

… again … This just in from the NCSE:

Antievolution law proposed in Florida

It’s not a hurricane or even a tropical storm. But a small knot of ignorance is twisting through the Florida state senate.

Late last week, Stephen R. Wise (R-District 5) filed Senate Bill 2396, which if passed, would require “[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” Like other “academic freedom” bills that aim to smuggle creationism back into the classroom, this bill would let educators teach the supposed scientific controversy swirling around evolution.

“There is no controversy among scientists”, says Dr. Genie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). “Evolution is a proven science, backed by a mountain of evidence. Naturally, scientists continue to test and expand the theory, to debate the patterns and processes of evolution. But telling students that evolution is scientifically shaky is just flat wrong.” Senator Wise hasn’t been shy about his intentions–before he introduced the bill, he admitted his goal was to promote the teaching of “intelligent design” in Florida public schools. “If you’re going to teach evolution, then you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking,” said Wise in an interview with the Jacksonville Times-Union. But when the bill was finally filed, all mention of intelligent design was excised.

Florida has recently endured a bout of anti-evolution legislation. House Bill 1483 (filed in early 2008) supposedly protected the right of teachers to “objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution”. But Florida newspapers (not to mention the state department of education) could not substantiate any claims of persecution. The House bill–and its Senate counterpart, SB 2692–did not become law because the two chambers couldn’t agree on compromise wording before the end of the legislative session.

Said the Tampa Tribune at the time, “The session will be remembered for what wasn’t done to compromise the quality of education in Florida.”

Will Senator Wise’s bill suffer a similar fate in the land of Disney? The grassroots pro-science group Florida Citizens for Science (www.flascience.org) hopes so. “Florida’s schools and the state as a whole are floundering in financial turmoil, and citizens are demanding our lawmakers focus their attention on this crisis. There is no appetite for embarrassing our state yet again.”

“Florida has bigger fish to fry,” says NCSE Project Director Josh Rosenau. “Florida already has science standards in place; they’ve got a board of education; and they have teachers that know what they’re doing. It’s crazy for legislators to micromanage the classroom.”

CONTACT: Robert Luhn of the NCSE, 510-601-7203, luhn@ncseweb.org

Web site: www.ncseweb.org

To see more on Florida, see: http://ncseweb.org/news/florida