Archive for: January, 2007

Gagging Science - the Pentagon chapter.

Jan 31 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Revere, at Effect Measure, comments on a story that just appeared in Inside Higher Education. The article detals a completely outrageous attempt at dealing with unfavorable information:

What set off the Pentagon was Bilmes' estimate for the current number of injured of 50,500. William Winkenwender Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, called the Los Angeles Times, Bilmes, and David T. Ellwood -- dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government -- to complain that the real figure is less than half that -- just over 22,000.

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One response so far

Benefits of teaching the "controversy"

Jan 31 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

There's an interesting op-ed on teaching evolution in today's edition of the International Herald Tribune. The opinion piece is written by Michael Balter, and suggests that, "The best way to teach the theory of evolution is to teach this contentious history." To support this position, Balter points to a 2005 study by Steven Verhey that was published in the November, 2005 issue of BioScience, that suggested that creationist students were more likely to change their views if the curriculum directly addressed creationist objections to evolution.

Balter has been advocating this position for a while now, and his views have been discussed at The Panda's Thumb before now. Still, the position appears to be at least superficially reasonable, so it's probably worth another quick look.

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89 responses so far

The Pointy-Haired Cartoonist

Jan 31 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

I always find it a bit amusing when someone who is exceptionally good at identifying (and mercilessly mocking) stupidity in certain circumstances turns out to be totally oblivious to his own stupidity. That's exactly the case when it comes to Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame). He's gone off the deep end when it comes to evolution before, and now he's at it again. I'm not going to try to identify all of the problems with his latest attempt. Instead, I'll just pick a couple of the more spectacularly stupid remarks.

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14 responses so far

More on the "costs" of evolution

Jan 30 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Walter ReMine (an anti-evolutionist who ardently believes that "Haldane's Dilemma" is a real problem for evolution) recently updated the entry for "Haldane's Dilemma" at the CreationWiki. The update does not directly refer to my recent posts on the topic, but does address the points that I made. Actually, "address" is probably the wrong word - he provides a hand-waving dismissal without actually responding to any of the specific points I raised. Ordinarily, a hand-waving response isn't worth the effort needed to write a reply, but in this case the errors that ReMine makes are worth discussing simply because they provide a convenient jumping-off point for a discussion of the way evolution actually works.

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13 responses so far

Open Access and Costs

Jan 30 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

An interesting comment about open access has been left over at Bora's place. The commenter is clearly not in favor of open access, and provides a number of reasons for her opposition. I'm going to break the comment into a couple of parts, and address all of the objections separately.

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8 responses so far

Open Access

Jan 30 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Over the last couple of days, quite a number of articles have been posted here at Scienceblogs commenting on the for-profit academic publishing community's most recent efforts to fight mandatory open access to government science. The industry group representing the major publishers of academic journals in the US hired a well-known DC public relations attack dog to help them with their efforts. If these folks are worried enough to bay several hundred thousand dollars for his help, they clearly think that they have a lot to lose. Let's look at just what that might be.

I'm going to do this in two parts. In the first part of this post, I'm going to look at the claims that these publishing houses are making as they fight to maintain their virtual monopoly on scientific publishing, and explain why these claims are, for the most part, steaming mounds of fresh bovine excrement. In the second part, I'm going to talk about the business model that these publishers use, and take one of these publishers as a case study example to show what they really have at stake.

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3 responses so far

Basic Concepts: Measuring Fitness

Jan 29 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

In 1862, the British philosopher Herbert Spencer used the phrase "survival of the fittest" to describe Darwin's concept of natural selection. It's not a bad phrase, really, and it doesn't do a bad job of describing natural selection - the individuals in any population that are "fittest" - best suited to reproduce - are the ones most likely to reproduce successfully. If this is correct (and it is), we can expect that "fitness" would be a very important concept in evolutionary biology. It is, of course, and John Wilkins has already provided a good explanation of the concept in general. I'm going to look at something a little more specific - how can we measure fitness.

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6 responses so far

What kind of reader am I?

Jan 28 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

I've got a strange feeling that this answer is going to be, by far, the most common one among the Sciencebloggers:

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

(Via GrrlScientist)

2 responses so far

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot - but what else is new.

Jan 27 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Jim Lynch, in an apparent attempt to see if he could get my blood pressure to break new ground, just sent me a link to this discussion of Rush Limbaugh's latest bit of verbal flatulence. Rush appears to have some rather interesting views on women in the military, and he decided to express some of those views on his radio show yeaterday. Actually, I wasn't nearly as annoyed by The Big Fat Idiot's comments as I think Jim expected. The remarks are assinine, stupid, and reflect a perspecitve on society and gender that was obsolete a very long time ago, but they were also exactly the type of raw stupidity that I've come to expect from Rush. It's hard to get worked up about him saying really rediculously stupid things,

The liberals did indeed bandy about, bang on the drums for women in combat. Now anyone with, it just isn't right. Whether they can do it or not, that's not what a cultured civilized society does to its women, they just don't do it

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11 responses so far

More on evolutionary "speed limits"

Jan 26 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday's post on evolutionary speed limits and Haldane's Dilemma has sparked some interesting discussion, and some of the comments have already started to move beyond the very simple scenario that I outlined. Next week, I'll post a couple of more complex examples, and look at the effect of things like a lower frequency of mutants in the starting population, what can happen with two mutations being selected at the same time, and whether mutations need to be fixed to be evolutionarily meaningful. I'll also go over a couple of basic concepts that might help in understanding those scenarios.

Today, I'm just going to respond to part of one of the comments that was left on the last post. This is mostly because it's an interesting question that deserves a thorough response, partly because the question involves some basic concepts that should be explained before I dive into more detail, and partly because it's Friday and I really don't want to spend the time plugging numbers in to work up another example.

Caligula, fairly early on in the comments, raises a point that involves a concept that is very basic to evolutionary biology: fitness:

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20 responses so far

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