Archive for: March, 2007

The War on Easter - which side is Bill Donohue on?

Mar 30 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Via Pharyngula, I just learned what Catholic League president Bill Donohue is pissed about today - a life-size sculpture of Jesus made out of milk chocolate that is going on display in New York next week. According to Donohue, the sculpture is, "hate speech." In the same press release, Donohue also said, "All those involved are lucky that angry Christians don't react the way extremist Muslims do when they're offended--otherwise they may have more than their heads cut off." It's clear that this particular sculpture has aggravated Donohue to the point where he is incapable of reasonable and rational behavior - but that's not a difficult thing to do.

Here's the thing that I don't get about this one, though: why does Donohue think that the sculpture is the big assault on Christian sensibilities? Easter is the religious holiday in which Christians celebrate the resurrection. Cadbury, Hershey's, Hallmark's, and the rest of the commercial crowd have made it into a holiday about chocolate and candy and little marshmallow chicks and eggs and big bunnies hopping around with baskets full of stuff - all of which is available at local stores for $9.99. But it's the chocolate statue that's the offense to Christian sensibilities??? As Charlie Brown said to the Easter Beagle before consuming the York Peppermint Patties, "Good Grief!"

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Mammal Evolution - Fossils and Molecules

Mar 30 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

As I mentioned earlier, there's a really interesting paper on mammal evolution in the latest issue of the journal Nature. The authors of the paper compiled a really fantastic sampling of molecular data that included data from about 99% of all currently known extant mammals. The data was then used to conduct an analysis that was by far the most comprehensive look at the molecular evolution of mammals ever undertaken. The researchers concluded, based on this analysis, that mammals diversified a lot earlier then was previously believed - so much so, in fact, that it seems to cast some doubt on how important the K-T mass extinction really was to mammal evolution.

The nature article is behind the subscription wall, unfortunately, but if you have access it's a good read. (You can find the full citation at the bottom of the post.) They did some cool stuff, and got some cool results. How the results should be interpreted, on the other hand, is much more complex and will take a lot longer for scientists to work out.

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15 responses so far

So much to blog, so little time...

Mar 29 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

It's one of the curses of blogging - there's no way to control when good stories to blog about pop up. It would be great if we could regulate the flow in some way, and get the stories to show up at nice, regular intervals. Give me one good story a day, and one really good story every second or third day, and I'm a happy blogger. It would be so nice if life worked that way.

Anyway . . .

Today, there are way too many good stories to write about. We've got (in no particular order) mammal evolution in the news, a philosopher questioning the usefulness of lab courses, a good reminder of why local politics is important, a group of Congresscritters that think "prayer is the answer," everyone's favorite creationist surgeon acting like a five-year old, Senator Inhofe acting like, well, Senator Inhofe, and the United States Marine Corps being bloody stupid.

Highlights on each below the fold.

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6 responses so far

Bush and the ESA - Time to get Congressional Oversight

Mar 29 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

According to widespread media (and blog) reports, the Bush administration is about to release a set of administrative rules changes that would "gut" the Endangered Species Act. Actually, "gut" really isn't descriptive enough to do justice to what they are getting geared up for. They are getting set to completely eviscerate the act. Basically, their plan is to take the thing, slit it up the middle, dump all the internal organs onto the ground and jump up and down on them. Then they're going to stuff the carcass of the Endangered Species Act with straw, and drag it around with them in a Weekend-at-Bernie's-esque attempt to maintain some sort of environmental credibility.

Normally, given this administration, we would find out about these changes in a Friday Trash Day news release right after the rule changes are published. We have advance warning this time because the proposed changes were leaked to several outstanding organizations that have been heavily involved in the ongoing battle against the ongoing Administration War on Science - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Center for Biological Diversity, and Earthjustice. Those organizations have made the leaked documents available on their websites, along with commentary. The proposed changes are chilling.

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2 responses so far

It's been a few days, I see.

Mar 28 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

It's been a few days since I've posted anything here, so I just wanted to toss a quick post up to let everyone know I'm still alive, and haven't abandoned the blog. I had a tooth abscess pop up on me last week, and it didn't get resolved until Monday. For some reason, I had a hard time working up the concentration needed to write well while I was taking painkillers. That's over and done with now, so real blogging will return to this space shortly.

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Inhofe's "Personal Energy Ethics" Pledge: Anatomy of a "still beating your wife" question.

Mar 22 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

At yesterday's Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing, Senator James Inhofe challenged Gore to sign a "Personal Energy Ethics Pledge." Inhofe's antics are nothing new - the man's been opposed to a reality based reality for years now, and he's pulled plenty of media stunts to highlight his claims about global warming. One more, even one that involves the former Vice President, is hardly newsworthy. In this case, though, the stunt that he pulled is such a classic example of the "no right answer question" that it's worth taking a look at.

Here's Inhofe's "Personal Energy Ethics" Pledge:

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10 responses so far

An ever-deepening Egnorance

Mar 22 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

By this point, the name Michael Egnor should be familiar to readers of this blog - but if you need a reminder, he's the neurosurgeon who recently signed on to the staff of the Discovery Institute's Media Complaints blog. Over the last week or two, Egnor has been trying to convince people that evolution is really not important in any way to medicine.

His last attempt, before today, came less than a week ago, with this spectacular piece of inane argumentation. I responded to the arguments that he made, Orac responded to the arguments he made, Afarensis responded to the arguments he made, Mark responded to the arguments he made, and many other people have also chimed in on the topic. A couple of hours ago, Egnor decided to take another swing at the argument.

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25 responses so far

Late to the party, but . . .

Mar 21 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

I've been kind of quiet the last couple of days - I've been dealing with an exam and a dental issue - so I didn't get into the whole Michael Egnor (aka The DI's Pet Neurosurgeon) linkfest. I agree with Bora, though. It would be good if anyone who wants to Google him is able to quickly find out exactly how skilled he is at making bad anti-evolution arguments. My contribution there can be found below the fold.

In addition, I'd also like to join Orac and Afarensis in reminding Dr. Egnor that there are specific challenges waiting for him, and that he hasn't responded to mine, either.

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OK, Egnor, it's time to put up or shut up.

Mar 17 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Dr. Michael Egnor is, once again, trying to explain why evolution isn't important to medicine. This time he's responding to Mark Chu-Carroll's post on Tautology. In his latest post, Egnor continues to challenge the conventional wisdom that an understanding of evolution in general and natural selection in particular is essential to understanding and dealing with the phenomenon of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Here's his latest statement along those lines:

Mark, your dad's illness didn't happen because his doctor didn't know enough about random mutation and natural selection. Our battle against bacterial resistance to antibiotics depends on the study of the intricate molecular strategies bacteria use to fight antibiotics, and our development of new antibiotics is a process of designing drugs to counter the bacterial strategies. We use molecular biology, microbiology, and pharmacology. We understand that bacteria aren't killed by antibiotics that they're resistant to. We understand tautologies. Darwin isn't a big help here.

Thus far, Dr. Egnor has only discussed the phenomenon of bacterial resistance in general. I'm going to present a pair of real, specific, and relatively recent scenarios where I think an understanding of evolution by natural selection has played an important role in public health debates involving appropriate uses of specific antibiotics. My question - and challenge - to Dr. Egnor is this: can you explain why an understanding of evolution by natural selection was really not important in these specific cases? If you cannot, can you please explain why you still believe that an understanding of evolution by natural selection is irrelevant to medicine?

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62 responses so far

Applications of Evolution 2 - Bayer Withdraws Cipro

Mar 17 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

This post was originally written on 9 September 2005, and was posted over at the old place. It's relevant to a post that will be appearing shortly, so I'm moving it over here for convenience. I haven't edited the original in any way.

From a story in today's WaPo, I learned that Bayer has withdrawn it's poultry anitbiotic Baytril from the market. This marks the end of a five-year battle with the FDA over the drug.

The FDA first proposed withdrawing Baytril in October of 2000, due to concerns regarding the development of antibiotic resistance. From a 2001 FDA Consumer Magazine article:

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