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Rhetoric Heats Up Over Dover IDea

Now that the ACLU’s lawsuit in Dover, Pennsylvania has gone to trial, more and more news media are writing about the controversy over intelligent design.  Many seem to think that the school board is trying to replace Darwinism in high school science classrooms with I.D.; actually, the Dover case does not mandate the teaching of […]

Is Archaeology Like SETI, or is SETI Like Religion?

Archaeologists have their Rosetta Stone, but so far, SETI investigators have no artifacts.  Still, Douglas Vakoch wrote for Space.com, archaeologists and anthropologists can teach SETI researchers how to prepare for encountering “exotic cultures with strange languages.”     Vakoch recounted the interest in this angle at an anthropology conference last year: One of the best-attended […]

Alternative Gene Splicing May Be Common

Scientists at MIT publishing in PNAS1 detected instances of alternative splicing in over 1,000 genes of stem cells.  They also computed possible isoforms of mRNA transcriptions and found 80% of them in the cells.  Not only that, the isoforms (alternatively spliced versions of exons from the same gene) appeared to be functional: “We find that […]

More Indications Neandertals Were Like Us

Two more hints that Neandertals were only variants of modern humans have surfaced recently.  British and American researchers publishing in PNAS1 studied tooth enamel growth patterns, and found that “Neandertal tooth growth and, by extension, somatic growth, appears to be encompassed within the modern human range of interpopulation variation.”  This finding was summarized on National […]

Museums Train Docents to Deal with Evolution Skeptics

Being a museum docent wasn’t supposed to be this hard.  Many have always led peaceful groups of compliant tourists through the halls of science, telling their near-memorized lines without incident: Sixty million years ago, the dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteor, but their descendants are still with us today.  Anyone know who those might […]

Evolutionists Finally Figure Out the Eye – Well, Partly

As if tackling Darwin’s worst nightmare with gusto, evolutionary biologists published a paper in Current Biology1 about the evolution of the eye – at least the lens.  Though the paper is restricted to a discussion of genes involved in making the crystallin proteins that make up the lens, EurekAlert announced this as “Insight into our […]

Can Chemicals Be Fertile?

Simon Conway Morris wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for the following entry in Current Biology.1  Ostensibly he was trying to be light-hearted and funny about mass extinctions.  We’ll see if anyone is laughing about whether massive impacts are a blessing or a curse: Manna from heaven.  So yet more violence, with the Earth […]

Big Guys Finish First, Except in Drought

Nigel Williams tried to explain in Current Biology1 why “size matters” among marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands: the vectors of natural and sexual selection don’t always line up.  Females appear to like the big males when times are good, but when drought comes, the smaller dudes do better.     There’s a difficulty with […]

Cosmic Baby Boom Becomes Baby Explosion

There has been a trend in deep space astronomy to find more and more mature-looking stars and galaxies farther back in time (04/06/2005, 03/10/2005, 07/08/2005).  That trend just doubled or tripled.  An announcement in Nature1 (see press release by European Southern Observatory), a thousand galaxies were found at distances corresponding to estimated ages of 9 […]

Elie Wiesel Gathers Nobel Laureates to Urge Kansas to Nix ID

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has gathered 38 Nobel prize winners to join him in urging the Kansas school board to reject their new science standards that question evolution (see 08/11/2005).  According to MSNBC News, their document calls evolution an “indispensable” foundation of biology.  The story was reprinted by LiveScience.com. Odd.  Biology got along just fine […]

Cell Has Automatic Jam-Clearing Proofreading Machinery

Findings at Rockefeller University have scientists excited.  DNA copying machines work on a “sliding clamp” that can hold two repair machines at the same time.  One is a low-fidelity repair tool, the other a high-fidelity repair tool.  Usually, the high-fidelity one is active, but when it needs a bigger hammer that is perhaps more effective […]

Both Sides Fear Court Ruling on Intelligent Design

“The stakes are high,” said Constance Holden in Science,1 and both sides in the Dover, Pennsylvania case would probably agree – with equal trepidation.  The ACLU is representing 11 parents who sued the Dover school board for ruling that intelligent design should be taught as an alternative to Darwinian evolution in their public high schools […]

Grand Canyon Still an Unsolved Puzzle

Arguably the best-known geological landmark on the planet, Grand Canyon has been scrutinized and “geologized” for well over a century, yet remains an enigma, according to the title of a new book by James Lawrence Powell, Grand Canyon: Solving Earth’s Grandest Puzzle (Pi Press, 2005).  The book was reviewed by John C. Schmidt (Utah State) […]

Zoo Wants You in the Cage

Visitors to the Zagreb Zoo get to walk through displays detailing the ways in which humans “contribute to the destruction of wildlife and the environment,” and then spend a little time in a cage that was deemed unsuitable for the foxes and martens who were its previous inhabitants.  The zoo calls humans “the most dangerous […]

How Much Can the Origin of Life Be Simplified?

“No problem,” a report from Spain’s Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona seems to say: “Life’s origins were easier than was thought.”  (See also EurekAlert.)  The problem they claim to have solved is described in their press release: In the primordial soup that produced life on earth, there were organic molecules that combined to produce the first […]
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