Reviewing “A Meaningful World” and “The Darwin Myth”

I have just finished reviewing A Meaningful World: How the Arts And Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature (IVP , 2006) by DI fellows, Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt, for Reports of the National Center for Science Education. I’m not going to post the full review until it appears in print, but here is the final paragraph. It more or less clues you in to what I thought of the work.

A Meaningful World is certainly a work that would not have survived review by a mainstream press. In fact, I would say that it would not have survived as an undergraduate thesis. The very fact that it has appeared in print is symptomatic of the ID movement’s ability to find sympathetic pulpits from which to preach to the choir. No one without pre-conceived sympathy is going to be convinced by the arguments presented by Wiker & Witt and, like much ID literature, it serves as a justification of belief rather than a scientific or philosophical investigation. It is notable that the publishers choose not to classify the work as science but as discussing religious aspects of nature and meaning.

Frankly, it took me over three years to review the book. Every time I started writing about it, I got annoyed and had to stop.

I also recently reviewed Wiker’s The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin (Regnery, 2009) for the Journal of the History of Biology. Here’s the final paragraph of that one:

This is poor history and, frankly, it is also poor polemic. Wiker does not present Darwin fairly but distorts him into a dark figure bent on destroying everything that Wiker apparently holds dear. As such, the book has nothing to recommend it beyond offering a snapshot of how certain groups in America have been unable to deal with scientific ideas.

Full reviews will appear here after they have appeared in print or online. I probably won’t be getting any Christmas cards from Ben Wiker.


Have they learned nothing?

File this under “This Will End Predictably”. Livingston Parish (Louisiana) is looking to teach creationism in public school science classes. Problem is that they keep explicitly mentioning creationism thus clearly falling foul of Supreme Court rulings.

Jan Benton (director of curriculum) stated that the Louisiana Science Education Act allows for the teaching of “critical thinking and creationism“.

David Tate (board member): “Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?”

Clint Mitchell (board member): “Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.”

The Board then voted to appoint a committee to study the possibility of introducing creationism into the classroom. They obviously never heard of Edwards v. Aguillard which, ironically, was a decision against a Louisiana statute.


HT to Jim Lippard’s twitter stream.

Update (7/28): Barbara Forrest (Louisiana Coalition for Science) has posted her thoughts. Final paragraph reads:

The Discovery Institute is heavily invested in Louisiana — up to their eyeballs. Whether the Livingston Parish School Board or some other Louisiana school board implements the LSEA — in the way that we all know is intended — won’t matter. This Livingston Parish development — and any other initiative anywhere in Louisiana — will be the Discovery Institute’s baby (or, rather, its tarbaby). As we say way down south, “You cain’t disown this youngun. It’s the spittin’ image of its daddy!” The Livingston Parish CREATIONISM initiative — in whatever form it takes  — will be the Discovery Institute’s offspring. Discovery Institute owns this.

Why #SbFAIL has been good and a status update

Frankly, one of the up-sides of #SbFAIL is that a number of the people I care about are now blogging here on WordPress and it has actually become easier to track what they are posting and the comments I’ve made on their blogs. So that’s an up-side. As a reminder, here are the Sciblings who are now here. Hopefully, others will follow (I’m looking at you Mark Chu-Carroll and Mike Dunford!).

If you’ve never encountered these great bloggers before – perhaps because Scienceblogs overwhelmed you – wander over, read a little, and say “Hi”. These folks are good friends and the salt of the earth.

That said, I myself will probably go back to being quiet for awhile. I’ve four weeks before the start of the semester and have to put three papers (two science, one history) and at least one book review out the door.

semper scibling!

Nyctereutes lockwoodi

Back in December, I noted the announcement of a new species of raccoon dog (Nyctereutes lockwoodi). The paper is now online and, as we suspected, the species is “[n]amed after the late Charles Lockwood, for his contribution to our knowledge of the genus Australopithecus in South and East Africa as well as his role in the exploration of the morphological temporal trends of A. afarensis in the Hadar Formation.” As it happens, Bill Kimbel and I are currently putting the finishing touches to our final manuscript with Charlie. More of that later, no doubt.

Ref: Gerrads et al., (2010) “Nyctereutes lockwoodi, n. sp., a New Canid (Carnivora: Mammalia) from the Middle Pliocene of Dikika, Lower Awash, Ethiopia.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30(3):981-987. doi: 10.1080/02724631003758326

On “PepsiGate” and #Sbfail


I take no pleasure in watching what is happening to Scienceblogs. The vast majority of my time there was pleasurable, tainted only by the actions of a minority who managed to poison the community (and were allowed do so by the notional management). Now the self-same management are watching the ship go down due to “PepsiGate” and #Sbfail highlighting their inability to treat the bloggers as co=partners in a business enterprise.

Scienceblogs started in January 2006 with 14 bloggers. Within a year, a further 39 bloggers had arrived. Less than half formed the core community of Scienceblogs (by this I mean, individuals who swam in the backchannels that existed and were members of the support community I valued). It’s worth noting what had happened to them:

  1. Adventures in Ethics and Science – still going
  2. Aetiology – still going
  3. Deltoid – still going.
  4. Pharyngula – still going but currently on strike
  5. Mike the Mad Biologist – still going
  6. Neurotopia (version 2.0) – still going
  7. The World’s Fair – still going
  8. Respectful Insolence – may be leaving but can always be found here.
  9. Thoughts from Kansas – future unclear
  10. Deep Sea News – left January 2007 September 2008, now here.
  11. Evolgen – left Jan 2009, no longer blogging.
  12. Dr. Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge – left May 2009, now here
  13. Afarensis – left May 2009, now here.
  14. Evolving Thoughts – left May 2009, now here.
  15. Stranger Fruit – left May 2009, now here (literally).
  16. Cognitive Daily – left January 2010, now here.
  17. Gene Expression – left April 2010, now here.
  18. Living the Scientific Life – left July 2010, now here.
  19. A Blog Around The Clock – left July 2010, now here
  20. Good Math, Bad Math – left July 2010, will continue blogging.
  21. The Questionable Authority – left July 2010, will continue blogging.
  22. Terra Sigillata – left July 2010, now here.

So, of these 22, twenty-one are still blogging, but only seven are remaining with Seed Media Group. (A further two have uncertain futures at the site.) And I think that tells you something about the ability of the Seed Media Group management to run a business.

Update: Here’s the Twitter feed – follow the fail as it happens.

Update (7/21): Abel Pharmboy (Terra Sigillata) had flown the coop. I have updated the count of those remaining. In addition, Dave Munger (formerly of CogDaily) has given his take on the whole debacle.

*gurgle* Scienceblogs *gurgle*

Been quiet here for a few weeks now, mainly because I just ain’t been feeling it regards writing online (and the World Cup has been a more compelling time-sink). In the past month – while I was essentially offline and not posting anything meaningful – there were still over 200,000 visits for the post that refuses to die, and somehow I find that somewhat dispiriting. Especially considering other posts garnered no comment or interest. Go figure.

That aside, I de-lurk to the sound of Scienceblogs perhaps circling the drain (at least in the form I knew it). Regular readers will know I was blogging there for a few years before coming here last summer. Now it appears that corporate indifference to the bloggers (which always was a vague problem and a factor in my leaving) and the bottom line has trumped all. Ex-sciblings Carl Zimmer and John Wilkins have more as we watch bloggers swim to freedom from the wreck.