Science

Earth, The Wakened Giant

Rachel-Carson Today is the 107th birthday of Rachel Carson. Carson was the American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring was largely responsible for starting the global environmental movement. By observing the damage to humans and nature caused by factories and industrial agriculture, Carson presented nature as highly vulnerable to destruction by the power of synthetic chemicals. 

The idea that the earth is fragile,  easily disrupted and unable to repair itself led to an environmental movement focused on repairing a damaged planet.

This idea has had various metaphorical expressions, including “Mother Earth” as a nurturing, feminine and easily damaged entity. The notion of living harmoniously with nature took hold, inspired by images of pre-industrial peoples living close to the natural world.

Underlying these conceptions is a view that, while humans can cause a great deal of damage, nature is passive and always our victim. That vision has changed dramatically thanks to the science of climate change. Today we see that the planet has been disturbed from its resting state, jolted out of the providential era of climatic stability characteristic of the last 10,000 years, and is now on a new and largely uncontrollable path that is creating conditions dangerous for human life.

Clive Hamilton has written a piece for The Conversation entitled, Forget “saving the Earth”- it’s an angry beast we’ve awoken, that analyses this new perspective.

a growing chorus of senior scientists refer to the Earth with metaphors such as “the wakened giant” and “the ornery beast”, a planet that is “fighting back” and seeking “revenge”, and a new era of “angry summers” and “death spirals”.

Whether you consider yourself to be an environmentalist or not, the warnings from Earth system science have far-reaching implications for us all.

According to Hamilton, Earth System Science is responsible for this more holistic view.

The rise of Earth system science – which has brought together many different fields of science so that we can better understand how the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and other systems work together – has changed the way we see the world.

Now, the Earth is understood as a dynamic system with strong feedback effects, which can suddenly shift it to a new state when critical points are crossed.

So profound has been the influence of humans that scientists have proposed that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene or the Age of Humans, defined by the fact that the “human imprint on the global environment has now become so large and active that it rivals some of the great forces of Nature in its impact on the functioning of the Earth system”.

As Earth scientist James Syvitski writes:

At some point, we graduated from adapting to our environment to making it adapt to us … But now we regularly decelerate and accelerate natural processes, focus energy in extraordinary ways and alter, destroy or create ecosystems.

That means we must no longer see the Earth as the submissive repository for supplying our resources or taking our wastes, nor as the docile victim of our rapacity or carelessness.

This newer understanding of the Earth has been vividly expressed by palaeoclimatologist Wally Broecker:

The palaeoclimate record shouts out to us that, far from being self-stabilizing, the Earth’s climate system is an ornery beast which overreacts even to small nudges.

When the Earth is understood this way, the task of environmentalism can no longer be to “save” or preserve the planet, for the planet we wanted to save has already become something else. Our task now is to do what we can to pacify, or at least not aggravate further, something vastly more powerful than we are.

If we have wakened the slumbering beast by poking and prodding it, the prudent course is firstly to stop. But we cannot put it back to sleep.

There is no return to the peaceful conditions of the Holocene, at least not for thousands of years; but to provoke it further, as we still are, is foolishness on an epic scale.

So, the metaphor of “Mother Earth” is being replaced by something akin to William Butler Yeats‘ rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Cosmic Coincidence

In a cosmic coincidence, the Russian meteorite that has reportedly injured more than 1,000 people is completely unrelated to the DA14 asteroid, which NASA says will pass close to the Earth later today.

A decade ago, we would have known about the Russian meteorite only by the results of the impact. Today, there are few places on earth without a witness with a video camera. Below is a video showing the flight of the meteorite from a number of different locations just before it smashed into the Ural Mountains.

Vision of Climate Change

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There are certain photographs that become iconic. They engender an immediate connection with an event, tragic or triumphant. They put the event in human terms, often showing a family, as in Dorothea Lang’s iconic photograph of Florence Owens Thompson and her children.  The photo became the most famous image of the Great Depression in the United States.  It has become an iconic image of resilience in the face of adversity.

See here for a list of 27 photos that also fit the description. Perhaps the most famous compilation is Life Magazine’s 100 photographs that changed the world.

I started thinking about other events or phenomena that might engender an iconic image for  future generations. Climate change is just such a phenomena. We appear to be at the point, finally, where it is generally understood that a scientific consensus has been reached identifying human activity as the major cause of climate change.

There is an overwhelming level of scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. Over 95% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that the earth is warming and that human activity is the cause. In spite of this agreement, only about 50% the general public think that scientists have reached a consensus on human-caused climate change. Two sources of the discrepancy are the unbalanced portrayal of the situation in the media, and the Manufactured Doubt Industry.

James Lawrence Powell did a meta-study of almost 14,000 peer reviewed scientific papers written from 1991 to November 2012. His pie-chart says it all.

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Of course, there are still morons like Henry Paine of National Review who, as part of the “manufactured doubt” industry, intentionally confuse climate with weather, but when, in his inaugural address, President Obama called for America to lead the world’s response to the threat of climate change, it became clear that it is time to find an iconic image worthy of Dorothea Lang.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.

I am sure there are hundreds of photographs that could serve, but, for me,  the first image that came to mind was of the Holmes family huddled in the water as the Tasmanian wildfire raged around them.

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I feel that this picture has that same emotional impact as Lange’s photograph. It depicts a family, in this case a grandmother and her grandchildren, clinging to each other- resilience in the face of adversity.

What I find most amazing is that, unlike the posed Lang photograph, this picture was taken by the children’s grandfather in real time.

Here is how the UK’s Guardian newspaper described the photo.

These stunning pictures of five young children and their grandmother huddled together under a jetty in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley were captured by their grandfather Tim Holmes. The family was forced to stay in the water for several hours as homes around them were razed to the ground. The pictures, taken on 4 January have just been released

Are Right-Wingers a Different Species?

No More Mister Nice Guy Blog asks the question, “Are right-wingers even the same species as the rest of us?

He asked the question in response to right-wing reaction to a story New York representative Louise Slaughter told during the Health Care summit.

I even have one constituent — you will not believe this, and I know you won’t, but it’s true — her sister died. This poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister’s teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit.

Do you ever believe that in America that that’s where we would be?

How did the right-wing respond? Fox News and Michelle Malkin thought the story was pretty funny. Rush Limbaugh called it the sob story of the day.

I mean for example, well what’s wrong with using a dead person’s teeth? Aren’t the Democrats big into recycling? Save the planet? And so what? So if you don’t have any teeth, so what? What’s applesauce for? Isn’t that why they make applesauce?

Obviously, right-wingers are not a separate species, but…  This got me thinking about what the latest research has to say about differences between individuals on the left and right of the political spectrum. There is some recent evidence that political orientation is related to how the brain functions.

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

There also appears to be differences when it comes to morality.

One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty — and revulsion at disgust.

Studies have shown that Liberals are more inclined to break away from habitual responses, to think creatively and to be open to new experiences.

A study of American Christians found that, when it comes to religion, political conservatives operate out of a fear of chaos and absence of order while political liberals operate out of a fear of emptiness,  According to Dan McAdams, co-author of the study,

Political conservatives envision a world without God in which baser human impulses go unchecked, social institutions (marriage, government, family) fall apart and chaos ensues. Liberals, on the other hand, envision a world without God as barren, lifeless, devoid of color and reasons to live.

Liberals see their faith as something that fills them up and, without it, they conjure up metaphors of emptiness, depletion and scarcity. While conservatives worry about societal collapse, liberals worry about a world without deep feelings and intense experiences.

Two studies conducted recently at Cornell show that Conservatives are apt to make moral/political judgments based upon personal feelings of disgust rather than on whether an action might cause actual harm. This helps explain the seemingly intractable differences surrounding issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Liberals and conservatives disagree about whether disgust has a valid place in making moral judgments. Conservatives have argued that there is inherent wisdom in repugnance; that feeling disgusted about something — gay sex between consenting adults, for example — is cause enough to judge it wrong or immoral, even lacking a concrete reason. Liberals tend to disagree, and are more likely to base judgments on whether an action or a thing causes actual harm.

Social psychologists like John Mayer (who coined the term “emotional intelligence”) have tried to categorize the personality types “liberal” and “conservative”.

Liberals:
• View social inequities and preferred groups as unjust and requiring reform.
• Prefer atheists, tattoos, foreign films and poetry.
• Endorse gay unions, welfare, universal health care, feminism and environmentalism.
• Exhibit creativity, which entails the capacity to see solutions to problems, and empathy toward others.
• Tolerate complexity and ambiguity.
• Are influenced by their work as judges, social workers, professors and other careers for which an appreciation of opposing points of view is required.

Conservatives:
• Willing to defend current social inequities and preferred groups as justifiable or necessary.
• Prefer prayer, religious people and SUVs.
• Endorse the U.S. government, the military, the state they live in, big corporations and most Americans.
• Are more likely to be a first-born, who identify more with their parents, predisposing them to a greater investment in authority and a preference for conservatism.
• Have a fear of death, reflecting an enhanced need for security.
• Are conscientious – the ability to exert personal self-control to the effect of meeting one’s own and others’ demands, and maintaining personal coherence.
• Need simplicity, clarity and certainty.

Is there a positive correlation between intelligence and liberalism, atheism and monogamy?

The latest scientist to weigh in on this issue is Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her study found that more intelligent people are statistically significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history.  Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence.

Based on his findings, he proposes the theory of “evolutionary novel” preferences.

Apparently, more intelligent people adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years.”

Kanazawa explains that “Evolutionarily novel” preferences and values are those that humans are not biologically designed to have and our ancestors probably did not possess, while those that our ancestors had for millions of years are “evolutionarily familiar.”

Kanazawa said: “General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions.

“As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”

The study argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends.

Hence, being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel.

Kanazawa further briefed that religion is a byproduct of humans’ tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see “the hands of God” at work behind otherwise natural phenomena.

Kanazawa said: “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid

“So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists.”

If Kanazawa’s theory is correct, right wingers are not another species, they are just not as evolved as the more intelligent liberal, atheist and monogamist (this last applies to men only) among us.

As intriguing as they may be,  I am afraid that I don’t find these biological, neurological, evolutionary explanations ultimately convincing.  I tend to come down on the nurture side of the nurture/nature debate. Against the evidence of science and my own experience, I hold on to the hope the right-wingers can be educated.  If they are really evolutionarily stunted “lizard-brains“, hardwired to act as they do, it is too depressing to contemplate. So much for bi-partisanship.

The Bloom Box – Fuel Cell Solution?

60 Minutes had an interesting segment on the “Mystery Fuel Cell”, the Bloom Box. Unlike most fuel cells, this one is past the prototype stage and is actually being used to provide power for a number of major corporations.

K.R. Sridhar invited “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl for a first look at the innards of the Bloom box that he has been toiling on for nearly a decade.

Looking at one of the boxes, Sridhar told Stahl it could power an average U.S. home.

“The way we make it is in two blocks. This is a European home. The two put together is a U.S. home,” he explained.

“‘Cause we use twice as much energy, is that what you’re saying?” Stahl asked.

“Yeah, and this’ll power four Asian homes,” he replied.

“So four homes in India, your native country?” Stahl asked.

“Four to six homes in our country,” Sridhar replied.

“It sounds awfully dazzling,” Stahl remarked.

“It is real. It works,” he replied.

He says he knows it works because he originally invented a similar device for NASA. He really is a rocket scientist.

“This invention, working on Mars, would have allowed the NASA administrator to pick up a phone and say, ‘Mr. President, we know how to produce oxygen on Mars,'” Sridhar told Stahl.

“So this was going to produce oxygen so people could actually live on Mars?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” Sridhar replied.

When NASA scrapped that Mars mission, Sridhar had an idea: he reversed his Mars machine. Instead of it making oxygen, he pumped oxygen in.

He invented a new kind of fuel cell, which is like a very skinny battery that always runs. Sridhar feeds oxygen to it on one side, and fuel on the other. The two combine within the cell to create a chemical reaction that produces electricity. There’s no need for burning or combustion, and no need for power lines from an outside source.

Go here to see the full 60 minute segment.

The Climate Change Conundrum

When it comes to climate change, those who understand it the best are the least effective at explaining it.

One obvious reason for this is that the science behind climate change is complex and resists sound bites. A less obvious reason has to do with the nature of science itself. Certainty is the enemy of science. Scientists are always open to new evidence and abhor absolute truth claims. It is the nature of science to test and retest explanations against the natural world. Thus, scientific explanations are likely to be built on and modified with new information and new ways of looking at old information.

Unfortunately, the average person wants to know if climate change claims are “true” or not. The unwillingness of climate change scientists to make absolute truth claims continually gets them in trouble as they are seized on by the deniers in the media and the blogosphere. For example, Paul Jones, the Director of the British Climate Research Unit and the scientist at the center of the recent “Climategate” idiocy was interviewed by the BBC last week.  In the course of the interview, Jones said that an observed warming trend of 0.12 degrees C per decade between 1995 to 2009 was “not significant at the 95% significance level.” On the other hand, he said, it was quite close to being statistically significant.

The UK paper, The Daily Mail, ran the headline: “Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995.” The story went viral as the right wing echo chamber spread the news. For the hardcore climate change deniers, this was vindication that they had been right all along.  Most bloggers reprinted the Daily Mail article verbatim with only a slight variation to the original headline. For example, the headline at Marc Morano’s Climate Depot shouted, “The Jig is Up! Climategate U-turn as Phil Jones admits: There has been no warming since 1995”. Morano and the other bloggers neglected to link to the original BBC interview, so readers were not able to confirm the Daily Mail claims.

But, even without the actual interview, anyone who understands statistics would see that Jones was not claiming there had been no warming since 1995. Far from it. He said the the warming trend was “not significant at the 95% significance level”. To say that something is significant to the 95% level means there is only a 5 percent chance of a particular finding occurring purely by chance. So, what Jones was saying is that there is just less than a 95% chance that the measured warming of 0.12 degrees C per decade between 1995 and 2009 actually happened.

I don’t know about you, but if my doctor told me I was dying of cancer, but had close to a 95% chance of recovery if I took chemotherapy treatments, I would want to start the treatments immediately. Notice, no doctor is going to tell a cancer patient that recovery is guaranteed if they take a particular treatment.  Medicine, like climate change science, is not about claims of absolute certainty.

I wonder if the deniers like Morano are just ignorant themselves and don’t understand what statistical significance means or, are they willfully deceiving their readers by feeding into their already existing biases?

Well, here is Morano receiving the “Accuracy in Media” award from CPAC after addressing them at the 2010 Conference last week. I guess my question has been answered. Feed them the red meat and you will be rewarded.

Thus, The Conundrum

Al Gore understood the importance of communicating the science about climate change if there was to be any hope for policy addressing the issue. Unfortunately, Gore lacks the political capital inherent in being an elected official. If fact, until recently, the only elected officials talking about climate change were deniers like Inhofe and DeMint.

Yesterday, Obama finally decided to weigh in while at a town hall meeting in Nevada.

This is the answer to the conundrum. Obama is able to explain, in language anyone can understand, the absurdity of the deniers. Why does this message not end up in the mainstream media?

Utah Leads. Will Idaho Follow?

Utah Rep. Mike Noel

Even newspapers in the United Kingdom know that Utah is the Reddest state in America. So, it came as no surprise to the journalists at The Guardian that the Utah legislature would pass a resolution claiming that Climate Change is a vast conspiracy whose purpose is to “destroy the American way of life and control world population through forced sterilization and abortion.”

Carbon dioxide is “essentially harmless” to human beings and good for plants. So now will you stop worrying about global warming?

Utah’s House of Representatives apparently has at least. Officially the most Republican state in America, its political masters have adopted a resolution condemning “climate alarmists”, and disputing any scientific basis for global warming.

The measure, which passed by 56-17, has no legal force, though it was predictably claimed by climate change sceptics as a great victory in the wake of the controversy caused by a mistake over Himalayan glaciers in the UN’s landmark report on global warming. But it does offer a view of state politicians’ concerns in Utah which is a major oil and coal producing state.

The original version of the bill dismissed climate science as a “well organised and ongoing effort to manipulate and incorporate “tricks” related to global temperature data in order to produce a global warming outcome”. It accused those seeking action on climate change of riding a “gravy train” and their efforts would “ultimately lock billions of human beings into long-term poverty”.

In the heat of the debate, the representative Mike Noel said environmentalists were part of a vast conspiracy to destroy the American way of life and control world population through forced sterilization and abortion.

By the time the final version of the bill came to a vote, cooler heats apparently prevailed. The bill dropped the word “conspiracy”, and described climate science as “questionable” rather than “flawed”.

However, it insisted – against all evidence – that the hockey stick graph of changing temperatures was discredited. It also called on the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency to order an immediate halt in its moves to regulate greenhouse gas emissions “until a full and independent investigation of climate data and global warming science can be substantiated”.

As Noel explained: “Sometimes … we need to have the courage to do nothing.”

Attention Lenore Barrett, Phil Hart, R.J. Harwood, Steven Kren, Raul Labrador, Mike Moyle, Bob Nonini, Mack Shirley, Stephen Thayn and all the rest of the Republican wingnuts in the Idaho House of Representatives, here is an issue to take your mind off the “slash and burn” budget you are gleefully rubbing your hands about. This Utah resolution is even better that the “Abortion Conscience” bill or the “Secret Hunting License” bill, or the bestest of all, the Idaho Health Freedom Act. I am sure you have the courage to do nothing.

If you want to read about the political context of the Utah resolution, go here.

The American Way

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A rather insignificant news story caught my attention. It appears that the corrupt, criminal security company, Blackwater, is changing its name.  I am sure you are aware of Blackwater founder Eric Prince and the company’s role in Bush era corruption.  If you have the stomach for it, you could read all the details of the Blackwater story in Jeremy Scahill’s excellent expose’, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

In any event, Blackwater is changing it’s name to Xe, pronounced “Z.” Xe seemed to be a rather strange name for a security company like Blackwater until I had a hazy flash of the Periodic table I was forced to learn in Chemestry class. Yes, Xe was the symbol for Xenon, an odorless, colorless gas! The symbolism now makes sense. Like The Shadow, Xe will be invisible. Who knows what evil lurks in the mind’s of men? Eric Prince does. I wonder if Prince will change his own name to some variation of this?

As I read about the name change, I though to myself, “How American.” In Japan, Prince would have committed ritual suicide when faced with the guilt and humiliation of the Blackwater scandals.  Not so here. The American way is all about re-invention; we go west, are born again, rebrand, receive bailouts, get golden parachutes and revise history.

While I was checking the Periodic Table to make sure my memory was correct about Xenon, I came across the perfect rebranding of the biggest failure of our time, George W. Bush, “dubya“.  He can be known simply as “Db.” Db is the symbol for Dubnium. Dubnium is described as,

…a synthetic element that is not present in the environment at all. It has no uses.

Works for me!

A Modest Proposal to Save the Republican Party

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Let’s face it, the Republican Party is in trouble. Democrats are already savoring the 2010 mid-term election. Senator Robert Menendez, Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is talking about the possibility of picking up seats in nine states.

…Menendez noted five currently-held GOP seats are set to be vacated in 2010, most of them in traditional swing states: Florida, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, Kansas. Meanwhile, no current Democratic senators have plans to retire, though the president’s Cabinet appointments have technically left Colorado, New York, Illinois, and Delaware without an incumbent Democrat.

Of those five states with outgoing GOP senators, Menendez said the fact that President Obama carried three of them handily and essentially tied Sen. John McCain in Missouri bodes well for Democrats in 2010. He also expressed optimism about Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ chances in that traditional red state should she decide to run there: “If Kathleen Sebelius runs, she will win,” Menendez said.

The DSCC chief added a combination of local and national factors make four other Republican-held seats vulnerable — Louisiana,- North Carolina, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Incumbent Republican senators are particularly vulnerable, Menendez said, because of their “Bush like” approach the nation’s sputtering economy and overwhelming opposition to the White House-backed stimulus bill.

“They just don’t get it,” Menendez said of his Republican colleagues, “How many more people need to lose their jobs?”

Of course, the Republicans don’t get it. Their current strategy of obstructing everything Democrats propose  simply makes them appear childish and irrelevant. [UPDATE: The House just passed the stimulus bill without a single Republican vote.]

So, I propose a plan to bring about a Republican resurgence. Admittedly, this is a long range plan, one that will take a couple of decades to reach fruition.  The answer can be found here. That is right- resurrect Neanderthals from their reconstructed DNA!

It goes without saying that Neanderthals would swell the Republican base. It might be necessary to shield them from liberal educators, but I am sure enough charter schools with the correct “No Neanderthal Left Behind” curricula could be created by sucking off funds to public schools.

The cost would not be prohibitive. According to John Tierney, a Neanderthal could be brought to life with present technology for about $30 million. The $60 million necessary for a breeding pair could be easily inserted into the next stimulus bill without anyone being the wiser.

I am guessing that Idaho and the other [2] Red States would be ideal breeding grounds for the Neanderthals. In the beginning, they would need protected species status and they would be more likely to blend in among Idaho Republicans.

I know what some of you are thinking. What about the ethics involved?  Tierney addresses this:

…I’m afraid I can’t see the problem. If we discovered a small band of Neanderthals hidden somewhere, we’d do everything to keep them alive, just as we try to keep alive so many other endangered populations of humans and animals — including man-biting mosquitoes and man-eating polar bears. We’ve also spent lots of money reintroducing animals into ecosystems from which they had vanished. Shouldn’t be at least as solicitous to our fellow hominids?

But, to be honest, I don’t see this as being a problem. After all, if there is one thing we know for sure, Republicans will set ethics aside if they can see political gain.

Happy Darwin Day!

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Darwin Day is being celebrated all over the world today.  This February 12 marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, and everybody’s invited to the party. Groups around the world — from grade school classrooms, to museums, to churches — will celebrate the science of evolution with public lectures, teach-ins, theatre performances, art exhibits, etc.  If you are close to Boise State University, consider celebrating on campus. The evening speaker is Dr. James Coors.

The theory of evolution, compared to Creationism or Intelligent Design, is an authentic scientific theory because it is falsifiable based upon empirical evidence. The beauty of Darwin’s theory is that genetics, a field unknown in Darwin’s lifetime, continues to validate the theory.

When your neighbor says there is no evidence that humans and apes share a common ancestor, tell them about human chromosome #2

UPDATE: Sisyphus has a nice discussionon his blog about Darwin, science and those who misuse science.  While there, check out the 10 minute video he links to. It does a wonderful job of explaining what counts as a scientific theory and discussing those personal biases that keep many from scientific understanding.