Advice to Teachers of Science

5 06 2009

From the New South Wales Government.

Excellent!:

In developing the NSW Science curriculum, the Board of Studies undertook extensive consultation with experts in the field to ensure that content, including that relating to evolution, would be consistent with accepted scientific knowledge and understanding.

The Board wishes to remind teachers that Creationism and Intelligent Design are not part of the Board’s Science syllabuses. If taught as part of any school-based program, it must be clear to students that Creationism and Intelligent Design:

  1. are not scientific, nor evidence-based
  2. will not be included in any task that forms part of the assessment of student achievement for the award of the School Certificate or Higher School Certificate
  3. will not be tested in any School Certificate or Higher School Certificate examination and will not be relevant to any response to School Certificate or Higher School Certificate questions.

Effective: Immediately

[Colouring added]

Note: Intelligent Design has not been banned from schools. But teachers must make it clear that they are not scientific or evidence based – and that will be irrelevant to any assessment or examination.

Given the ID crowd’s penchant for mandatory disclaimers, maybe they won’t be upset about this (and then I wake up).

Any comments on this mandate?

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Zombie genetics

22 04 2009

Last month there was an interesting genetics story about the discovery of the zombie gene (or “Jesus gene”*).

IRGM, which may or may not be involved in Crohn’s disease, appears to have reactivated in humans after becoming degraded in our ancestors around 25 million years ago.

It is really interesting – perhaps mostly because we can now actually show that this is the case, and guesstimate an era like 25MYA as the original inactivation.

I don’t think its quite as surprising as its being made out to be. It makes plenty of sense given what we know about how genetics evolve. It’s not too inconceivable that if genes can become inactive through random mutation, that so to can inactive genes become re-activated through a similar process.

Just because a gene is inactivated doesn’t exactly mean it’s going to go straight to gobbleygook. By not actually contributing anymore, that gene has effectively removed itself from any selective pressure – including negative. It won’t be selected to become more inactivated. There is no benefit for an organism to scramble the signal any further.

Actually this discovery might show that their is some benefit in not deliberately scrambling genes that aren’t currently expressed. But is that a benefit that selection can act upon?

—–

*everyone knows Jesus isn’t real though, right, kids?





Cancel that order

16 02 2009

via Irraditus

As I was writing my tirade against the floodwaters of superficial historical innacuracies being spawned by the mainstream media who only care about the Darwin after he got famous, certain denizens of the blogosphere have unleashed the beast of all beasts: A challenge!

Kevin Z (Deep Sea News/The Other 95%) and the Southern Fried Scientist have laid down the gauntlet for Darwin beard challenge from now until October 1, the date of the publication of the 1st edition of On the Origin of Species, by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life as printed in the book.

Neat and trimmed goatees do not count. Beards must be “Huge, bold and bushy”.

All are welcome to participate. Sadly, my job relies on my dashing good looks and charisma, so I will not be participating this year. Beauty, it’s a curse some must suffer.

The guys are also forgiven for at first dealing with the post-Origin Darwin beard. Kevin Z has also suggested a sideburns growing contest. And boy did Chuck have sideys that would make the original 90210 cast hang their head in shame.

SBS is showing Paradise Lost (I think half last Sunday, half this one coming) and if you feel the need to be inspired by some old-school Beagle sideburn re-creation action.





Shave the Beagle!

14 02 2009

One more Darwin Day gripe.

Darwin, for much of early voyaging and discovering did not have a beard!

Promotions like the one at Bristol Zoo are doing it wrong!

Thanks to the photographic evidence available we know he kept himself shaved until the 1860s.

When he first published the Origin in 1859/1860 he looked like this:

Decidedly not looking like Santa Claus.

Image: Public domain. Hosted at Wikimedia Commons.

Oh, and while we are talking Beagles – if you haven’t seen it before The Beagle Project 2009





Darwin day: Rational selection

14 02 2009

With the BlogForDarwin blogswarm coming to a close, here are a few selected stories.

While no head-mounted lascannon, Darwin had a magic hammer. Was he a mortal incarnation of the mighty Thor? You’ll find in this post at Life Science Tools of the Trade further evidence incriminating Darwin as a single minded rare-species killing machine (and that he did it in full knowledge that the fox was a rare inhabitant of the island). Luckily(?) the dodo was already extinct 100 years by the time Chuck D was roaming the seas “collecting specimens”.

Christie (I avoid the N-word where I can) elegantly posits why Darwin day is a good idea, but that good biologists are not “Darwinists”. Science works and *ahem* evolves beyond original concepts.

It’s not that Darwin was wrong, as some feeble-minded magazine cover designers have purported. It’s that he wasn’t complete.

Deep Thoughts and Silliness plays it a little less diplomatically, stating Darwin WAS Wrong.

John Wilkins uses a comprimise: Darwin was wrong…ish. And also points out that some of “Darwinism” that has been shown to be wrong wasn’t even Darwin’s work anyway.

Faith In Honest doubt had an interesting post last year, but has decided this year to point out someone else shares Darwin’s exact birthdate.





Darwin’s ecological villainy

12 02 2009

Damn Skippy, little kiddies, the truth will out.

It’s Darwin Day. Yes, 200 years ago was the birth of some guy who came up with wrote some book about some theory some other time ago.

I’m not gonna mention evolution much. I do that enough already. Evolution is a unifying theory of biology. Darwin did a bit of work relating to that.

In the interests of not letting objectivity rest in the hands of resoundingly inane kooks, lets see what the forces of good can uncover to tarnish this mere mortal’s image. Remember: Everything you have ever been told is a lie.

Fact: While in Australia, Darwin shot a poor defenceless platypus. Read the rest of this entry »





i am a fish

16 12 2008

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Sorry.

I just finished this fantastic book.

Go. Find it. And learn.

Jellyfish have eyes. Your nipples are teeth. Tadpoles hiccup to survive.

Oh … and just how evolution means you are undeniably linked to every single other living thing that is, was, and ever will exist.

Stars a certain transitional fossil. I just lost the game.

Nathan has a review of Your Inner Fish in this month’s Critical Mass (Sydney Atheists’ newsletter)

Further apologies would also go to Arnold J Rimmer, if he wasn’t such a smeghead.