Wednesday, July 15, 2009 12:33 PM
Once upon a time, Charles Darwin found himself in a pickle called sexual selection. While contemplating natural selection, Darwin wondered why male peacocks, for instance, waste energy growing elaborate tails that don’t always influence productive mating habits. As it turns out, “There may be survival of the fittest, but there’s also survival of the sexiest.”
Susan Milius, for Science News, highlights a few recent explanations for this confusing process. Some scientists pose the handicap principle, in which a tail “stays reliable as a badge of quality across generations only if good tails present a handicap that not all individuals can overcome.” Others say male beetles’ harmful genitalia, which “look more like instruments of war,” may be products of “an ongoing arms race between the sexes.” However, “one of the biggest developments in the theory of sexual selection has been the recognition that females in many species aren’t monogamous.” Yes, ladies can (and do) see past a pretty face.
Source: Science News.
Image by ToastyKen, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, March 02, 2009 4:45 PM
“Like Cheez Whiz and the atom bomb, modern think tanks are a distinctly U.S. invention that has spread all over the world.”
—Jeff Gailus, “Mind Games,” from Alberta Views (not available online)
“The country’s run itself down, drinking too many subprime-mortgage martinis and smoking too many credit-default-swap cigarettes; having ignored clear signs its lifestyle was out of control, the nation’s caught a raging, recessionary cold that just might turn into the dangerous flu-monia of economic depression.”
—John Mecklin, “Work Out Plan,” from Miller-McCune
“Every morning, I throw on one of my many pairs of faded jeans, a shirt bearing the image of a radical band or en electric guitar, and a Superman watch with silver bullets on the wristband. . . . The fact that I’m almost three bucks over 30 and a long-married mother of two kids makes my fashion sense all the more creepy.”
—Hope Gatto, “Rocker Mama,” from Mothering (not available online)
“This would have been a big year for Darwin, if he had been fit enough to survive this long.”
—Grant Bartley, “God or Nature?” from Philosophy Now
Sources: Alberta Views, Miller-McCune, Mothering, Philosophy Now
Image by Pixel Drip, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008 1:07 PM
Like all science fairs, you could tell which projects had parental help and which ones didn’t at the 2008 Home School Science Fair. The blue-ribbon winning project on dinosaurs and people roaming the earth together, with the color photos and the perfectly cut lettering, probably had parental help. The one explaining how a broken motor disproves Darwin's theory of evolution, with the roughly cut pieces of paper and the penciled in chicken scratches, probably did not.
Every diorama in the Home School Science Fair, which took place inside a shopping mall in Roseville, Minnesota, had a biblical quote attached to it. A young woman whose project involved teaching her dog how to run circles between her legs decorated the words: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) in pink lace fabric. This quote got to the crux of the science fair, in my opinion: parental commandment. These parents pulled their children out of school, away from their peers, and said, “Now prove that Darwin was wrong.”
The projects all used classic high school science language: Start with a hypothesis, move on to testing, and then draw a conclusion. The problem was that much of the science was backwards. In good science, you start with a piece of evidence and try to find a truth. With creationist science, you start with a truth (the Bible), and try to find the evidence.
Before I arrived at the science fair, I planned to engage some of the children and parents. I wanted to ask them about creationism and education. Once I got there, however, I was overcome with a sense of pity for the children. They stood around the suburban mall, in the prime of the most awkward years of their life, being forced to preach blather. I didn’t want to exploit them for a cheap laugh while their parents and the company Answers in Genesis (whose literature was scattered throughout the event) were so clearly exploiting them to proselytize. The children’s gangly limbs and bad acne reminded me how vulnerable I was at their age and how easily someone could have brainwashed me.
I overheard one parent saying, “One thing is for sure, a lot of learning has gone on this week.” I would change that statement a bit: I’d say a lot of indoctrinating went on that week. Hopefully, a good college professor, and a few years of therapy, will help these children turn all that “learning” around.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008 2:19 PM
Colleges and universities are often thought of as godless institutions of secular thought and anti-religious sympathies, where Nietzsche, Darwin, and Marx are taught and religious thinkers are ignored. That may have been true for the past 50 years, but higher education is changing, and may be accepting religion and spirituality as integral parts of learning.
“Marginalized for the better part of a century, the study of religion is making a comeback in American higher education,” John Schmalzbauer and Kathleen A. Mahoney write for Contexts (excerpt only available online). Prominent thinkers including Cornel West, Harold Bloom, Toni Morrison, and Stanley Fish have all explored the idea of the sacred in their academic careers.
Some scholars have begun to incorporate religious thinking into their study, others are taking a “spiritual-but-not-religious” approach to learning, and still others are studying religion from an objective, non-theological perspective. All of these modes of thought, Schmalzbauer and Mahoney content, are aspects of the same multifaceted movement giving religion greater representation in the realm of academia.
Photo by Tom Godber, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008 11:14 AM
Many people of faith are baffled by the opposition to the study of evolution. They trust scientific explanations of the origins of life, they believe that God was somehow behind it all, and they don’t lose a lot of sleep over the whole thing.
A recent exhibit on Darwin at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History highlighted the voices of people who find no conflict between belief and science. The problem is that many of the exhibit’s visitors were wholly unimpressed, Jason Byassee reports on Theolog, the blog of mainline Protestant magazine the Christian Century. Byassee makes some good observations about what more thoughtful religious engagement with Darwinism might look like:
All Christians are challenged to articulate how the sheer unlikeliness of our existence here—amidst countless species who did not survive natural selection—is a witness to the goodness of a creator God. That’s tough to do. But it’s easier to take on this challenge than to ignore the bones that Darwin dug up.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008 10:30 AM
From the people who brought you the Creation Museum, the newest, peer-reviewed, creationist research journal has just gone live. It’s called Answers Research Journal, published by the organization Answers in Genesis. So far the journal has tackled some tough questions, including: How do germs fit into the story of Adam and Eve?
For a different take on the birth of the universe, LiveScience has a list of the top ten creation myths. The question posed is: Did Norse bulls create the earth, or was it the work of Chinese cosmic eggs?
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