Friday, September 16, 2005


Well, I just scanned all of my favorite spots to see the take on this article about 38 past Nobel winners who came out in support of teaching evolution as the cornerstone of all biology. It was in the hopes of dissuading the Kansas board of education (and aimed at others, I'm sure) from including references to "doubts" or "problems" in theory. Since no one else has mentioned it yet, we have a mini-scoop. Though I can't say we beat MSNBC on it!

Somehow, I doubt that the input of some of our top intelligencia will have any effect on the immediate outcome of the debate, but it's still a great thing. People on the sidelines need to know what science has to say. The lie that there is a vigorous debate about whether evolution happens needs to be exposed, for them.

I did find this one part of the story interesting: "Its followers attack Darwin's evolutionary theory, which says natural chemical processes could have created the basic building blocks of life on Earth, that all life had a common ancestor and that man and apes shared a common ancestor". Of course, Darwin's theory DOES NOT say that natural chemical processes could have started life on earth. Not that they COULDN'T HAVE, just that Darwin didn't say it. Typical news writers. Oh well, they got most of it correct.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

So Sorry!

I apologize to those of you who were stopping by, reading, and sometimes leaving comments. I haven't posted in over two weeks (other than a much needed reply to one of my posts) due to personal problems. Don't worry about me... I WILL OVERCOME!

For those of you just now stopping in, please read what is already here. I think it can be helpful, even if it was written a while ago. Feel free to comment and I'll try to respond when I can.

For those that have been here before, check in from time to time. I'm not dead, just MIA! In the mean time, please do visit the recommended blogs I have listed on the right hand side of my page. They are all great, and well worth a few minutes of your time every day.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Flintstones History?

If creationism (come on, why give undue credit by acknowledging the "Intelligent Design" ploy, instead of exposing the hidden agenda?) can be taught in science class, how about the Flintstones in history class? Did Fred and Barney hunt pterodactyls?

Column One, Los Angeles Times on Saturday - Adam, Eve and T. Rex is just too much. But within the non-sense were some great quotes like Kevin Padian of the University of California Museum of Paleoantology and the NCSE who said, "Dinosaurs lived in the Garden of Eden and Noah's Ark? Give me a break"..."For them, The Flintstones is a documentary".

I live in Southern California and have made many trips to the Palm Springs area. I've always loved the dinosaurs, standing tall out there in the middle of the desert. Too bad it's been co-opted and ruined for me. Happily, my children are grown, and I won't stop there again.

I personally know the Pastor Robert DARWIN Chiles (yes, it's a perverse use of the name of one of the greatest minds of modern times) quoted in the late part of the article. "Pastor Bob" used to work for our company and was often spouting his uneducated drivel, clearly devoid of any understanding of modern science. I used to think it was great that he left us and moved out to the desert. Now I know better. Read the article, but allow me one quote from him, just to get everyone laughing as they move to the story. Referring to the kids who are excited to see and play around the dinosaurs, Pastor Bob says, "And it's not like they're crying 'oh, mommy, take me out, I'm scared'. They're drawn to it. There's something in their DNA that knows man walked with these creatures on Earth". Yes, yes, I know I'm lucky he moved - but it didn't make the world a better place!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

1.8 Million Years Ago!

There have been a number of great hominid fossil discoveries in Dmanisi, Georgia in recent years, but this one may be the best of all. Apparently it is nearly complete skull of Homo Erectus, putting the species "out of Africa" and in to Europe much longer ago than previously thought. Along with this article there is a short video showing the excavation and celebration by the Georgia team.


Now John Hawks takes credit for busting out with this huge story a couple of weeks ago! And, in all honestly, I do remember when I read this at his highly recommended blog. Some of his posts are a little tough for a non-scientist to hang with, but usually well worth at least making the effort.

Monday, August 22, 2005

More on Dr. Richard Lenski

From the end of the earlier mentioned New York Times article came this, that I found very intriguing:

"Dr. Behe, however, said he might find it compelling if scientists were to observe evolutionary leaps in the laboratory. He pointed to an experiment by Richard E. Lenski, a professor of microbial ecology at Michigan State University, who has been observing the evolution of E. coli bacteria for more than 15 years.

" 'If anything cool came out of that,' Dr. Behe said, 'that would be one way to convince me.'

"Dr. Behe said that if he was correct, then the E. coli in Dr. Lenski's lab would evolve in small ways but never change in such a way that the bacteria would develop entirely new abilities.

"In fact, such an ability seems to have developed. Dr. Lenski said his experiment was not intended to explore this aspect of evolution, but nonetheless, 'We have recently discovered a pretty dramatic exception, one where a new and surprising function has evolved,' he said.

"Dr. Lenski declined to give any details until the research is published. But, he said, 'If anyone is resting his or her faith in God on the outcome that our experiment will not produce some major biological innovation, then I humbly suggest they should rethink the distinction between science and religion.'

"Dr. Behe said, 'I'll wait and see.' "

WOW! Can't wait for the good doc to publish those findings! Meanwhile,
I thought Dr. Lenski's name sounded familiar to me. Sure enough he did an outstanding article illuminating how the Theory of Evolution is both a theory and a fact. This is a great reference to use when confronted with the tired, "evolution is only a theory" argument.

Pharyngula On Fire - Again!

Two posts over at Pharyngula really worth checking out. I was going to recommend this one first, because it applies to us here at the Middleman. Yeah, yeah... we're pretty dumb, PZ ("She's hit on a central reason why Intelligent Design creationism has acquired a popular following in the US—good old-fashioned home-grown ignorance")... But it still is clear to many of us that evolution has explanatory value for life, even if we don't know our meiosis from our mitosis! PZ Myers is the Triple A of Bloggers - Angry, Arrogant and Awesome. Gotta read him.

Then for a hilarious take on the recent comments of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Prez Bush on I.D. read "Dr Frist: or, how I learned to stop worrying and love Intelligent Design" and be sure to check out the linked story at the end of it from The New York Times. I like that they actually quoted a biologist named Dr. Doolittle from nearby San Diego. Also intriguing were the references at the bottom of the Times article to the work on E. coli by Dr. Richard Lenski, a professor of microbial ecology at Michigan State University, so read it all the way through.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Where We Have Been, and Where Are We Going?

This is incredibly fascinating and even if it's not stuff you THINK interests or concerns you, I really recommend you spend five minutes with it. There is so much going on in research and development - we can't grasp the magnitude of the changes in store. I found this on the MSNBC Technology & Science page. Start at "return to the past" and then just start clicking the "next" button. This part goes through a pretty accurate "human family tree" based on the best current fossil and genetic evidence. Once you get up to the present (and on to the future), it becomes pretty weirdly and wildly speculative (but that's the whole POINT of this), and there is a lot of possible truth to it. Genetics and robotics (particularly nano technology) are running wild and our abilities to do some things that seem like science fiction are either here now, or right around the corner. It's a brave new world and most of us can't see it because: a) the changes are happening so quickly b) there is an overload of information, making it nearly impossible for average humans to absorb what's going on and c) we are just busy living our own lives. Imagine how a human being would feel if he or she were suddenly transported from 1805 to today. They would feel like they had entered an incredibly alien world. They would have absolutely NO frame of reference for any of the technology they would be surrounded by. There have been more technological advances in those 200 years than in the entire history of mankind up until then. And the advances of the next two hundred will continue in this geometric increase. Do you wish you could be around to see it? Well here's part of the strangeness - you might be! Take a look.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Evolution of The Middleman

34 years ago, as an 18 year old steeped in Christian religion and teaching, I found myself in doubt. I was not a bright student in high school (at least my grades would certainly indicate that I was hugely average) and if I even took a legitimate science course while I was there, I don't remember it. Perhaps my voyage through the 60's, with the deaths of grandparents and father, the crushing helpless feelings generated by assassinations of the Kennedy's and Dr. King, the division of a nation due to an unnecessary war in Southeast Asia and the ensuing divisions based on race and gender inequalities, left me foundering - alone.

I started opening my mind to possibilities other than those I had been force-fed on and after much study on my own, I started developing a new self. This new guy suddenly found that learning was not as boring as school had me believe. Not that I can legitimately blame my teachers. There were probably a lot of things at work on my confused mind at that juncture of my life. But I did take comfort and joy out of exploring new things on my own, even if I had not been able to find it in the classroom.

Sadly, for me, I never did the one thing which probably would have made my own life much more rich and rewarding. Once I had experienced the pure joy of learning, I should have given higher education another go. To those younger, who may stop by these pages, I strongly urge you to follow your educational interests - one way or another. Whether it be in attending college and university, technical schools or training courses and seminars. And always keep learning on your own.

I think most people in our country have very little science knowledge. Again, the science that I understand is based more on my own reading and research, including books, articles, movies, videos and web searches. I fully realize that not everyone is as interested in evolution and other science topics as I am, and that most of us have lives to live and little times for anything outside of our immediate fields and immediate side interests. This creates a huge problem. There are highly educated people in this country in the sciences, doing great work for all of us every day. They then see the statistics on what Average Joe believes, listen to public officials who often know as little as Average Joe, see the things that are written here on the web and, basically, go ballistic. When you "know that you KNOW" it is frustrating listening to what seems like the raving of lunatics. But it isn't, really. It's mostly people who just stick to their comfortable traditional teachings because they haven't learned what evolution really is and have relied on the misinformation of organized religion. And most scientists, many of them who are right here on the web, don't have the time or patience to tell them the wonderful stories that would enlighten. Probably what we need more of here are high school science teachers whose job it is to teach - patiently. I hope there will be more and more of them here in the future.

Meanwhile, I'll offer what little I have to offer in this area. While not qualified to teach anyone, I can certainly do a number of things to help people who are interested in being educated about evolution and other areas of science. First of all, I plan to offer numerous web sites I have found that have been helpful to me. Many are quite technical and others can be abrasive in their style, nevertheless, I think they are valuable for those who are willing to "tough it out" to learn. Others are extremely accessible to anyone with moderate, or even little, science background. Some are educational sites and others are blogs written in a style that is within the grasp of Average Joe. I will make myself available for questions - whether they are "reasonable" or not. I realize some will come to try to attack, but that's OK. I will always try to treat those with a level of respect and compassion that I may not feel. If nothing else, my discussions with those folks may help shed some light for others. If a question is beyond my scope of knowledge, I will diligently attempt to find a place that does have an answer to the question. Additionally, I'll be asking questions myself. I'm constantly finding things that look like inconsistancies or that the exact same data could be viewed a different way. Usually, an expert in the field of question can clear it up for me. Allow me to give context to the last couple of sentences for those who enjoyed extracting - just as there is no debate in the scientific community over the fact of evolution, I am not challenging the fact of it with my questions. I simply love to learn more and I learn more by challenging myself and others. Finally, I would beg the help of those of you who are professionals in the fields of biology, genetics, geology, paleontology, anthropology to give a little of your time here when you can. If you see a question posted in the comments that you can help on, please do. I only ask that you not be condescending in your responses to questions that may seem obvious or offered only as an absurd challenge. When you see statistics that indicate that 70% of your fellow citizens don't believe in evolution, understand then that you have work to do making your findings understandable to these people who live right in your neighborhoods, even if they aren't the ones you normally socialize with.

150 years ago Charles Darwin offered a beautifully simple explanation for how all life on our planet came to be as it is today, and for why 99% of all species that ever lived are no longer here. Some aspects of what he said in Origin of Species have been updated with new knowledge. But the basic idea of common decent through modification by means of natural selection has withstood the test of time and science. It's incredibly easy to understand its principles if one studies evolution even to a small degree. All life has a common ancestor. Homo Sapiens left Africa perhaps as recently as 70,000 years ago after having become a species about 150,000 years ago. Our ancestors prior to that were other hominids which seem to have developed and split off in a number of branches since about 7 million years ago, when they split off from other apes. It's a great story. But it's only a small piece of the greater story of evolution of all life on earth. I dedicate these pages to trying to help people as normal and unscientific as myself, to understand it. I realize that this could be a contentious site at times. That's not my goal here, but it will happen. In fact, I predict that a douchey troll who will post comments here and elsewhere in the Atheosphere will come along. If I have this premonition right, he'll be using the screen-name 'cl' and he will be one of the most annoying yet amusing little theists trolls ever to visits the Internet. But the real purpose of this site is for learning, and I'll gladly continue it as long as anyone finds it helpful or interesting.