Last night I jumped up to Turlock to catch Josh Rosenau's lecture on "Creationist Attacks on Science Education: The Evolution of a Parasite."

Josh did a good job and graciously allowed me to record part of his presentation, segments of which I will be posting as I have time over the next few weeks. I was a bit disappointed in the venue: they didn't have adequate lighting to actually see Josh on the stage, and the 'screen' to which he had to project his Power Point was little better than textured cheesecloth, greatly obscuring any desired visual impact. But Josh soldiered on.

Now, this morning I'm going to be having breakfast with the (Amazing) James Randi, who is in town as part of a lecture series at CSU Fresno. The breakfast is sponsored by the membership of CVAAS. I won't be able to attend Randi's lecture, because (oh, the irony) I'll be busy with my church choir. I have to wonder if there are any other Christians out there who have similar scheduling conflicts?

Then back to work to prepare a lesson for the substitute who'll take my classes on Friday, because I'll be headed out of town for the weekend. My high school (Desert High!) is holding a reunion for Classes '78 - '81 in the Edwards AFB (Mojave Desert) area. The events start on Friday evening and continue Sunday morning. In between, I'm planning on attending the 'Origins' conference at Caltech sponsored by Skeptics. A lot of heavy-hitters.



It's better to admit when you're wrong, or when you may have shown poor judgement, than to pretend that all is hunky-dory.

A couple of days ago, I seized upon some copy that appeared in the Fresno Bee, did a little research, and posted rather assertively about what I found concerning a local M.D. (who is semi-retired) penning a book on 'The Boundaries of Evolution.' You can read my rather self-satisfied prose here.

Well, hold your horses. I may owe the author (Theodore Johnstone, M.D.) a bit of an apology after speaking to him by phone today. It turns out that his book is a bit of a work in progress from a publishing house that allows authors to continually tweak their works and print the number of volumes that it has orders for at the time. Dr. Johnstone explained that since the initial publication, he has begun a process of revision to address what he frankly admitted were errors (technical or otherwise) in the first printing, errors that have been pointed out by legitimate biologists who are reviewing his work. This gives me the impression that perhaps the ad copy which appeared on Amazon.com oversold his claims, or at least failed to nest them in the proper context. Thus, I have to concede that the Dr. Johnstone I spoke to on the phone may have been unfairly characterized by my previous post.

That wasn't my intention, and I regret any misunderstanding. So, let me for the record publicly apologize if anyone has received the impression that Dr. Johnstone is a conventional creationist with young-earth views, or any other sort of pseudoscience. That is not really warranted by the evidence that was available to me, and I leaped into the fray with more zeal than sense. Dr. Johnstone has been more than gracious to me in explaining his position and offering me an opportunity to review his works, and he wanted me to know that he is still actively engaged in seeking feedback from legitimate scientists in a project that, as he describes it, is an outgrowth of self-education. As an autodidact of sorts myself who came to science education as a second career, I sympathize and I genuinely hope to learn something from reading Dr. Johnstone's (dare I say it) evolving work.



Hello! While reading the Fresno Bee today, I came across this little jewel:


In the mood for some stargazing? A "Star Party" will be hosted Monday at Home Grown Cellars, 13702 Road 20, Madera.

The event is free and starts at 6 p.m. People are encouraged to bring red lens flashlights, binoculars, telescopes, chairs and blankets. Guest speakers will include Dr. Theodore Johnstone, author of "Boundaries of Evolution" and Tom DeSilva talking about the constellations.

Hmm. Star-gazing? Evolution? This is the kind of thing that stimulates my baloney detector.

So I did a little research.....and sure enough, Johnstone is one of these fellows pushing some form of skepticism where evolution is concerned:

What does this have to do with stargazing, though? Johnstone is by all accounts a Madera County physician who earned his M.D. 49 years ago...In fact, I've met him on more than one occasion as part of meetings of the Fresno chapter of Reasons To Believe. I mean, he seems like a nice enough fellow, but he earned his degree as I said, nearly a half-century ago and then went into private practice. Which means that virtually everything he might have learned in an academic setting about evolution occurred before the genetic code was discovered, before speciation events and other episodes of natural selection in action were directly testable by genetic analysis, before the Human Genome Project, before Hox genes, before the whole field of 'evo-devo'. The chances that Johnstone actually had a college-level course in evolutionary theory at any time in the last fifty years is remote. Thus, like a lot of ID sympathizers, Johnstone appears befuddled by abiogenesis and the Cambrian Explosion, as if these had any bearing on the general correctness of the Darwinian paradigm:

Boundaries of Evolution describes the unlikelihood of evolutionary theory to explain how it is supposed to scale three major biological cliffs. The first cliff is the need for a logical explanation of how random chemical reactions could produce the first living cell from the primordial soup. The second is the problem of explaining how the first single-celled eukaryote evolved from a prokaryote. Mathematical improbabilities of evolutionary theory to scale the first two cliffs, in the time available, are demonstrated. The third insurmountable cliff is the necessity for a reasonable explanation of how millions of different kinds of multi-celled eukaryotes could have quickly evolved from single-celled eukaryotes.

And now this medical doctor is going to be appearing as a 'guest speaker' at an astronomy function? A carrot gets you a car that he's going to turn the talk from cosmological origins to 'origins of life' and use the venue as an opportunity to push some version of creationism. Um, I think I may be checking out this event.


Anybody who has, after an afternoon of athletic competition, mulled over whether or not they could balance a beer stein on its handle can appreciate the skills shown here:

(Courtesy of another Bill, my uncle Bill Jones of Norman, Oklahoma)