You know, if people can actually play with the mathematics of evolution they can learn a few things.

For example, evolution doesn't always lead to 'progress' in the sense that some mutation occurs, leading to increased fitness. Sometimes the mutation is lost, sometimes it oscillates in frequency within the population, sometimes a 'backward' mutation changes the frequency which had previously been fixed at 100 percent within the population. One very real possible result of evolution, according to the math, is stasis.

Amazingly, in my recent debates with Terry Scambray, he seemed to regard Gould and Etheridge's* famous attempt to describe one possible pattern often seen in the fossil record not just as an oxymoron (he is a retired English prof), but also a form of question-begging at odds with what evolution should predict. But in fact, G and E's 'punctuated equilibrium' is precisely what we are likely to see in many scenarios.

Not convinced? Go to this post on 'The Panda's Thumb' and play with the Java applet. You'll note pretty quickly that a number of different scenarios can play themselves out when you run the simulation multiple times. In other words, if you do the math, you'll find that none of the different patterns of populations change observed in nature (including those seen in the fossil record) seem outlandishly different from those allowed by evolutionary theory.

* OOPS! I mean Eldridge! Must've been channeling my inner Melissa.


Well, I finally got a chance to see Baba Brinkman's 'Rap Guide to Evolution'. I was sick as a dog the previous week, but some of the faculty at CSUF caught his show and decided to spend some of the seed money for the Biology Department's new Consortium for Evolutionary Studies to bring Brinkman's act to the university. I caught the show in Room 109, and it was well worth seeing.

Now, I didn't tape the whole thing, and Brinkman explains that this is still a work in progress, but here's the introduction to the thing, as captured earlier this month in an English drawing room, courtesy of You Tube. Enjoy!

By the way, I don't endorse this approach one way or another. It's new, and worth checking out. Baba is pretty assertive where religion is concerned, and of course quoting Dawkins will have some people up in arms before they even see the show. But I think you should hear the whole show before you start complaining about how he might have 'framed' the thing.



Here's a thought-provoking exchange from the comments on the Florida Citizens for Science site that deserves to be read by thinking people. The post to which the comments are filed has to do with the filing of SB 2396 in the state of Florida by state Senator Stephen Wise, who is already on the record as an ID-style creationist.

Wise essentially amends an existing law by making insertions at the very front of the law to add language requiring, well, this:

21 (a) A thorough presentation and critical analysis of the
22 scientific theory of evolution.

23 (b)(a) The history and content of the Declaration of
24 Independence, including national sovereignty, natural law, self
25 evident truth,

Now, this seemingly-innocuous language ('critical analysis') has been shown time and time again to be a dodge to give legal cover for science teachers to introduce unfounded and discredited creationist arguments under the guise of critical thinking. That's easy to establish for anyone who wants to research this further. The Panda's Thumb, NCSE and Florida native Wesley Elsberry all have some good stuff on this, if you're interested.

But the following exchange in the comments is really thought-provoking. Recall that Wise also adds some specific language about the Declaration of Independence, which I didn't initially notice meself. An observant fellow poses a question . . .

Patrick Henry: Strange to put so much emphasis on the Declaration, important as it is. What about the Constitution?

Glenn Branch (NCSE): Perhaps because the Declaration mentions “Nature’s God,” the “Creator,” and “divine Providence,” while the Constitution’s language is resolutely non-religious.

Patrick Henry: You’re right, Glenn, but the Declaration — although a splendid document, isn’t the law.

Dave Campbell: This is part of a continuing trend. Focus on the Family’s James Dobson was interviewed on Faux News a couple of weeks ago and quoted the, “…endowed by their Creator…” line from the “Constitution” in an attempt to support the inherently Christian nature of our government. His interviewer obviously noticed the erroneous citation (body language is wonderful) but kept his mouth shut. Creationists have been doing that a lot lately, quoting the Declaration of Independence to support their theocratic goals. Patrick Henry is (as usual) right. Great document, beautiful language, lofty ideals, and absolutely NO legal standing in the courts. It’s bad enough these people don’t understand basic biology. They can’t even cite (correctly) the nation’s foundation documents.

The appearance to which the last commenter alludes to may be this one, though Glenn Beck seems merely in a hurry to get to a commercial break to me. And it might be an error, but then it again it might be part of a deliberate strategy to reinvent our history to appeal to the 'persecuted religious minority' trope that the entire piece is invested in. But check it out for yourself, make up your own mind: the money quote, in response to a prompt from Beck, comes around 4:15 into the video. I'd embed it, but the thought of these two guys on my blog at the same time...well.....


But wait, there's more. Fresh off the presses, who should fall into the same ideological wheelrut but the country's most popular conservative radio shock jock (and some would say, most popular conservative with conservatives):

In this case, the 'money quote' occurs around 6:30 into the video. Now, this is actually a fairly well-delivered speech overall, unlike the self-indulgent style of his radio broadcasts, and I think you could make a case that Mr. Limbaugh is just confused. But, whether he knows his stuff or not, mixing up these two documents is going to be perceived for the conceptual bait-and-switch that it is. Here, of course, the minority group under siege is the conservative wing of the Republican Party, which somehow managed to control both the Executive Branch, the Supreme Court and Congress for six of the least eight years. Amazing how they became a persecuted bunch so quickly: I wonder how that happened.

Anyway, it's clarifying to see how easily all this stuff dovetails for some people. The same arguments that are used to justify creationism are the ones put forward on behalf of prayer in school and other issues to which social conservatives feel they should be privileged.



Unfortunately, I'm not able to attend the 'rap evolution' show I blogged about previously. I'm fighting off some kind of stomach flu that had me on my knees much of Saturday night. You could've set a clock by the regularity with which I felt compelled to crawl out of bed. I haven't prayed to the porcelain god for awhile now, but I'm still kittenish. I can't really afford to miss any time at work with CST's just weeks away, so hopefully I can stumble through on Monday.

On a happier note, Bullard won the valley championship in soccer.